Adventures in life and photography out West

Posts tagged “Lance Armstrong

Reading into it

I can’t really fall right to sleep. Sometimes I try, and there are always exceptions, like a particularly brutal ride, but often, I have to read myself to sleep. Luckily, cycling has produced a lot of materiel for writers.
In light of recent developments, one book that stands out is “Lance Armstrong’s War” by Daniel Coyle. I’ve recommended this book in the past, as it gives great insight into the “Boss” of pro cycling. Better than Armstrong’s autobiographies, which all give the well-honed message the now-disgraced rider wanted the world to see, Coyle’s book hints at a driven, almost obsessed champion, right in line with many of the cycling personalities of the past. It shows not just Lance, but the people and world he ruled over.

Another of those personalities who still casts a shadow over the sport is five-time Tour champion Bernard Hinault. The French cycling hero swore his allegiance to teammate and American Greg LaMond for the 1986 Tour de France. The Frenchman then began relentless attacks against the field and his own teammate. Hinault’s attacks and LeMond’s reactions made for what is widely considered the greatest Tour ever. This is the story of Richard Moore’s book, “Slaying the Badger.” It’s next on my list.

On Feb. 14, 2004, an Italian hotel worker knocked on a door, hoping to talk to cycling hero and former Tour and Giro champion, Marco Pantani. What he found was the disgraced climber dead on the floor from a cocaine overdose. “The Death of Marco Pantani” by cycling writer Matt Rendell, chronicles the troubled history of one of cycling’s Angles of the Mountains. It begins at Il Pirata’s end and pieces together a life that seemed destined for a pre-mature ending.

Finally, again, in line with current cycling events, “Blazing Saddles, the Cruel and Unusual Story of the Tour de France”, also written by Matt Rendell. Rendell covers the odd, laughable and sometimes disdainful stories of cheating in the great race. From catching a train in the second Tour, to elimination for “Outside Help” to the account of Floyd Landis and hints of what would eventually come to light about Lance.

These are just a few such reads. Some actually keep me up more than help me sleep. All are worth the time.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going reading.


Life Goes On

In the aftermath of the Lance Armstrong affair coming to light, a laundry list of sponsors have terminated their relationships with the now-disgraced cycling legend. Former teammate Levi Leipheimer was fired from his team, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, seemingly for coming clean. It’s all a terrible mess. I have some suggestions to get over this, if only for a while.
The Estes Park High School Mountain Bike Racing Team heads to beautiful Fruita to wrap up their first season. Most of these kids had never owned a mountain bike before this fall, much less raced one. While they aren’t expected to win, they have all made huge strides and shown a lot of courage and character in choosing this life-long sport.

In the first race of the season, many of them didn’t finish. Now, as the season draws to a close, they are learning new things about themselves, as well as the sport, that will carry on well beyond their high school years.

Whether you have a kid on the team, happen to love mountain biking, love the Fruita area, or any combination there of, make the drive to sunny and warm Fruita to cheer on these kids. Then, maybe stop by Over The Edge Sports in Fruita, where you can rent a bike of your own, then head to the Book Cliffs or out to the Kokopelli Trail and have some two-wheeled fun of your own. It would make for a great family weekend.

If, like me, you just don’t have the time or gas money to make the drive west, head to Denver on Saturday and take in a bit of bike-geek culture. The annual VeloSwap fills the National Western Complex from 9 to 4. If you need a new bike, some components, clothing or just love people watching, this is a fantastic event.

I’ve written about this every year I’ve had the chance, and I get more excited every time. I’ve met Graham Watson, celebrated cycling photographer, at the event. I’ve met Ironman World Champion Chris MacCormac their. I’ve touched David Millar’s Garmin bikes and purchased replica jerseys of Mario Cipollini, Alessandro Petacchi and “Fast” Freddy Rodriguez. I’ve picked up carbon race wheels for $80. I’ve carried out countless pairs of socks and shorts. On at least two occasions, I’ve helped cement a love of bicycle culture for a friend.

Industry companies like Rudy Project, VeloNews, MAVIC will chow off their new gear. Area bike shops like Full Cycles, Big Ring Cycles and Sports Garage will have booths to sell off last season’s gear. Small Planet Foods and Larabar will be there. Magazines, massage therapists, various lube and skin care companies and at least one bike insurance firm will all show for the event.

Subaru sponsors a shuttle to make getting from your car to the event hall and back with all your new gear easy. If you can, Bike Denver, a cycling advocacy group, encourages attendees to ride to the event. They will have bike parking with security. The Boulder Center for Sports Medicine will hold Computrainer events throughout the day with prizes.

Tickets are $8 at the door. Parking is $10, but you can usually make that up in short order once you get inside. You can even bring your old innertubes that clutter your garage. Green Guru collects them to make bags, wallets and purses. Go down and spend the day, or shoot in, find what you need and get out. Which ever you prefer, the drive will be worth it.

Have fun, be safe. I’m going swapping.


Heroes Fall

Okay, so I was wrong. We do, in fact, get to see the evidence against US cycling legend Lance Armstrong. It looks really bad.
The US Anti-Doping Agency, or USADA, released their 1,000-pages “Reasonable Decision” in the case against the former seven-time Tour de France champion and leader of the US Postal Service, Discovery Channel and Radio Shack teams. It’s one thing when nemesis Filippo Simeoni is sited, after all, Simeoni sued Armstrong for defamation in 2003. It’s a whole other matter when faithful lieutenant and friend George Hincapie testifies. In cycling circle, “Big” George is beyond reproach.

The paper sites the testimony of Hincapie, Simeoni, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Jon Vaughters and Dave Zabriskie against, not only Armstrong, but Johan Bruyneel, the infamous Dr. Michele Ferrari, team doctors and trainers, as well. Nine different cyclists who were questioned in the affair were also patients of Dr. Ferrari, and many were teammates of Armstrong’s over the years.

I wrote a while back that I agreed with another writer that we need one standard in doping cases and that it really needs to be physical evidence. After looking at USADA’s document, it’s hard to imagine a defense that would exonerate the one-time Boss.

The charges are: use or attempted use of a known banned substance; possession; trafficking; administration or attempted administration; assisting, encouraging aiding, abetting, covering up of the violations and witness intimidation and retaliation against witnesses.

All of this was dug up without the help of the federal case against Armstrong that was dropped. The prosecutor did not respond to requests by USADA for the files they had collected. The sheer amount of evidence against the Texan is overwhelming. USADA considered all of this so damning that they waived the usual eight-year statute of limitations.

I suppose Lance fought so hard all of these years because he had a lot to lose. He’s not just an athlete. He was a hero. He was the man who faced down poverty, raised by his single mother, was the youngest world champion in a generation, and, lest we forget, faced down a death sentence from cancer. He is the voice and face of survivors. He was the public face of the US Postal Service, Trek bicycles, Oakley sunglasses, Nike and his own Lance Armstrong Foundation. He was the face that launched 100-million rubber bracelets. He gave hope. He gave inspiration. Now what?

The real trickiness may lie in how the International Cyclists Union handles the affair. As the report notes, 20 of the 21 podium finishers of the TdFs that Lance won were also linked to doping and a mind-boggling 36 of 40 podium finishers were implicated from 1996 to 2010. While ‘everybody’s doing it’ is not a defense, it kind of puts Lances wins in perspective.

I will still buy all seven videos of the Tours that Lance won. It’s pretty clear that in a sick way, he was competing on a level plain. The drugs Armstrong is accused of using were available to everyone. So, when I watch the dual between Lance and the late Marco Pantani in the 2000 Tour, it’s not some Texas bully and some poor Italian has-been, it’s the Pirate and the Boss, one on one. It was the greatest climbers dual of the generation. Similarly, in 2003 when Lance barely beat Jan Ulrich, it was the Boss and the Kaiser: the best rivalry of the time.

My lovely wife has chosen to take her yellow bracelet off. That may have more to do with how Armstrong conducts his personal life and his politics. I will continue to sport my yellow bracelet, not for Lance or his foundation, but for the hope that it represents. I won’t boycott the USA Pro Challenge just because Lance made it possible. I will be grateful that someone could bring pro cycling of this caliber back to Colorado.

I get it. In all reasonable likelihood, he cheated. I understand that. Today, I own a road bike. I imagine myself climbing the Alps and the Pyrenees. I fantasize giving a rival “The Look”. I even imagine storming down the Champs-Elysees, the cobbles of Northern France and Belgium and the last sprint in Milan due to Armstrong. If not for Lance, I might not have this path. I have to acknowledge the bad, but I won’t let it spoil the good. Shame on you, Lance. But at the same time, thanks.

Have fun, be safe. I’m still going riding.