Saturday, October 29, 2005

Controversy? (Alternate title; Lance who?)

Apparently there is a new Lance Armstrong controversy brewing. Well, it's actually already done brewing and is ready to drink up.

Now, it isn't that I find it terribly "newsworthy", but I have to confess that it has caught my attention. ASO, the group behind the Tour de France, pretty glaringly snubbed Big Tex at the unveiling of the 2006 Tour route. I'm not saying that they are openly slapping him around, because I don't know if they have the courage, but they aren't playing nice.

Since that unveiling and all of the consequent fallout with Johan Bruyneel's response and Lance's response, a lot of chatter has been taking place. Some people saying that Lance made the Tour what it is now and others saying that the Tour is what made Lance into Lance.

So, in true Masiguy form, here's my take on it all;
1st- Who cares about the fact that they aren't being nice to Lance? Don't get me wrong because I do believe he deserves more respect. Hey, he's won 7 more Tours than I have... and 2 more than the 4 guys with the next most wins. Here's the thing though- ASO has never liked Lance as a winner of the Tour and never even really cared for LeMond and his 3 wins. To an extent, Europe has not really ever cared for American winners of their sporting events. Honestly, if a French team learned to play basesball (I know I'm speaking fairy tale talk now) and then came over and won the World Series, we probably wouldn't like them either.
2nd- Lance didn't make the Tour and the Tour didn't make Lance. They made each other. Before Lance showed up, the Tour was still the biggest sporting event in the world, with the exception of the World Cup (soccer). Lance and his very compelling story of recovery from cancer helped to make the Tour bigger and gain the American audience, which then helped to foster a larger global audience. However, if Lance had "only" won the Vuelta a Espana (that's the Tour of Spain for all you uncivilized Americans), the American audience wouldn't have been as big because the Tour is the Tour. Now, you start adding into the cancer story a few more wins and a few more wins and you've got something you can sell. On top of all of that, you throw in an arch nemesis named Jan Ullrich and you've got yourself something truly spectacular. Big Tex versus Der Kaiser... Hollywood couldn't have scripted a better story (which is why rumors abound about a Lance movie in the making). Then, just when things are almost at true fever pitch, you get Lance leaving his wife Kristin and then shacking up with a popular music personality like Sheryl Crow. Dear Budha! It doesn't get much better than that. So, neither of them made the other, but rather they both became larger by virtue of their relationship. A love-hate relationship at that.

In the end, there are two truths to remember; A) Lance is likely to be the only rider who will go on to win 7 Tours and 2) the Tour de France is the greatest spectacle in all of cycling, if not all of sport.

The 2006 edition of the Tour will captivate the imagination of the cycling public, just as it always does. There will be plenty of bickering about whether or not the winner is deserving of the title, just like always. Honestly, I think the only remaining question has to be what will the retirementof Lance mean to the business of cycling? I have my theories of course, but I'm gonna hold off on any predictions for the moment... so stay tuned.



jbech said...

or you could have just written the following
"the french don't like winners" said by a true frenchmen while he trailed behind me in our paceline yesterday.

Donna Tocci said...

Nicely said, Tim.

annie said...

Bah. I don't believe that Lance is the only guy that'll win 7. I think it'll happen again pretty soon, actually. I mean, not THAT soon, because it takes at least 7 years (yah, y'think?), but I say within the next 20 we'll have another 7-timer. It's all in the training. Somebody with the right genetic potential comes along and decides he wants to win 7 Tours and screw the rest of the racing calendar, he'll do it. Ten bucks says he won't be French though.

James said...

Great post.

I agree with Annie that the seven record could very well be tied or exceeded sometime in the future. The age of race specialization is upon us, and the TdF wins record is a bigger target than it has ever been before. One thing is for sure, I'll be watching.

Paterfamilias said...

Did any one see Lance host SNL?

I missed it, since not only am I a member of SOFA, I'm also sleepy.

Anonymous said...

Lance who?

Smithers said...

What will the retirement of Lance mean to the business of cycling?

I will say one thing about Lance, he has been loyal to the companies that have supported him. As opposed to Greg Lemond, who it seemed like was always trying something new, Lance has been riding all the same gear for the last 8 years. It seems like it's made things a bit stagnant.

USA: Depends whether there is another American to fill Lance's place. It seems like the US market needs a top American rider in order for the industry to keep growing, in regards to the road market anyway. If Tyler gets back into the game, if Lloyd Flandis steps up, if Hincappie can win Paris-Roubaix (which he won't), the US market will continue to grow.

World Wide: Someone other than a Discovery rider winning the Tour will be good for the bicycle business world wide. Another bike brand, another helmet brand, another shoe brand, another clothing brand, another component brand, etc.; all will benefit from the increased product exposure of winning the world's biggest race. Another Disco rider wins? Not much changes...

Anonymous said...

"Honestly, if a French team learned to play basesball (I know I'm speaking fairy tale talk now) and then came over and won the World Series, we probably wouldn't like them either."

They don't even have to do that much for me not to like them.