I’m sure you’re all following the SRAM Tour of the Gila with baited breath. I know I am. It’s one of those where if there were actually television coverage, I would have a hard time deciding whether to: a) avoid finding out results so I could see it unfold when I watch the recording later; b) find out the results as soon as possible because I just couldn’t stand to wait; or c) take the day off work so I could watch it live.
But since it’s not on TV (travesty, I know), I have to choose between: a) taking the week off work to go to New Mexico and watch; or b) getting the results on VeloNews.com. It was a tough decision, but I opted for b (incidentally, it doesn’t matter which b, since they’re effectively the same—see how clever I am?).
As confident as I am that all of you are as keyed up as I am about this race, I’m going to risk redundancy and tell you what the results were. Just in case you’re living in a cave and haven’t seen them blasted across all news media outlets, major and minor. Levi Leipheimer won today’s stage. I’m sure you’re as shocked as I was that one of the six Pro Tour riders racing in this domestic event took the victory. It’s almost as unexpected as a seven-time winner of Le Tour winning the Leadville Trail 100 against a
stacked field bunch of weekend warriors and masters racers (after failing to do so in his first attempt).
But really, who cares that Levi won? I mean, the only name that matters is Lance Armstrong, right? So where’d he finish? 22nd, that’s where. 1:46 back.
Of course, Lance was working to help Levi win, I’m sure. Because really, it’s much more important for Levi to win than Lance from a sponsor standpoint. Because it’s the SRAM Tour of the Gila, and Lance has an ownership stake in SRAM. And they’re racing as team Mellow Johnny’s rather than Radio Shack, and Lance happens to own Mellow Johnny’s. So it makes perfect sense that Lance would take this opportunity to sacrifice himself for a teammate. Because that’s what Lance does.
Then again, maybe it’s just that the local competition—especially the Utah guys—was really tough. I mean Burke Swindlehurst has won this event three times, but he was all the way down in 11th place, a minute out of the lead and only 40 seconds ahead of Lance. Nevermind that Burke is riding this season as a team of one. Or that Lance has only had one more birthday than Burke. Lance did happen to beat Dave Harward. By about three minutes. That’s a fair comparison, because Dave is three years older than Lance and has a job besides riding his bicycle from which he has to take time off in order to compete.
If pressed, Lance will say this is all preparation for July. And we all know that Lance is the greatest bicycle racer of all time amongst bicycle racers who competed exclusively in the month of July. Contador, Cancellara, and Evans, meanwhile, are also lining up for races, monuments even, against actual Pro Tour riders rather than weekend warriors, and racing to win. The way the Cannibal and the incomparable Coppi did before them.
Seven is an impressive number. But it would be like Tiger* focusing exclusively on the Masters, winning it seven times, and then claiming that he was greater than Jack Nicklaus for having done so. Well 18 majors is more than seven, even if all seven came in the same event.
*Speaking of Tiger, I couldn’t help but think of him when I saw the podium girl on the right after Levi’s victory.
Merckx won Le Tour five times, also winning the points jersey three times and the climber’s jersey twice in the process. He won the Giro five times, winning all three of the overall, points, and mountain competitions in 1968. He won the Vuelta overall and points classification in 1973. Eleven is more than seven. To say nothing of an additional 29 victories at such events as the World Championships, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Giro di Lombardia, and Super Prestige. Lance has all of seven major wins other than Le Tour.
If Lance were one of the great ones, he’d be racing to win at the great events. He doesn’t. But that’s not why I don’t like the guy. Because race wins are a nice but fleeting moment and have no correlation with one’s character. Yet how he treats his teammates, both on the bike, but more especially those working for his cancer foundation, has more bearing for me than any win at any race. Instead, he just shows that while you may be on Lance’s team, he’s never on yours.