Sunday, September 28, 2008

This Month in Lance: A Reenactment

VeloNewsTV had an interesting edit of the Lance press conference, leaving out the second exchange with Greg LeMond. So here's my edit, along with a few other choice scenes from the annals of HRH. (Scroll over the bottom to pause, etc.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When Worlds Collide: Lance, Greg, and how 'bout that TT?

Let's get to the actual cycling first, because isn't that what it's all about? Garmin-Chipotle is continuing to get over that bridesmaid hurdle. We had Christian Vande Velde winning a hard-fought Tour of Missouri, and this week Tyler Farrar getting a sweet win in France. Big congrats to both and to the great teammates that got them there.

And huge congrats to Dave Zabriskie for taking third in the TT at Worlds. This one doesn't belong in bridesmaid status - it continues a great comeback from a tough injury. Watching him on the podium I flashed back to him on the side of the road in the Giro, and marveled at the work he's had to do in between. You can tell the back still gives him trouble, I don't think that was impatience that caused him to have his hand on his hip up there. So thank you, DZ, for a strong and gutsy performance. Speaking of the podium, kudos to Universal Sports for showing it to us! I've been nagging them about how we fans need our closure when the race is done, and they've finally listened. We like to see the honor, the joy, DZ swatting at bugs, priceless. And Universal had Frankie Andreu commentating, double bonus! Hugs to David Millar - Top Ten is nothing to sneeze at, but I know you were thirsting for more.

Great rides too, of course, by Bert Grabsch for the win and new Garmin rider Svein Tuft for second. Svein has to be happy with that, even if he'll have that tickling "what might have been" without the bike change at the end. Too bad for Levi Leipheimer, the dreaded fourth. With the table getting full there at Astana you know he wants to grab the choice bits when he can. Alberto Contador had some nerve making those comments about Levi the other day. With any luck, Levi won't have to work his butt off for the Kid anymore. Or the Kid might get a whole new perspective on Levi's shoes if he sticks around.

And so we come around to that other thing. Jonathan Vaughters talked me down a couple weeks ago - it's only for a year, bring it on, it's all the more incentive for us to do well. But now he's come for Taylor Phinney. Okay, don't speak out, I get it, to the general public you'll just be that guy with funny sideburns who made kids with cancer cry. But for heaven's sake, talk to Taylor! Alright, things I cannot change… I can't believe the team will be run in the way JV experienced as a youngster. One, because that would just be too damn sad. Two, because that wouldn't give Lance currency in today's world, and he's all about currency.

It's fitting that Lance was with Bill Clinton this week. They're both very smart, articulate, deep on whatever issue they're speaking about. They have great ideas and have done great things. And they both screw all that up with the crap they do along with it. Big Tobacco took my Mama, and anyone who wants to wale on them is typically my friend for life. But I can't separate the two that easily. I can admire and support the cancer initiative, but I can't jump up and down for Lance. Not that he cares, but I think it's kind of sad.

So yeah, he's smart and articulate, but he also has an annoying penchant for using the royal "we," and for shamelessly declaring others' good ideas as if he invented them. Never before could a rider prove himself clean - that's funny, I thought Garmin-Chipotle did a pretty fine job of that this year. Youth development is what this sport needs - uh, yes, and it's what this sport has in Garmin's development team. Hey, the more the merrier, but while you were snubbing your nose at the sport for a couple of years, others were actually taking care of it. JV talks me down once again, noting ever so wryly that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

About that new transparency. Lance said ask me anything, put any reporter on the line, a brand new day. But then he says yesterday and today - talk to the Don. After today, he won't talk about doping anymore, he'll just point to Catlin's tests. I guess that's one thing he's not cribbing from Garmin - they showed that transparency involves a lot more than numbers. If your concept is that this year proves something about the past, you have to talk about the past.

And talk to Greg LeMond, apparently. The cancer stuff is great, but all that gushing was getting a bit much, so I was happy Greg was front and center at today's Interbike press conference. Whatever faces they were making at each other, I think they both handled it well. Lance's blood must have been boiling, but he didn't fly off the handle. He moved things along, but allowed Greg to get more than a few words out. Greg asked some very reasonable and intelligent questions. He's so passionate about this stuff, it sometimes gets in the way of coherent sentences, but from what I could hear he did well. The news buzz is on the flashpoints, but the whole thing is worth a listen - check out The FredCast for full audio.

Dr. Catlin is well-respected, but I have to say he came off a bit befuddled in the whole exchange. He seems to know the old-fashioned kind of doping detection inside and out, but I was surprised he wasn't more up to speed on what LeMond was talking about. You can't be an expert in everything, but if anti-doping is your field, the LeMond stuff isn't exactly unheard of before today. To his credit, he appeared interested and if I heard correctly, suggested talking to LeMond later. Overall, though, Catlin didn't inspire a lot of confidence that this is going to be the harshest possible look at Lance for the next year.

Not that it matters. Like Lance said, it's just another box to be checked for him, and for the general public. Telling, that - a box I need to check, not a heartfelt passion to clean up the sport. Then again, according to Lance he's not from a particularly dirty generation, so I guess that's consistent. He loves the bike, he loves his sport, I believe that is absolutely genuine. I just wish the rest could be half as much.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Love and Hugs to Garmin-Chipotle

My version of the Serenity Prayer today was to listen to Green Day's American Idiot album at high volume, and I have to say it worked rather well. One of the great albums of all time, that.

So yesterday was like when John Paul sent the text message to Sarah so she would find out about him and Craig and...yeah, nevermind, no one's going to get that Hollyoaks reference. I don't regret the emotions, they're still there, but it was perhaps rash to haul Jonathan Vaughters into it wholesale. So, sorry JV, and thank you for your lovely official comment today. Paul Kimmage is a brilliant idea - now we'll see if Lance really means it about full transparency. Still proves nothing about the past, but if this thing is going to happen, Kimmage is the number one choice. I liked Bob Stapleton's comments also, nice and straightforward, not afraid to call it as he sees it. Well done by the two teams threatened most by the blinding light that is Lance coverage.

Tom Danielson's remarks were intriguingly gushing, especially given how Lance has sneered at him lately. Is he angling to get "back" on Astana?

Enough of the blinding light, how about that Garmin-Chipotle team in Missouri today? Awesome ride by Christian Vande Velde to take yellow - don't let it go VdV! And top rides by Dave Zabriskie, Tom Danielson, Danny Pate, and Steve Cozza, way to go boys! All of this sadly tempered by the horrible crash of Blake Caldwell, medical report here. Sending all best wishes to Blake for a good recovery.

Great ride by George Hincapie as well. Now if I can just get the on-demand video to play all the way through, I might actually get to see some of this race.

Lance Reaction: Spill 'Em If You've Got 'Em

Beans, that is. I'm talking to you, Jonathan Vaughters. And any other of those former Posties you hang with who might be able to enlighten us. Or Kevin Livingston. Or Frankie Andreu. I know, Frankie, you gave at the office, but it's all hands on deck. There's strength in numbers. If you all have the truth I think you have, and speak as one, his smear machine won't work.

As long as Lance was leaving well enough alone, and the sport was moving forward, I was fine with Vaughters' coyness. But JV, the time for coyness is over. I haven't walked a mile in your shoes, so I have no right to demand you say anything. But I can ask, plead, beg. You and everyone at Garmin-Chipotle have done so much, so much more than others, to save this sport and to make the fan experience richer than we could imagine. But this is the moment. This is the moment you stand up for your sport like never before. The moment we either take a huge, painful, ugly step forward or a huge, painful, ugly slide backwards.

Tyler Hamilton winning the US Pro was bad enough, but it's a bike race, s*** happens. I know the Garmin boys tried. But this, this would be such a slap in the face. Next year the American press should be all about Christian Vande Velde going for that podium, Danny Pate and/or Will Frischkorn going one better than this year and getting that stage win, Tom Danielson's triumph at long last (a girl can dream…). Or Lucas or Tyler or whoever is doing great things at any given moment. But it won't, it'll all be about him. Whether he's clipping his toenails or actually racing, it'll all be about him. To borrow a word from Barack Obama, Enough.

Why am I dumping this all at Garmin's feet? Because they have made us feel the pain of those years. They have shown us the struggle. They have shown us how you find a new way. They have shown us how free and joyful and fulfilling that way can be, for rider and fan alike. They are the ones on whose behalf I am most angry and sad tonight. And they are the ones chock-a-block full of people who probably/maybe/perhaps know about such things.

I don't know what Lance took. I don't know if anyone at Garmin does either. But I'm a diehard fan, and this is where my head's at and I feel so strongly that if there is something to be done, it must be done. Now. Don't let this go an inch further, we have come too far and are having too much fun for that.

Ironically, I finally got my hands on the latest Bicycling magazine this evening, to see what excerpt they used from my Johan rant. I picked up the latest Men's Journal, too, for the Garmin article rather than the guy on the front. In a vaguely cathartic act, I immediately ripped off the cover and tore it into little pieces. I say this not out of pride or defiance, but for the point of the reaction itself. This is how deep it cuts, this is how wrenched my heart is at the thought. This is how much I love this sport and how painful it is when the clouds return.

Back in the day, I would've bought the thing because he was on the cover. And carefully clipped and saved it. But once you've read and heard enough, you just can't go back. I've got a family full of cancer, including some very tough battles as we speak. I wore the wristband before anyone knew what it was, didn't leave my arm for four years. I appreciate what the man has done for cancer. He says this is about cancer, but really? This is the only way he can do something big for cancer? Or is that supposed to make us skeptics keep quiet - well, it's for cancer, so we can't protest too much. Sure, it's for the cancer work, but it's also because he loves to beat people and needs another fix.

And to prove he can win clean. Hmmm, prove to himself maybe. Though I always wondered if that's what 2003 was about, doing honor to number five and all that. But maybe he was just unlucky that year. Funny how you can envision different perspectives, though - there, see, I proved I can win clean, so I deserve to win every time out, so let's go back to the old program to make sure I do. Because, you know, we might as well win.

But of course the idea is to prove to everyone else. But as people have already pointed out, it doesn't work that way. Proving he can win one clean doesn't mean all the rest were. Lance is an extremely talented bike racer. He prepares tirelessly and meticulously and has the killer instinct of all killer instincts. So sure, he can win. It's the winning every time, the body almost never breaking down, that raises the eyebrows. If he wants to prove the past wins, let's see some blood values from then. Surely Ferrari has a stack of them somewhere. I know, he passed all the official tests (sort of), but I'm talking the day-in day-out stuff.

Racing again is such a tremendous risk - of crashing with serious injury, of finding you're not the big bad boss anymore, of losing. Why would he possibly want to risk all that? Okay, he loves risks, but still. It doesn't prove the past was clean, so it could only prove this one was clean. And the only logical reason to risk it all and do one clean is because the others weren't. Not that logic is a given.

Speaking of logic, one can hope the Tour won't take him back. It's not like they've needed a real reason to choose who they like in the past, so why not? You'll only tick off the same people who were ticked off about Astana this year, so it's a wash.

And then there's George Hincapie. I sincerely hope Lance does not try to get him back. And that George doesn't want to go back. One of my most treasured memories of this year is how Hincapie guided his young team and delivered them to the line again and again. He is exactly where he belongs.

Winning isn't a given either. A lot of things can happen, and it's likely things won't come as easily as they used to, for whatever reason. It would be very sweet to see Garmin beat him - whoever, at whichever race. But it wouldn't be worth the renewal of Lance-o-Rama in the coverage. Who would've thought, I'm nostalgic for the days of being appalled by his dating habits or how much water he's wasting. I'll take that news over this any day.

Oh, yeah, and what CFA said.