Go Lance, Go!
As much as I try to stay cool about the guy, Lance Armstrong inspires me. There’s a lot about him that rubs me the wrong way, some of which I can’t even identify or articulate. But then, beneath anything else, he’s a winner with a winning attitude. No matter what else gets piled on, I just can’t resist the story.
In Every Second Counts, Lance weighs in on an old argument: whether success comes from individual talent or teamwork. According to Lance, it’s all teamwork. While I agree with him, I’m a little disappointed. In triathlon cycling (the only kind of cycling competition I’ve been in) «drafting,» or riding with someone in front to block the wind, is illegal. The strongest riders cross the line first. By Lance’s telling, winning bicycle races is achieved by burning out all the teammates in the front of the peloton except Lance, who can keep his legs fresh for the attack.
I can respect the strategy involved; Lance calls it «chess on wheels.» But it’s not chess. Chess starts out with equal pieces. Cycling sounds more like basketball.
That’s not to denigrate a great cyclistit’s just that Lance makes winning the Tour de France sound like less of a noble odyssey and more like a corporate merger.
The other aspect that bothered me, and this is also a small part of an altogether inspiring book, is his attitude about losing. For all the times he refers to the real competitor being the road, he also says he’ll quit before he loses. Maybe I’m taking that out of context, but I think the admirable thing would be to take second and third and twelfth and then place as an age-grouper deep into his nineties. It’s facile for me to say so, though. Maybe I can criticize after I’ve won even one easy race, but until then, it’s just words in a book.
3 Replies to “Go Lance, Go!”
“There’s a lot about him
Well, there is the thing about divorcing his wife to hang out with, of all people, Sheryl Crow. That loses one or two respect points for sure. Couldn’t it at least have been someone as minimally cool as, say, Alanis?
I keep remembering DCR, from Nirvananet, claiming that he could beat Lance. Sure, Lance wasn’t a champion yet back in those obscure days, but come on.
Sure, it’s about teamwork.
Sure, it’s about teamwork. But, like Michael Jordan, he’d end up a winner on any team. Armstrong has put on some mighty impressive solo charges in the mountains that indicate he has better than average cardio-pulmo. If he weren’t the best man on the team, he’d be breaking air for someone else.
As an ex-bike racer, though
As an ex-bike racer, though nowhere close to Lance’s caliber and a woman, I can tell you that teamwork is very critical in the highest levels of bike racing. At the local and regional level it is much less of an issue and an individual can compete successfully. In the big leagues there are a couple reasons, besides drafting, why a team is more effective. An individual is usually unable to cover every break, for one thing, and an organized team can restrict the movement of a threatening individual rider. Boxing someone out is not too hard and riders get taken down as well.
I think the chess analogy is an apt one, each chess piece is good at different things and not all chess pieces need to make it to the end of the game. Likewise, some riders are climbers and more help on the hills and some are sprinters and can win a close finish or make a quick jump away from the pack.
I haven’t read this book, probably won’t either, but I find Lance’s story inspiring too. I really wish I could feel certain that drugs play no part in his continued success but I can’t quite reach that point regarding any pro bike racer. In any case, I could see how trying to compete when he is past his prime might result in temptation to cheat, which would be really sad if he has been clean so far.
Good luck in your racing.