By Sal Ruibal
We come not to bury Lance Armstrong, but to review some of the weird, awkward, crappy and embarrassing moments that I spent while following Lance and his ilk around the world. One might think that hanging with the global peloton would be cool, but now that the cat shit is out of the flaming bag, some resentments linger.
For example, I tracked down the former U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team Bus, site of many transfusions and double-double espresso shots. The bus was sold off and is now part of the city fleet in Vancouver. As you can see, it has not shown any remorse for its role in the debacle.
I asked to ride in the cool kids bus once, but was relegated to the old camper, which for some reason didn’t go on the big highways, but snaked around back roads, into Italy for a few miles, back into France at a remote village before dropping me off in Courcheval, where I had to ride in a mini-sausage car from the Publicity Caravan. I smelled of French hot dogs for three days.
The closest I came to doping was a series of emails and phone calls to the mysterious Dr. Ferarri, who has been accused of masterminding the U.S. Postal doping plan. Ferarri once said EPO was no more dangerous than orange juice, his point being that too much of a really, really powerful drug was just as bad as drinking 100 gallons of OJ in one sitting. He didn’t prescribe EPO to me because my health insurance had a $1 million co-pay for nuclear-level performance enhancing drugs and the EPO cost $1.2 million. I had an Orangina instead.
People ask me if I was a friend of Lance. That’s like asking Beaver Cleaver if he was friends with Eddie Haskell. (Readers under age 30 should Google both names now). I was always afraid Lance would put me in a headlock and give me a knuckle-noogie. His staff was always very nice, especially Knaggs. Bill Stapleton was always friendly, but I couldn’t figure out why his gorgeous female French teacher had to always be in the room when we talked.
I realized that Lance was not just an alpha dog, he was an alpha T-Rex. I visited the Trek plant in Wisconsin one summer and saw a big graphic of Lance and Alberto Contador. Great pals! He’s letting Contador ride his wheel.
But there came a time when I felt that Lance and the other guys on the team just didn’t like me any more. When they would excuse themselves “to play Parcheesi in George’s room,” and didn’t ask me join them, my feelings were hurt. Turns out that Lance heard me laughing when he got dropped on the Kapel Muur climb at the Tour of Flanders. I really wasn’t laughing at him, I was laughing at the fact he was being dropped by a rider from the Garmin-Slipstream team.
Lance didn’t like Garmin because the team director, Jonathan Vaughters, was a former Postal rider who fell out of favor when a wasp stung his eye at the 2000 Tour and it swelled to enormous proportions. Lance wanted to cut Vaughter’s eyelid open with a pocket-knife, but Vaughters refused, saying he might need that eye to write a review of the latest Chateauneuf-du-Pape vintage for Spoke and Fork magazine.
Lance also thought Vaughters was responsible for a flat tire on one of the team cars in the 2003 Tour. I can assure you that it was not Vaughters.
The End? Don’t bet on it.