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.

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