I’m sure this will upset a lot of people and I’ll lose some friends/followers but so be it. I’m tired of everybody feeling the need to tell me THEIR opinion yet I never seem to get one of my own. I’ve been nice and quiet about it for a long time but enough is enough.
This poster has hung framed on my wall since 2000 and its never come down…nor will it…ever. Lance Armstrong single-handedly changed the face of cycling. And before you quip about the doping, he was doing things that set the new standard in cycling that had NOTHING to do with doping. Which honestly is why I laugh when I hear people say that “There is no place in cycling for Lance Armstrong”. Bitch, please! The reason the pro peloton runs the way it does and teams train/race the way they do is ONLY because of Lance Armstrong. Lance made the Tour de France (TDF) the priority of his and his team’s racing year. Every other race was either training up to or prep for next year’s TDF after. Lance and his team were the first to go and train on the TDF stages for their training camp. They were the first to identify key areas of attack in each stage and trained attacking/winning on them (i.e. when and where to make moves, drive the peloton, launch guys off the front) as part of his “camps”. It was Lance’s tactics that built the idea of “the blue train” and would use his team to stay in control and break the peloton effectively time and time again, stage after stage. Other teams recognized its effectiveness and have subsequently built their teams to do the same. And let’s not forget the team time trial in the TDF. Lance and his teams MADE it what it is. It use to be a sideshow stage to the TDF but Lance and his team’s made it a legit, just as important if not more stage in the tour. Its now recognized as “the” team event to win at the TDF.
Lance pushed the limits of bikes, both road and time trial, trying to squeeze every bit of performance out of them while continually dropping weight. If it weren’t for Lance, there’d be no Trek bicycles. Hell, they didn’t even have a time trail (TT) bike until Lance went and repainted a Litespeed Tri bike in Trek colors to race in his first TDF. Ever since then Trek has been on the bleeding edge of road bike/time trial technology. Speaking of…you know how EVERY brand has carbon fiber bikes and now they're affordable enough that ANYONE can buy and ride one for themselves? Ya, thanks Lance for that too. Wanna know how popular carbon fiber was in 1999 when Lance won his 1st TDF…NOT AT ALL. All the major brands (I mean like Pinarello, Bianchi and the like) were still on the aluminum band wagon and were poo-pooing carbon fiber. But when carbon fiber started winning…they got on board.
Speaking of pushing technology, Lance looked to squeeze every bit of performance out of EVERYTHING: Aero helmets? Lance worked with Giro to make the initial shells high performance and after those aero helmets had to also protect our melons…worked with them to get them as slim, sexy and aerodynamic as possible...and the industry followed suit. Remember when cycling jerseys were kind of form fitting and only made of 2 or 3 panels of lycra? Ya, now there’s dimpled fabrics and “race cut” to not only have the jersey fit better/wear better but also perform FOR you…ya, once again Lance’s input. Carbon fiber soles in the bottom of shoes to make sure you get more efficient power transfer from the foot to the pedal? Lance working with Nike's sports clothing team.. “Ski pole” style aero bars to keep you stretched out more effectively in the TT position? Lance. Wrap around aero shades that fit better under cycling helmets, are easier to maintain/swap and have a wider range of lenses for specific environments? Lance working with Oakley. FRS and Honeystinger would've have never established a foothold in the market if it weren't for Lance trying, loving and putting his name to their brands. All those companies leveraged his mind, his racing and his wins to build bigger or even bigger, more successful companies that continue on today.
Remember when Alberto Contador “supposedly attacked” Andy Schleck when his chain broke and the peloton was in an uproar about that being poor sportsmanship? But if you talk to all the other old school elite racers and commentators they’d be the first to say “that’s just racing”? Ya, that’s because Lance built the idea of the “patron” of the peloton and Lance never believed in attacking guys if they had mechanical problems and such. Remember when Ullrich crashed and Lance held up the WHOLE peloton in order to find out what happened and get Jan back into the race so they could go head to head in the stage? That would’ve NEVER happened before Lance enforced that type of thought and ethic in the peloton. That idea of “sportsmanship” is still part of the peloton even after Lance has left.
And let’s talk about TDF races. There are iconic images that are in the history of the TDF. Normally we got an image or two every few races. Yes, the TDF is a big race and its practically all that happens in France for the month of July but for the rest of the world it’s not the pinnacle of races…not until Lance got there. With Lance, he said it was "the only race there is" and after winning it time and time again, reinforced that statement. And talk about memorable stages? Lance and Pantani scaling L’alp d’Huez, Lance hands pointed upward winning the stage to honor fallen teammate Fabio Casartelli (who’s son Lance has treated as his own and taken care of all these years), the “look” when he blew Ullrich off his wheel, the "crash on the musette bag", the cut across the corn field after Joseba Beloki crashed and Lance did his best XC bike ride/carry, the “bonk” stage where he fought through it to barely hold on, the rain soaked/on-edge time trial against Ullrich in which Ullrich crashed in a turn and guaranteed Lance a win…to name a few. He doped? Here’s a news flash…SO DID ALL OF CYCLING. I would have no problem condemning the man if he was the only guy doing it and was blowing the doors off every racer in cycling. That wasn’t the case at all. I have no problem if you want to put the asterisk by his and EVERY other cyclist of the time's name. But to think you can just "wipe the results" clean is ludicrous and childish.
And you can say whatever you want about him as a cyclist and/or a person but the fact that he used his ”celebrity” as a platform to heighten cancer awareness, he had the ability and audacity to call US leaders and leaders around the world out about their not doing/spending enough on cancer research and its cures, made the WORLD aware of the disease (in all its forms) and what a gift survivorship is...puts him head and shoulders above most if not all celebrities, athletes and damn near every politician on the planet!
Lastly, for me personally, it was watching he and his team's racing and wining all over Europe, his drive and determination and seeing that poster everyday on my wall that gave me the motivation to get off my fat 245 pound butt and get back to training. After each stage of his Tours I went for a bike ride. I watched his videos of all his Tours while spending hours on the trainer (lots of hours). When I was having a bad training day or race day I thought of how Lance recovered from the “musette crash” or the “bonk stage” to get me through. I’ve been lucky to have a “look” moment a few times at running or triathlon races and used it as motivation to pull away and finish strong (and ending up placing or setting PRs in a couple of those races). Lance has continued to motivate me to bust my ass training and racing. I went from a 245 pound, cigarette smoking, life hating couch potato to a 170 pound lean, fit, relatively fast age group athlete who’s raced 5k-10k-13.1-26.2-Sprint/Olympic (soon to be 70.3) triathlons, Duathlons, Ultra Marathons and I’ll get back to my beloved bike racing this year.
So you’re entitled to your opinion and I’m entitled to mine. You’ve all felt the need to tell me what you think and how wrong I am for not throwing Lance under the bus. To every person that has felt the need to get in my face or tell me an opinion without my asking I’ve never said anything other than “it’s your opinion”...well, this is MY opinion. Cycling not only needed Lance…it still does. He brought cycling to the forefront of the world not just the US. Speaking of the US, Lance made professional cycling something kids and adults wanted to do…and in HUGE numbers…a FIRST!!! Yes, I was lucky enough to see Greg Lemond in person as he won one of his Tours but almost no one recognizes that name today. I've also been lucky enough to actually meet and have conversations with Greg. But even at the height of Greg’s 3 wins he never garnered or generated as much interest in the sport as Lance. Speaking of interest, one of the main reasons Craig Alexander (by his own admission at a book signing I wrote about in an earlier post) Chris Macca and the like of professional triathletes even wanted to do Ironman Kona 2012 was they all wanted to race Lance. They all felt like he was "the guy to race". Because Lance was going to race it, NBC was gonna extend their coverage to TWO hours and would show the coverage not live but within a few weeks of the finish (a first for the BIGGEST event in Triathlon). His influence carried over into a new sport and generated interest. If you’re a fellow triathlete and don’t realize how much having Lance race would’ve helped our beloved sport become a top tier event…you’re blind…and dumb.
That poster ain't going anywhere anytime soon. I've had to listen to your opinion and now I'm finally sharing mine. So...feel free to unfriend, unfollow, unsubscribe me. I take no offense at all.