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Tales from the Lardbutt Peloton, May 25, 2004

Team Lardbutt isn't the fastest team in the US, it isn't the best-equipped team, and we sometimes wonder if it exists at all outside the imaginings of Chief Lardbutt Greg Taylor. Lance Armstrong's recent retirement announcement was welcome news at Lardbutt HQ in a 'dude, you deserve it' way, but Greg would have liked a small change to the announcement.

Dude, What Were You Thinking!?

I have a message for Lance Armstrong.

It's about your retirement.

Okay, after 14 years as a pro racer, a comeback from cancer, six wins at the Tour, a World Championship, and a lot of Nike and Subaru ads, there eventually comes a time when a guy just has to stop. Even you, Lance. So when the rumors started swirling in April that our favorite Texan was going to hold a big press conference at the Tour of Georgia, and the speculation was that you were going to announce your retirement as a bike racer, I can honestly say that I was actually happy for you.

And, in true Lance Armstrong fashion, when the day finally came to announce your decision to retire at the end of the 2005 Tour, it was a big dang deal. Television cameras, print journalists - yes, they were all there. I tuned in and watched it live on television, Lance, as did millions of us who have followed your career. And if you missed the speech live, there was plenty of opportunity to see it replayed on virtually every news network across the globe. It was big news. Without a doubt, the fact that your retirement was a major story in the mainstream media should tell you something about how far you have taken the sport of cycling in this country.

Yesirree, millions of viewers.

And, Lance, we were all mesmerized when you talked about the major inspirations in your life that led you to your decision to retire - your kids, your mom, your special lady. Especially your special lady, Sheryl Crow. Indeed, probably the most dramatic and memorable moment in a speech full of dramatic and memorable moments came when you looked into the camera and thanked the current love of your life for standing by you and being there as you stepped into retirement.

Do you remember what you said, Lance? I do.

You said, "Sheryl, you've been an amazing woman. For somebody's who's the Queen of Rock & Roll you sure have been a great cycling fan, cycling teammate and a great partner." You certainly have quite a way with words there, big guy.

Lance, did I mention the fact that my wife watched your speech?

Yes, she watched it. Along with millions of other wives and girlfriends of cyclists.

You know where this is leading, Lance. You're a smart man. You've been married. You're bright enough to know that each one of those millions of wives and girlfriends out there who saw you go all mushy in front of the camera took a hard look at their own spouse/significant other and thought to themselves, "If Lance Armstrong can give up international fame and Tour de France glory for Sheryl and the kids, then doofus over there on the couch can certainly give up his weekly Thursday night ride with the guys once in a while and spend a little more quality time around the house."

Awww... dude. Couldn't you have just said something like you were hanging up your helmet so that you would have more time for drinking beer, watching sports, and hanging out? It would have been easier on all of us. Much easier.

Maybe we're all just a little extra sensitive about this particular topic lately, but since you announced your retirement, life just hasn't been the same on our weekly group ride. The spousal leash has gotten just a little bit shorter, and everyone has found it just a little bit harder to get out.

Take me, for instance. Lance, do you have any words of wisdom for a guy who recently got a lawnmower from his wife as a birthday present? A frickin' LAWNMOWER, Lance. Campagnolo doesn't exactly make much in the way of home and garden equipment, if you catch my drift here. There are no Dura-Ace hedge trimmers. Silly me, I was holding out for a trick wheelset. Heck, a pair of bike sox would have been nice. But, no, I got a lawnmower, and I'm probably expected to use it. Knowing my wife, this was a not-so-subtle hint that maybe, just maybe, I should be spending a little more time around the ranch and a little less time riding my bike.

So I can be just like you, Lance.

And it's not just me - you can ask any of the guys. Since your press conference it's been a lot more "Yes, Dear" and lot less "On Your Left!" on the weekends, all thanks to your fine example. Actually, thinking about it, I probably wouldn't ask my buddy George, not if you know what is good for you. He's still a little sensitive about the vasectomy. Actually, we're ALL a little sensitive about it, Lance. Understandably so.

A couple of weeks back George turned up missing for our regular Sunday morning group ride. George is a kick-ass rider, one of the strongest in the group, and he rarely misses a chance to ride. So it was very strange when he didn't show up at the appointed hour in order to administer his weekly beat-down.

"Hey, should we wait up for George? Did anyone talk to him this week?"

"Uh, didn't you hear? He's recovering from a bit of... um... outpatient surgery."

"Surgery? Is it that knee of his? Did he finally get it 'scoped?"

"Uh, no. Think about two feet higher."

"Oh. OH...!"

We all went quiet as the news about George sank in. A few of us unconsciously crossed our legs. Todd finally broke the rather uncomfortable silence.

"That poor bastard. He'll never want to leave the house now."

"My wife's Sheryl Crow records are going up on eBay this afternoon. This has got to stop."

Amen, brother.

So Lance, on behalf of all of the amateur racers and weekend-warriors out there who, like you, are married and/or have serious girlfriends, we want to leave you with this one thought as you take your leave of competitive cycling:

Dude, what WERE you thinking!?

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