I'm about to commit heresy, I think, along with finally giving into the temptation of writing about Lance Armstrong's return to professional cycling. As Colin said a few weeks ago, paraphrasing my favorite band Cracker, "What the world needs now is another blog post about Lance."
But it's a busy week in the cycling world, what with Interbike and the World Championships going on, and I didn't want Lance to lose any of his well deserved limelight.
I don't think he should come back, and I really don't think he should come back for Astana. I'll go in two parts here, and my two cents aren't really worth even that, but these thoughts have been hanging around in my brain for weeks now, and I think it's time to let go of them.
Listening to Armstrong's comments on NPR yesterday, I heard the flat tones of justification: "After many long talks with my family, with my children, I have decided to return to professional cycling. My goal is to raise global awareness of cancer." Now, I've got no bones at all with Armstrong's cancer work, but I do feel he was doing a good job from his desk chair and his running shoes and mountain bike. Armstrong's seven wins at the TdF weren't about cancer, they were about winning the greatest cycling race in the world. I hear, in his measured, mature tones, something darker: the voice of a man who can't walk away. You hear this tone of voice in addicts, speaking calmly about their plans to overcome, to live with the thing they manifestly should not live with. Is cycling damaging Armstrong's life? I'm not in a place to say. But I thought I heard the sound of a man who was protesting a bit too much that this ride for number 8 was more about cancer than about his own needs.
Astana. Armstrong's return to Bruyneel's embrace will shred that team's lineup and make it's return to next year's TdF again doubtful. With Christian Prudhomme saying "They cannot be trusted," I think it unlikely that riders such as Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer (who desperately wants, but won't ever be able to, win the whole shebang), and Andreas Kloden will hang around to share space with the fiery competitor LA. And wouldn't it have been more fun to see Armstrong in a Quickstep (giving that team an actual GC contender) or CSC jersey, having it out with Astana? This move of Armstrong's simply makes Astana that de facto winner of the tour, and after 2008's exciting, what's going to happen next tour, I'm wary of a return to a dominant single team, headed by a man who controls the peloton by the force of his personality.
I used to love watching Lance serve it to his rivals in the mountains, but I really think his era has passed.
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