Thursday, April 29, 2010

Doing right by your sponsors

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.

7 comments:

  1. So does this mean you don't like Lance? It wasn't completely clear. :)

    Don't worry Lance's training is right on track for Le Tour, or it will be once the "real" training begins. You know, the kind with IV needles.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I prefer the podium girls in the tour de france. I can't quite put my finger on it, but they're different than these AZ girls somehow.

    Maybe Lance is intentionally doing poorly because the race is in Arizona and he's against the new legislation. That sounds like a good excuse.

    ReplyDelete
  3. pretty sure the Gila is in Silver City, New Mexico. . .

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm with Rachel on the podium girls. The dresses for le tour are always better too. In fact, I watch the tour just so as I can see the dresses that the girls wear. And while we're on the subject of the podium girls, I found it funny that you picked the one for Tiger but failed to reserve the tattoo'd double D wonder for Jesse. Didn't you do a wife/mistress comparison for both a while back?

    (I have a stunning memory, I know.)

    The podium tangent wasn't the point of my comment, however. The point of my comment, was to talk about Lance. I liked Lance until I read his first book. I read his fine piece of historical self-stroking shortly after he was divorced--made me think of him as a walking paradox. "I'm so great. I'm so great. I'm so great. Blah-blah-blah." Evidently not great enough to stay married.

    THEN, then, then, it gets better. See his ex-wife starts running. She even lands a gig writing for Runner's World; was given the opportunity to run the New York Marathon and write about it. So Lance refuses to be upstaged by the ex-wife and decides to run it too! Imagine that. After his mediocre NY performance, he decides to run Boston. I ran the same Boston. He finished under three hours--which is great, for a regular shmoe. But in the Boston realm, however, it's 45 minutes slower than the winners and average. So you know what the race people do when Lancey-Pants crosses the finish line? THEY GIVE HIM HIS OWN PERSONAL FINISHING RIBBON! RUNNING THROUGH RIBBONS IS RESERVED FOR THOSE WHO WIN!

    I'm royally disgusted with the way people fawn over his fanny. He's just a dude. And now I'll never race Leadville because the odds of my getting into the dang thing are next to none--thanks to him. (Not that I was going to do Leadville in my lifetime anyway, but at least before I had the option.)

    I prolly shouldn't publish this stupid comment but I'm gonna anyway.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Rabid: I meant looker's right. We were talking about the same girl. I thought of Tiger, you thought of Jesse. My guess is they'd fight over her. Apparently, she's received quite a bit of attention and has spoken out. Sounds like she's a nice girl.

    But, but, they stretched out a new ribbon for Lance in Boston? For his mid-pack finish? Are you kidding me? Seriously, could people be any more sycophantic towards the guy? Ick.

    ReplyDelete