Saturday, January 19, 2013

Saturday's Miscellaneous Musings - LANCE ARMSTRONG

Lance in Paris on winning #7

These are my opinions, and those of others I have read and will reference their work for you to read and discern for yourself, on the Lance Armstrong situation in cycling.  Tom Lonzi has his own opinions and to be honest we have never sat down and discussed them but I am sure that day will come and I am very interested to hear what he has to say because he has been in the industry a long time and has great insight into all things cycling!

I am honestly struggling with this post because I would never want to offend anyone or their thoughts when it comes to a subject such as Lance Armstrong and his cheating to win the Tour De France 7 times.  I also have no experience ever being put in the situation of where I had one of two options - #1) cheat and be employed by a great team or #2) say no and pay the consequences for years to come after working so hard to being so close to my lifelong dream.  Men and women who ride professinonally and specifically in the Tour De France or any other major professional cycling tour are special because of their physical abilities and the amount of work they put in developing their cycling skills and fitness and I would never want to belittle those accomplishments.  But what Lance and his team did goes far and above physical development of bicycling endurance.

During the 3 weeks of the Tour De France each summer my family knows it is my time to get home from work and watch that days race coverage even though I followed it on the internet at work if time allowed.  Many times I will DVR the long coverage and still watch the evening "recap" as well just to make sure I didn't miss anything.  There are few things on television that make me want to sit down and waste away precious daylight hours, especially in Buffalo during the summer, but the Tour coverage is one of them.  The scenery, the teamwork, and the bikes are all spectacular and I especially love the mountain stages and sprint finishes.  Will you ever forget Lance looking back at Jan, staring him down, and then pulling away from him or Mark Cavendish, The Manx Missile, pulling away from the his lead out train to win another sprint finish.

I have been following the Tour since Greg LeMond raced years ago and when Lance and his team came around (and won) it just kept my attention that much better.  I am so enamoured with the Tour that this summer we are taking our daughter to Italy for a graduation present but my one prerequisite was that we were going to France for the L'Alp D'Huez stage so I could see the greatest cyclists in the world conquer a great mountain stage in person!

In my downtime I read a lot of other cycling blogs and these people come from all walks of life and industry.  Some are frame builders, shop owners, mechanics, bike industry people, and just regular joes - but we all have cycling in common so I follow their work.  I guess this is the reason why I asked Tom if I could be the point man for his bike shop's blog and where I get a lot of leads and information.  You also have to be open to hearing point of views that you might not agree with and see how they developed those opinions.

The first point I want to make is that I respect LiveStrong and how Lance built that organization up to help fight cancer and hope it continues it's great battle against this nasty disease!  We have lost relatives, friends, and millions others to cancer and we need to find a cure so if LiveStrong helps with that - fight on!

I must admit that I was a huge Lance supporter and believer - yes, I honestly believed he doped, just like everyone else in professional cycling, but that he was just naturally stronger than all the other cheaters.  To me it was the same in baseball.  Sure I knew Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa were cheating but they were "better people" than Barry Bonds so it was easier to like them and root for them.  I remember watching Mark and Sammy go back and forth and enjoying every moment of them hitting one home run after another.  A couple of years later I was actually rooting for Barry to not break the record and to hit a major slump and never hit another home run again in his career.  We all know how that turned out but you can never fault someone for being honest right?

I started to really doubt Lance a couple of summers ago in 2009.  He was scheduled to race the Leadville Trail 100 for the second summer in a row.  The previous summer, 2008, he had lost to Dave Wiens by 1min 56sec and was coming back to try and defeat him and everyone else.  Dave had won the 100 6 years in a row and was a family guy that loved to ride his bike.  In 2009, Lance put a "team" together to go and burn everyone out and he would ride to victory.  Yes, this is how it works in road racing but not in mountain bike races.  Dave won the race 6 years in a row on his own.  He didn't need a team and he defeated Lance on his own.  But Lance needed this victory and brought his "buddies" out to help him.  Like I said this started my mind working that maybe Lance was not who he presented himself to be.  If he had defeated Dave on his own - fine.  But he went back to his roots - using people to make himself look better and in a grassroots type event at that!  Lance won in 2009 and he defeated Dave Wiens who took second place.

The moment I finally turned on Lance was when I learned of how he had turned on Frankie Andreu and his wife.  I must be honest and say I don't follow the news daily and am pretty blind when it comes to news events.  I want to see people compete, I don't need to see dramatization of daily events, so I never heard of these allegations until this past year when the whole USADA case came out and events started falling into place.  To be honest with you, I might not have believed them either and would have chalked them up to just another person mad that Lance is a great cyclist and they aren't.  

At that time I started researching a lot of material and learned of how Lance would strong arm people to get them to do things his way.  If you did, you were welcomed.  But if you didn't, you were damned and he would do anything within his power and control to ruin your life.  There are many more articles out there if you take the time to google them on this subject as well.  It was then that I started to look at Lance with a different mindset and did not like the cyclist, or the man.

I can honestly say I did not watch the Oprah interview and probably never will.  Yesterday morning on the way into work, WGR550 played some cuts from it and it seemed pretty rehearsed to be honest with you.  Hey Lance here are the questions I am going to ask if that is alright with you?  Sure Oprah, thanks for letting me prep my answers and my emotions!

I did watch a take off on the interview though through one of my favorite TV shows, Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Nation.  He did this take off on the whole situation - HILARIOUS!  If you know his humor and how his show works I think you will really find this funny.  If you don't know his humor or his show well be prepared for some interesting opinions.  Watch some of his clips before your write his whole show off - it is very genius if you give it time - at least in my opinion.

There are a ton of blogs out there bashing Lance right now I would imagine.  A blog I follow is from Dave Moulton.  Dave was a frame builder that came to America from England.  He has a great point of view on many subjects and his post on the Lance story sums it all up pretty well.  Another writing I found is from a journalist I respect and enjoy reading - Rick Reilly from ESPN (I have to like him - he grew up in Colorado ;)) posted an article and expressed his feelings from many personal encounters with Lance Armstrong.  Many of us will never gain access to athletes the way some journalists do and Rick had a pretty good relationship with Lance from what he writes in his story.
My final "attack" would be on the UCI and US Cycling.  If they had any knowledge of what Lance and his team were doing then they need to pay the consequences for their actions just like Lance is!  A couple of weeks ago I shared a blog about this and their thoughts to support grass root races and not support the UCI and US Cycling in any way possible until the whole story comes out. 

There is nothing wrong with you and your friends meeting at Chestnut Ridge Park and deciding upon a route and saying first one back wins.  Have your family hang out at a great park and meet you upon return for a picnic with everyone involved in the race.  You can do the same thing at Sprague Brook on the mountain bike trails as well.  You don't have to have a wheel pit and official scorers to make it a race - you just need 2 people (sometimes only 1 - I race myself all the time on my commute and always win!).  If it comes out they had no knowledge of Lance and his teams activities, then I fully would support them and their races.  But I have a hard time believing there was not an arrangement of some type made so that Lance would pass all of these tests but that will play out in the near future I am sure of that.

The point of this post is not to make you see things my way.  I am just giving you some other avenues to either reinforce your opinion or help you get the big picture if you never paid much attention to it from the beginning.  I also want you to think to yourself if this thank you was enough.  I, personally, feel Lance owes the people he crossed over the past 15+ years much more than an appearance on Oprah.  I believe he owes them an in person chance for them to ask him some pointed questions and answer those questions as honestly and openly as possible.  We are all prone to mistake - it is how you handle the aftermath which makes you a better person!

I wonder what Johan Bruyneel is going to do now that Lance came out and admitted to cheating?  Is he still going to fight the USADA or is he just going to disappear and take his punishment?  Should be interesting to see how it plays out that is for sure!  I guess Floyd Landis does not look like such a bad guy after all does he?  Maybe Greg LeMond will become a voice in American Cycling since he is now the only American to ever win the Tour De France!  There are so many people that were affected by this whole situation and they should have a voice and be heard because it seems as though they were telling the truth from the beginning.

In the end, for cycling to remain the great sport it is, everyone needs to come together and make the sport clean!  No more second chances - you are one and done if you are caught.  If someone on the team is caught - they all get kicked out of the race and not invited back for a specific period of time.  Make the consequences severe enough that everyone is afraid of being the one to ruin it for their teammate!

Lance on Oprah - a much different picture

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