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Team TIAA-CREF - 2005

Team Journal Entry - July 30, 2005, by Jonathan Vaughters

A belated thank you

I am a critic.

I don't know why, I guess it's sometimes a bit difficult to find where you truly are in this world. Whether you are for or against something, or whether you believe or disbelieve. This, for me, is made so much more difficult by the fact that I lead a far from perfect and morally altruistic life. I do, and have done, very bad things in my life, and accordingly I should not judge others, period.

But then, somehow, when faced with giving my opinion on Lance Armstrong I have always simply said what my honest opinion has been. In the world of cycling where he is revered and worshipped, my words have sometime come across as harsh and I have been quoted by authors who feel my opinions help their exposure of Lance's underbelly. But all this is a bit misunderstood; I quite simply answer people's questions, whether it be my next door neighbor or a reporter from the New York Times, with the same words: Lance has not always been a kind person to many people who I consider friends. He has, at times, been callous, with many people I respect and like. I don't like that, and I don't see that as something I need to gloss over. If our situations were reversed, I am sure he would be as straightforward as I have been.

All of this said, I realize, as of today, I need to thank Lance, and indeed need to apologize for being a bit too unedited with my thoughts. This realization came as I was scrolling through the results of the Mt. Evans hillclimb in Colorado. As I rolled down the page, I saw something that truly made my heart warm. The list of junior riders went on and on and on. The numbers of kids showing up to do this venerable Colorado race were beyond what they have ever been before. From my retirement onward, my passion has been the young riders of the US, and to see so many young riders coming up and trying the sport is something that makes me believe in the future of US cycling like no one rider's performance can. It shows that our sport is penetrating the imagination of American youth and pulling them away from the more accessible and softer activities that has made our country infamous (and fat).

I was peering into this wonderful development from a hotel in France where for the last three weeks I had been entertaining guests from all over the world who came to see the wonders of cycling. All of this combined to make me realize what has probably been quite obvious to everyone else for some time; Lance Armstrong is having an impact on cycling that spreads so far and enriches so many that it could never be replicated. He has made my passion and continued existence in the sport a reality, and he has indirectly made it possible for teams like mine to exist, along with making the talent to drive such teams available. Without Lance, quite plainly, these kids would be eating Cheetos on the couch with their peers and I, quite plainly, would not have a job.

No matter what my criticisms have been, there is no replacement for his influence. Therefore, as a critic and a sceptic, I came to the conclusion that instead of criticizing, that perhaps I needed to view the world as a bit larger of a stage than I have been seeing it as being, and say thanks instead.

So, as I fly back to Colorado from France, I figured I should write a letter. A thank you card is really what it is. It's not a retraction of my earlier opinions, or a statement saying Lance is the nicest guy I ever met, but it is simply a heartfelt thank you for making the sport I cherish so much so alive in the USA. It is a thank you for all the talent and enthusiasm, present and future, which has come to our sport because of your accomplishments. It is a thank you for making my little world a better place.

As the French say: 'Chapeau'. Which means "hats off", and signifies when one's detractors stand back and realize they were mistaken.

Chapeau, Lance. Chapeau.