No tears for Armstrong
Like many people who transcend to one-name recognition (Madonna, Tiger, Freud), Lance tends to divide any room into for-him and against-him factions.
But, regardless of which side of the room you’re on, you’ve got to acknowledge that Lance Armstrong earned his single-name recognition through effort and by overcoming challenges.
Like much about Armstrong’s career, his decision to return to the Tour de France last year after a three-year hiatus sparked conflicting thoughts. Was this a washed-up guy unwilling to move on to the next phase of his life? Maybe, but last year’s thirdplace finish was solid enough to dispel that notion.
And that finish — combined with a new lineup on a new team (Radio Shack) — gave rise to hopes of another solid finish, perhaps an eighth victory, this year.
The current race ends July 25. There are many miles and mountains between now and the finish line. But at this point, an Armstrong victory or even a top-tier finish would rival his seven consecutive wins on the accomplishment scale.
“My tour is finished,” Armstrong said Sunday after three crashes in a mountainous stage that left him in 39th place, 13 minutes, 26 seconds behind the race leader.
To his credit, Armstrong meant finished as in no chance of winning, but not finished as in packing it in and heading home. There’s plenty more racing, and Armstrong seems ready to transition into a support role as he helps teammate Levi Leipheimer, who was in sixth place after Tuesday’s stage.
“I can try and win stages, try and help the team, really try and appreciate my time here, and the fact that I’m not coming back,” Armstrong said Sunday.
After Monday’s rest day, Armstrong clipped back into the pedals yesterday for the 127-mile ninth stage that included a punishing climb up the Madeleine pass.
“At the start of (stage) 9. Tough 1 for sure,” he tweeted as the stage began. “Madaleine (sic) at the end. Nasty! Hopefully my body has recovered from my concrete luge act last Sunday.”
Five hours and 41 minutes later, Armstrong came across the finish line in 18th place, leaving him in 31st place overall, almost 16 minutes behind race leader Andy Schleck, everybody’s favorite athlete from Luxembourg.
Some asked what Armstrong, at 38, was doing in the race this year. But based on last year’s finish, why should he be anywhere else?
It’s still too early to tell how the race will end for Armstrong, but at this point we’re not ready to sign on with those who believe the desire and effort he put into training for this year’s race amounted to embarrassment for the former champ. We’re also not ready to sign on with those who denigrate effort and declare as defeat anything less than first place.
We’re aware of the drug allegations that have swirled around Armstrong for years. Yes, it’s difficult to believe he was clean while he won seven in a row while many other top riders were doping. But fair play demands we believe that until and unless there is proof otherwise.
Armstrong’s personal life also has been subjected to scrutiny and scorn. Some see an arrogant jerk. And many have not forgotten the Armstrong construction project that polluted a nearby swimming hole. He did the right thing and, at no small expense, corrected the problem at Dead Man’s Hole in Hays County.
But Armstrong’s balance sheet is heavy on positives earned through his foundation’s anti-cancer crusade. His return to racing was fueled in part by the desire to refocus attention on that effort.
Is he the perfect role model? No, nobody is.
But we’ve liked what we’ve seen from Armstrong when faced by hardship, be it cancer or steep climbs. We saw it again after the crash-marred ride that seemed to mark the end of any hopes of an eighth Tour de France victory.
“No tears for me. I’ve had a lot of good years here,” Armstrong said.
Austinites, regardless of whether you’re for him or against him, should join us in wishing Lance safe cycling as he completes those years in the next week and a half.
it seems unlikely that austin cyclist lance armstrong will add to his yellow wardrobe this year after three crashes sunday took him out of contention, and his farewell tour takes a back seat to the unprecedented seven consecutive victories he enjoyed from 1999 to 2005.