Okay, granted, Lance can probably line up with 99 percent of mountain biking’s top XC racers and hand their ass to them in about a lap. But Lance is no mountain biker.
He’s a died-in-the-Lycra roadie, and he’s coming back.
So, what happens when you assign a historian to cover the news of the world’s most bad-ass road rider announcing he’s getting back into the game and going for an unprecedented 8th Tour win? In the case of Vanity Fair’s David Brinkley, you get a 6,000 word story. Six…thousand…words.
In the likely case you have something better to do than read the five full pages of text, here are a couple salient sections.
On coming back:
“…The impetus to come back, he says, sprang upon him quite unexpectedly over the summer, in Colorado. Armstrong had an epiphany on August 9 after placing second at the Leadville Trail 100 Mountain-Bike Race—a 100-mile “Race Across the Sky,” which climbs to more than 14,000 feet. That ascent, cycling upward in a crosscurrent, tripped something primal in him. “It wasn’t a lightbulb going off,” he says, but a realization, combined with a gradual frustration “with the rhetoric coming out of the Tour de France. Not just the Tour on TV but the domestic press, the international press, the pace, the speeds at which participants rode. It’s not a secret. I mean, the pace was slow.”
“Then Leadville, this kind of obscure bike race, totally kick-started my engine. For me it’s always been about the process.… The process of getting there is the best part. You start the season a little out of shape, a little heavy. You get in better shape. You lose some weight. I mean you’re just crafting this perfect program. For several weeks I [had] trained [for Leadville] and went riding by myself. Obviously beautiful territory and fresh air, just feeling fit, losing weight, getting strong—living a very healthy lifestyle. I thought, This might be fun to try again…”
“Ultimately,” he says, “the people like who they like and don’t like who they don’t like. They make up their own mind. The papers loved to write that I was the most hated athlete in France, but I’m the guy who rides through that kind of shit. They don’t sit on the bike with me and so, you know, out of 100 people, did you have 10 people throwin’ shit at you, yellin’, ‘Dopé, dopé’? Yeah. But you had 90 goin’, ‘Allez Lance! Allez Lance!’ I can do the math on that. My approval rating is 90 percent. Fuckin’ A. I like that.
On the bottom line:
“Look,” he insists, “I plan on holding a press conference [saying] I never cheated. I won seven Tour de Frances, fair and square. I’m going back.