Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lance Armstrong, a true champion

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent story today on the return of Lance Armstrong to the Tour de France, cycling’s most prestigious race. At this moment he is in second place, only a fraction of a second behind. At 37, ancient by cycling standards, he is coming out of retirement that followed his 2005 win. He has won seven consecutive Tours, more than any other. The story is about the French warming up to him. It’s about time! I responded to the article. I would like to share my comments with you. "[M]any of the locals saw him as cold, arrogant and overly competitive."

My comments:

If they watched him race, they couldn't feel that way. When Lance's arch rival, Jan Uhlrich, took a spill on a hill climb, Lance doubled back to wait for him to remount and then won the race in one the greatest examples of sportsmanship ever. At another time he let Ivan Basso from a competitive team win a mountain stage he could easily have taken. Basso had given his all to pull a breakaway that left the two well in the lead. Both finished with the same time, but Lance gave him the glory of a stage win. When the organizers gimmicked the race and rules for the 2004 Tour to keep him from tying for most Tour wins, he never complained. What they did was limit the gain a team could achieve in the Team Time Trials that Lance's team had won the year before by an astronomical 3 plus minutes. For 2004 the maximum gain allowed between first and second was only 20 seconds and 10 seconds for every position after that. Lance's team won by 1 min 07 seconds, but was only given the 20 seconds. Lance had struggled a bit on the mountain stages the year before, so the organizers loaded the last 10 stages with 6 in the mountains (including an unprecidented 3 back to back). Lance won three, tied on time in one (Basso) and took the Tour. In my opinion Lance Armstrong is the world's greatest athlete, ever. And he has character. Any animus by the French against Lance is anti-Americanism. He was a non-European dominating a European sport. The French, especially their governing class, have a tough time with that.

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