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Letters to Cyclingnews - October 3, 2008
With news of Lance Armstrong's return to professional cycling, Cyclingnews readers have been even busier than usual, telling us what they think of the American's comeback. In another special edition of our letters section, here's a taste of the sentiment surrounding Lance's announcement.
Comments and criticism on current stories, races, coverage and anything cycling related are welcomed, even pictures if you wish. Letters should be brief (less than 300 words), with the sender clearly identified. They may be edited for space and clarity; please stick to one topic per letter. We will normally include your name and place of residence, but not your email address unless you specify in the message.
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There comes a time
I just read your collection of 'Lance letters'. I rarely read these controversies because celebrity boosting or bashing is just a way for the rest of us to avoid confronting our own limitations. But what the heck.
Lance Armstrong is 37 years old. Consider some of the greatest athletes of all time: Ali, Jabbar, Merckx, Jordan, Sebastian Coe, Hank Aaron, even Arnold Palmer, for God's sake. All had to retire eventually because the gap between their personal expectations and their actual performance was too great to ignore.
If Armstrong can return to professional cycling, ride with the world's best, and do so while demonstrably clean, then he is the exception to the norms of physiology and aging. If so, then admire his superhuman anatomy. If he can't, his ego and the laws of the marketplace will send him home.
The question of Armstrong's return damaging the careers of other cyclists is overblown. These men are valuable commodities on the marketplace, and they know it. Lance Armstrong, for all his achievements, cannot determine the lives of others. Maybe will see an a 'miracle'. More likely we will watch a proud, accomplished athlete come to terms with mortality. Armstrong has decided to stage that personal drama on a public stage. How many of us would have the same courage?
In response to Alan Tomasic - it is readily explained how Armstrong "demolished Jan Ullrich."
I am not a pro cyclist by any stretch of the imagination, but I watch cycling as a rabid fan (pre-and post-Lance). During each of Lance's TdF wins, the commentators (Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen) were constantly talking about Jan's off-season exploits. He was a partier and at the beginning of each season he had to first lose significant weight and get back in shape before even attempting to get back into winning form.
Lance, on the other hand, as many documentaries show, worked religiously during the off season. He was in the wind tunnels, working with Trek and other companies to better his equipment and his form.
Armstrong won because of dedication and hard work, the expertise of Johann Bruyneel, and the support of an excellent team (especially when they had the team time trials). He is a great cyclist, though not the greatest. The reason is simple in that instead of racing a full calendar, he was really a one race man- which is another reason for his TdF success.
If Lance is really some "super doper" a la Marion Jones, then I can just as easily say that Alberto and Levi are us well under the care of Johann. After all, look how many former Postal and Discovery riders get caught when they leave and go to other teams. Either they all super dope (but forget how to do it with another team) or Johann actually runs a tight ship with the best training regimen around. Until there is proof, all riders who excel (including Cadel, Carlos, and Fabian) must be under the same suspicion of super doping. Or, I would like to think that the hard work of training actually pays off.
Quit whining about the future and younger riders. If they are better, they will beat him. Since supposedly he will now race a pretty full schedule, we will see just how good he is for such "an old man." If Alberto beats him in the TT and in climbs, then neither will be playing domestique to the other.
The point about Lance Armstrong is that he is a Tour de France rider and not a true rider. When he is supported by a fantastic team, has not ridden many races and arrives at the Tour very fresh, he is likely to perform very well. Good luck to him as he is a very good rider. However, do not confuse him with Hinault, Merckx, Indurain or even the Contador (who won the Giro and the Vuelta this year). Let the media have their hero and the cycling enthusiasts their knowledge of who can really ride a bike.
Mr. Dybowski is onto something.
It would have been more interesting for Armstrong to return, train to win, draw attention doing so, but boycott the TDF and instead be at Amgen, Georgia, the Giro, and the Vuelta, plus 2-3 ultra endurance MTB events and one-day road classics.
Why reward the TDF when the same oversight that was so routinely rude to American racers for so long remains?
Friday, September 26, 2008
Armstrong comeback #2
No one has yet said whether Astana will be allowed into the Tour next year, that is entirely up to the organisers. Armstrong is not, nor is any rider, bigger than the Tour de France. Maybe he thinks that by joining the team, the Tour would have to include Astana... watch this space.
Armstrong's comeback #3
Some of us, and Contador, are missing the point to Armstrong's comeback. Face it, Lance is not going to win another Tour. Frankly, as he said, he already has the record of seven. Eight would be meaningless. But think of the team. Think of the publicity. Conti, Levi, and Lance... the perfect team to take on the challenges of the toughest race in the world. The same should be done to take on the toughest disease in the world, Cancer. At least one of the team is sure to win. The cancer team I mean. The result? A cure.
Imagine the field thinking about who could win, and who is out front. Lance on a breakaway, or Levi, taking the pressure off Contador. Who do you watch? Imagine Levi leading you up the first part of Huez, then Lance for corners 15 through 20. Conti sprinting away to win on 21. No time bonuses will be safe. No climber will have an advantage. No other team will know what to do tactically, since Johan has more than one weapon and more than one manoeuver to play. It is like having three kings on the chess board, and five knights. A waterboy thrown in as the pawn.
For Contador, this might be a blessing in disguise in that he now has two lieutenants that can take care of his every need. They will take the hits, if they work as a team, and the way Johan wants. Imagine cloning George Hincapie and having him ride in front of and behind you. A Bruyneel team is with one dedicated leader. As with the Giro and Vuelta, you were left with guessing which one was the leader until the queen stage. With Lance, Lippy, Conti and throw in Klodi in the mix, who do you think can win the Tour of California, or the Tour Down Under, or the Tour De France? Who did you pick to win the Tour in 2006? Levi? Or Conti? Or Kloden? Who do you mark on the way the Alp? Which number do you watch in the first third of the ITT? What do you do when the first three spots in the tour belong to three team mates? And none of them are Contador. Simple... You race for the stage podium and not the race podium. You become QuickStep, pre-Evans, with Bettini and Boonen.
If Lance can bring that level of challenge to the sport of cycling, then that example is what I would put on a poster in the middle of my hospital ward. "We have assembled the best team possible. We have the strength, experience, leadership, knowledge, tactics and talent to take on the toughest race in the world. Now let's go do this thing. Let's cure cancer."
Talk about doping all you want. Right now, I'm going to get set to stand on the side of the road in Cali and watch a race, wearing a new yellow band on my wrist.
John A. Nelson
Armstrong comeback #4
The only people that need to "get a life" are those that seem to have some axe to grind with respect to Armstrong racing next season. It is his life, not yours. If the man is bored, so be it. If he misses the life, the camaderie, so be that, too. If he has what it takes to be competitive again, who are we to question it? The man wants to race. I don't care what his motives are. Would YOU care what people thought if you decided you wanted to race again - be it Cat 4 or Masters 65+? I wouldn't.
As for Leipheimer and Contador - boohoo. Leipheimer is a great rider, highly
professional, as is Contador. The might not like him joining the team but, if
anything, I'd think it would motivate them even more to train harder and get
right for the Tour. If Armstrong is coming back, they are gonna have to race
him one way or another. If I were either man, I'd rather he be on my squad.
I'd bust my ass training for the Tour and let my legs do the talking. With Armstrong
getting up in years, I can't see Bruyneel giving him the sole leadership for
the Tour. Leipheimer and Contador should have their chance.
So, some advice nay-sayers: Shut up and go ride your bike.
Armstrong comeback #5
I am really having a hard time with all of the negativity regarding Armstrong's comeback bid. This is an excellent opportunity for the face of a very important charity organisation to take the fight against cancer worldwide. Sure, he can travel around the world, meet with leaders, and give speeches about cancer survivorship, but how much of the message will EVER get outside of the auditorium he speaks in or the palace he has these discussions in? Heck, unless you are active in the Livestrong community, you probably don't hear much in the States. Of course it will be a media circus wherever he goes. That is what it is all about....reaching out to even more people who come to see him race.
As far as LA as a rider....well, I will never count him out of anything. But I am struggling with all the worries about who will be the leader. Who ever is riding the best is the leader...PERIOD. Most likely, that will be Contador. In the mountains, the leaders will be eyeing each other and if Lance is up there, why should he not be given the opportunity? It is up to Alberto to go on the attack as well. If several of the Astana riders are there, can only benefit the team. If LA can hang within a minute or two of the leader in the mountains, do you honestly think he should not have to right to go all out in the TT's to try and win? Were not most of us hoping in the back of our minds that Levi could pull some more time back and possibly win the Vuelta?
And to all the people who said Lance would not be a good domestique, let me remind you the Tour is not the only race on the calendar and he has, on numerous occasions, sacrificed his chances in order to mark an opponent. Granted these were races to prepare for the Tour and the objective was not to win, but the sacrifices were still made.
His competitive drive is huge, as is his ego, but he also would never sacrifice the team....especially when the message he is trying to get out is all that more important. Stop knocking it and enjoy the ride!!!
Armstrong comeback #6
Why steal Contador's thunder in the Tour? Why not just aim for the Giro instead? It would seem to make more sense, and not ruffel as many feathers. The sad part about it is that Astana has the best stage racer in the world now, and he is still so young. But Lance's ego, and probably 1 year back into the sport is going to push him out the door into another team. Also what about Levi, he's one of the top handful of stage racers also, but will be sitting third string.
Armstrong should have just started a Livestrong team, still ridden Trek, and used his name to get into different races around the world. He could have still probably got an invite to a lot of the ones he's planning already, but could have also spread his message about cancer to little known countries as well. And maybe promoted cycling in areas where its not well known. Why not do races in Asia, South America, Africa, domestically and all around the world, then meet with heads of state/healthcare after, put on a health conference, raise money, etc. Doing the same races where everybody that follows the sport already knows about his story/foundation just doesn't make sense to me. His stated reasons for coming back just ring hollow.
There are many cyclists that have ridden in many tours and Lance does not come close to their numbers (Hincapie and Ekimov come to mind). Whether he wins, loses, or tarnishes"his legacy for now be comes no more than dribble to fill the void of too much media hype or harm. He has far more to lose than gain, but has made cancer related issues his life not because he went through it, but because he can! It is refreshing to see a celebrity give back some of all he has received.
Armstrong has likely figured that as a " has" he can be far more effective with his cause than as a "has been" no matter how celebrated he has been. Win or lose the cause he has chosen will be furthered. He may lose a race or two, subject himself to the past and present doping issues, or create tensions on his team. Yet, he has made his cause more celebrated, more visible and perhaps more effective. I have suffered two paretal cancer deaths but will be in France to root him on in 2009. So let us sum up his present and future with one familiar word: Livestrong!
Yawn Yawn. Lance is back. Suddenly I have again lost interest in Pro cycling. The ego-fulfilling rubbish starts all over again. Contador and Leipheimmer are already yesterdays men for him; how they must regret their efforts and dedication this last year just to make Astana respectable again.
A couple of other points:
Several of Lance's helpers have been busted for drugs - Heras, Hamilton, Landis. Do you think they started only when they left US Postal? If the Tour de France is run under French Federation rules again I believe that Prudhomme decides on the teams that enter; Astana may not be an automatic selection.
Lance is back #2
I must agree with a previous comment... if Lance was truly all about the cancer awareness aspect of his comeback then why not make your own team? Clearly Alberto is the team leader with Levi as his right hand man. So where does this leave Lance? I wish it was the odd man out, but unfortunately it will not be the case. It is selfish for him to comeback and bump out Alberto and Levi. Find another way to promote the cause Lance.
Of course there is only one team for LA to make a comeback: Astana. It was kicked off the Tour in 2006 for not having enough clean riders, kicked off the tour in 2007 for having a team leader who cheated using blood doping, excluded in 2008 for being too risky after 2006 and 2007.
A culture of cheating. Surely LA would go for a demonstratably clean team rather one with this history if he was serious about his image as the guy who rode clean and beat the best who were all cheating? Pantani, Baso, Ullrich and Vino, all caught or confessed cheating and all beaten by a clean LA?
Three years off with no "in competition" testing, now a comeback into a team with this history? I do not pass judgement but why this choice rather than a completely clean team...
Armstrong and Astana #2
Before commenting on Lance's return to the professional peloton I would like to say I am a great admirer of Levi Leipheimer for his tenaciousness and what appears to be unfailing drive to improve with every race. Contador on the other hand is a naturally gifted rider who comes across as being very insecure in his standing as the recent TDF and current Giro and Vuelta champion as is evidenced by this comment in cyclingnews;
"I think I've earned the right to be the leader of a team without having to fight for my place," Contador told AS. "And with Armstrong some difficult situations could arise in which the team would put him first and that would hurt me."
Ok, so what is it that concerns the current cycling poster boy with the return of the 38 year old LA, 13 years his senior? Is it the fact that he is worried that Lance might beat him and make him look second rate because he can't beat "the old guy"?
Lets face it, you are only as good as your last race and it appears "Kid" Contador thinks he has won the three big races now so he deserves to be left alone as the undisputed champion and leader of Astana. Wouldn't it be good if all life's competitions were as simple? Resting on past performances doesn't entitle anyone to anything and being at the top only means one thing, you are fair game.
If Lance comes back at 38 years old and beats everyone at the TDF then so be it, and if he can do it, he deserves it. If all the other riders, including Contador, are good enough to be considered the undisputed Champion they would relish the fact they now have the opportunity to defeat "the legend" LA.
My bet is Lance will come back as the mentor, not a true threat to young insecure riders like Contador who still don't believe in themselves even though they have won everything... once.
Armstrong and Astana #3
Why should Alberto, and Levi, leave Astana? Both are brillant riders and even Levi is capable winning a grand tour, he's proved that at the Vuelta. Lance is only coming back for one year. I'm sure Johan will be fair to the three of them. Work together and which ever one is the most likely to win at the end, go for it. Three on the podium is better than two. Levi has just won the two TT's if Lance is up to scratch they could get 1 2 3 there as well. What a team!! What a race!! What viewing!! Come on Alberto, come on Lance, come on Levi show us what you are capable of and may the best man win. congratulations on the Vuelta Alberto and Levi.
Armstrong and Astana #4
Has no one connected the Armstrong/Astana/TdF?
Astana didn't get in the Tour last year and it was a very heated and upset squad who felt they should have been invited. But, now that Lance is back, you can guarantee they will be the first team announced in! Why not? The reigning seven-time king. And of course, he will supposedly be clean doing it.
My guess is he will say he is doing the TdF and either won't for some reason at the last second of drop out. I am not a Lance supporter. BUT, I hate that the Tour is being used like this. So, if it were someone else, I would be saying the exact same thing.
Armstrong and Astana #5
Why do companies sponsor cycling teams? For publicity and to sell their wares. Never forget that the sponsors are in it for a publicity return on their money investment. Winning is usually the best way to gain publicity and Alberto is a winner.
But, having Lance Armstrong on a team will bring it more publicity than any victory can provide - even more than winning any of the big tours or classics. This is big business and what may be fair or not fair to Alberto has nothing to do with Astana's decisions.
David C. Krahulik
Armstrong and Astana #6
No Team Livestrong. It takes too much money to start a team and Trek and Johan were already with Astana. How convienient. Hmmm....but this is still about cancer awareness right? Will Lance draw a paycheck or will part of his earnings be put in escrow for later disbersement to charitbles? Ideally, by his admonition of riding for awareness brings Not-for-profit to mind. By what measures is Lance going to show that his comeback created More awareness? I fear that this whole charade is going to get lost in the peripherals and lose its true intention. Oh, but I will vote that the Olsen twins deliver the flowers and Credit Lyonnais stuffed lion on the podium in Paris. Chump.
Armstrong and Astana #7
What could Lance teach Alberto that Levi hasn't already helped him with?
I don't think Alberto would have reached where he is at without Levi. Levi is solid on his own but maybe the rest assured feeling of having a wonderful athlete who could take the number one spot escorting you around is pretty cool. Maybe not. Who knows? Maybe Lance could help him with media pressure and longevity? Brett Favre? New records?
Lance entering the mix with Levi, Alberto and Andreas with Chechu at the end of the table gives a power packed, pistol shot for Astana if they are clear to do the Tour. Let's just say that all these guys riding for Astana are capable of matching each other and taking equal turns, then it just comes down to ITT's. It could resemble the CSC route of the 2008 Tour. While Levi is usually a few seconds faster than Alberto, the question comes down to how fast Lance can ITT in the future. Therein lies the rub. He used to be the fastest, but is he faster than his team without the golden gauntlet?
So we have four great riders that can win the Tour on any given day when not working for anyone else in the mountains. It all comes down to ITT and if I were Alberto, I'd be working on that stuff all winter. It would suck to lose 1:00 minute to Lance in a TT when he pulls or explodes the other team for your benefit to take time in the mountains. Any complaint then is sour grapes. I bet at some point you see Hincapie working for Lance once again and probably just out of habit.
It's not about the team when it comes down to an ITT. There is no I in TEAM but there is an M and an E and that spells ME. In an ITT, it's all about the ME.
Armstrong and Astana #8
Lance Armstrong's return to the pro peloton will certainly be the biggest story of 2009. On the other hand, Alberto Contador could be winning Grand Tours in 2019. I'm afraid that Johan Bruyneel is sacrificing a long-term relationship with Contador for a 'one-night-stand' with Armstrong.
Thank you for every bit of coverage of Mr Armstrong and his exciting return to the forefront of the cycling industry. His existence in this sport has heightened awareness not only of cycling culture and the horrible plague of cancer, but of how an individual human being can make a difference in our world through hard work, intelligence, and virtue. I will be looking forward to all future coverage of Mr. Armstrong and his courageous attack on the peloton, be it on the road, the dirt, or in the trenches cyclo-crossing. I have been a fan of SRAM products for years now, and Mr. Armstrong's affiliation with them causes me great joy, so, I will also be quite impatiently awaiting the arrival of SRAM's new road gruppo - 'Orange', because we all know that Red and Yellow make Orange (they can quote me on that).
Contador and Leipheimer have earned their spots on Astana, and let's be honest, how many of us loved seeing Sastre win this year? There is and has always been something about CSC that makes a lot of us feel all warm and fuzzy…maybe it's just because they've been the underdogs beneath the Johan and Lance Commercial train for so long, that seeing their talent come through without the heavy dose of consumerism is a breath of fresh air.
I'd love to see Levi and Contador make a home at CSC…they deserve a team that is going to work for them, not a prominent position under the fading light of the black and yellow Armstrong umbrella. Mark Williams nailed it too…" Lance, don't come back. If you win, no-one who doubts you now will be won over, and will your foundation really benefit more than it already has? Your comeback smacks of hubris or even merely an opportunity to thumb your nose at the ASO. Your fans, your cancer foundation, and all the cancer survivors in the world deserve better than that.
Well said Mark….That about sums it up. I think it's time for Trek to look closely at the return on their investment here too….If I was new to cycling, I don't think Lance's return would make me want to run out to the nearest Trek Dealer…
To Mr. Wadsworth, I applaud your conviction and your decision to boycott products/companies etc that do not adhere to your views. However, with your rationale you would basically not be able to watch any cycling at all at the professional level. Just about every single pro level team has either a rider, director, doctor, mechanic, masseuse, etc that is or was involved in the "dark era" of cycling that you refer to. And these teams, riders, et al are allowed to compete still today. If Lance wants a comeback then good for him. Root for him or against him it makes no difference to me. It is having heroes and villains that makes watching this sport so dramatic. I for one have not lost my desire to see the best cyclists duke it out on the open roads. And at the end of the day if I am going to boycott companies and products, there are many reasons to do so, but their sponsorship if a cyclist I "don't like or trust" is not top on the list.
Armstrong's return #2
I find Mr Wadsworth's attitude commendable but completely misguided. To take a stand against something you believe to be wrong is an act that more people should engage in. However, to take a stand against something or some person purely based on a 'guilt by association' philosophy is prejudiced, close minded, and very immature. What you are suggesting is that because a number of cyclists tested positive during Armstrong's 'reign' constitutes sufficient evidence to suggest that he was also doping. By your logic, what about Ricco? And what does that do to your opinion of Contador? And what about the countless drug cheats during the time of Merckx? Do they taint his victories (keeping in mind that he tested positive during the 1969 Giro)? If you are true to your philosophy then you would probably be better off not paying any attention to any sport as they have all had their fair share of drug cheats and the remaining "non-drug cheating but guilty by association" participants.
The problem with public opinion is that it is mostly based on rumour and innuendo and rarely based on fact. Consider this fact: Lance Armstrong has NEVER tested positive for an illegal performance drug and received any form of sanction restricting his ability to compete. Yet, you and a multitude of others, consider him guilty. Most rational people (and societies) operate on a system of "innocent until proven guilty" whereas, in regards to cycling in particular, public opinion seems to be based on a system of "guilty regardless of proof". I hope never to sit on a jury with you and others of your ilk.
As far as I am concerned, the problem does not lie solely with the cyclists. Of course, any competent adult must be held accountable for their actions. However, we should be asking athletes "why are you doping?" Athletes that dope are not simply stupid...it is hard to believe that they are not aware of the risks involved (health, employment, etc.). Further, it seems a bit silly to lump all athletes who dope into the "cheating buggers" box. As with other problems, it is vital that the cycling community (as well as others) understand why athletes feel pressured to dope before a systematic and effective strategy can be developed to rid all sports of drugs. I, for one, am of the opinion that we should be focusing at least some of our attention on the teams and sponsors and the pressures that are placed on riders to perform at peak levels 100% of the time for a very large chunk of the year. Until then, don't be so small minded to condemn a person who has not be proven to have committed any offence.
Armstrong's return #3
I read with interest in a leading national newspaper that Lance is intending to be transparent regarding riding clean. To that end it was his decision to appoint anti-doping expert Don Catlin to oversee his testing programme. In the paper, Don Caitlin said, "I know as much as anybody how to beat the system; he's not going to beat me. I know what I'm doing." This could also be read as "I know as much as anybody how to beat the system..."
Even though Astana already has a person on the team to administer the teams anti-doping programme, Lance has brought in his own man - I wonder why? Will these doctors work together or will the team's existing doctor not be allowed to do tests on Lance? Now I have huge respect for Don Catlin for being instrumental in the Balco affair, I simply cannot see why it is necessary though.
I wish Lance well in the fight against cancer.
Armstrong's return #4
Lance returning to pro cycling will be a good thing just for the fact that it will put the sport in the spotlight more. He has been considered guilty of doping by speculation, not testing. He came back from cancer and won seven times so he had to be doping, right? If he was, then he must have been very good at hiding it through all the drug tests he had to take.
I remember an American rider who came back to win 2 Tours after being shot with a shotgun and nobody accuses him of doping. Doping may not have been as prevalent then but it was definitely there.
I'm not some die-hard Armstrong fan, as my favourite rider is George Hincapie. But if Lance does perform well in the '09 season, it should put to rest the speculations that people have against him. As far as all the other stuff that goes along with Lance's return (big ego, etc), I'll let the people involved worry about it.
Armstrong's return #5
My prediction is that Lance never rides the Tour. My theory is that Bruyneel wants to ensure that Astana rides the Tour in 2009. As extra insurance - and as a personal favour - he has asked Lance launch a comeback. It would be inconceivable for Prudhomme to lock out, Contador, Leipheimer and Armstrong. I can see Lance riding some of the lead up races and then, once the Tour invitation is secured, bow out. The final piece of support for my theory is the nightmare it would be to manage a race with Contador and Armstrong on the same team. I can't believe Bruyneel would relish that.
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