237: Ciao

Dear Mr. Armstrong,

I am just going to jump into this one here. Fuck You Lance Armstrong! And I hope this comes up in your google reader alerts too. Fuck you for making me stand in front of the television screaming. I have done it before, and something tells me that I will do it again. I realize this second part to be true mainly because of what I am watching at this very moment. Stage 20 - 2005 Tour De France. Great time trial by the way. You handily made every look a fool, and did not blink once.

What the fuck Rasmussen? Get it together. I remember yelling it the first time and I remember yelling it today as I stood wrenching at my hair. The sun is going down on Portland, and this race has already run its course. I remember Hincapie getting pissed, I remember the heat! and JAN Germany's answer to a great cyclist and even worse a "bridesmaid" as Slate says, than Hincapie.

I remember with this time trial came the slow weaving through the quaint French towns Ullrich literally wrenching the shit out of his bike at every corner. Wearing everything on a face as bright fuchsia as his T-Mobile jersey. This is the one where Papo had a chance to show what a great cyclist he was going to be (or not) by winning the (cursed?) white jersey of best youngestest rider, or most aggressive in the kids category, as I like to say... And also where we start to grasp at the full severity of Vino's craziness. So, I guess we have you Lance, to thank for all of these th...

WAIT! there goes Rassmusen diving into the ditch over his bike. Seriously, what was going on with that guy? Get. It. Together. And He's Catching Him! Armstrong has almost caught Rassmussen and he will!! And then, just as Rass slumps down from realizing that he has been caught. You, Lance are going to jam that fucker back up to 11. Just grab the fucking nob and rip it right off. Right in his face. I was actually afraid for Rassmussen at this point, like, that some sort of bodily harm would come to him.

And this is the part where I go 'Why Not?' I too, got a little verklempt today when they were showing all the clips of the race, and more importantly your career. But, why could I never fully get behind (all the while cheering for and against and for) Lance Armstrong? Was it because of your longer than long black shorts? Your Robocop attitude and overwhelming desire to win? Maybe the attitude, but I would never hold it against anyone who wants to win. Is that not our main goal in life? As cyclists, as people, to win? We never had the chance, mid competition to see you soften or dare I say, soften with you, because nothing (after your comeback) never, ever went wrong for you. And if it did, or seemed to, you just sort of swooped it up in your infinite grasp and it was over with....

Myself you ask? Well, I'm glad that you asked, thanks. I was brought up on a pretty steady diet of high school football. You had to if you were from my town, and even if you did not play, no matter where you turned you got to see how amazing a team they were. How many State Titles they had won, who the stars were... Similar to, I would have to guess, the place that Lance Armstrong comes from. Of course, I am placing a Texas is a football state on everything, but, I can do that. With that being said when I read "It's not about the Bike" I kept wanting there to be more disdain for other sports (especially football.) Just about that time college was just beginning to show me that athletics, and being an athlete could be 'cool.' It probably helped that I was surrounded by really great athletes, and just to hang around them and glean information about what it would take (training, mental fortitude, extreme drinking) and besides, I was there to learn.

When I saw you ride I felt so much that feeling that I wanted to believe it was possible to do. To ride, or in my case, run myself out of town. And never look back. So, you gave me that. The thought that being from somewhere did not have to dictate where you went. There it is - Rise Up - and then crash it down when you just could not leave Bro-Town (that's a now-relavant term, for being a big time Jock in high-school) out of it. You were still from a town in Texas, that guy up on the podium. You scowled from beneath your baseball cap (who needs cycling caps anyway who cares if they're about tradition?) you stalked from press conference to press conference like an insolent child, even I, as somewhat of a child recognized this. Oh yeah, and you didn't bother to even try to pronounce French words.

And on the same hand you were riding away from the best in the world. Smashing them. Make them look a fool, and making myself go YES! No! Just one more time.

I smashed this kid once. We ran the mile against each other all the time, and I think usually it was pretty close. Then came the day that he told me (to my face) that he was going to beat me. He really just came up to me - with two girls on his arm - I remember this part clearly because one of them was from my hometown, and had come here expressly to see him race. She was part of the popular crowd - so to speak - no word from her these days, she probably got fat, not the point. The point was that he came up and told me he was going to beat me in front of my dad. Luckily, my mother was elsewhere and did not have to hear this particular brand of nonsense. But I think that this was maybe the point where dear old dad unleashed the beast, and gave me my free will. That could be a pretty hefty topic to discuss, so we'll have to get back to that.

But what I did was smash this kid. I took that little ball of anger in my stomach - thanks Schleck for that - and unleashed it on this poor, unsuspecting kid. I did not feel bad about it at the time, and I do not feel bad about it now. I am just using that aside to show you that I am capable of understanding what sort of rage is bubbling and how it gets used. Mine was the hate coming off of one guy. Yours was the hate of a whole country of peoples (France) that you never even saw because you were too busy boiling down the anger into something manageable. I get that too.

And at some point, I also learned what it takes to hate something, then channel it, and eventually turn it on yourself, and others in a way that could cause it to be very explosive. In fact, if you did not have a physical outlet for it, such as running, or cycling, or smashing expensive china with a whiffle ball bat. And I could see this as being very destructive.

However, I think that is why you became so great. You brought out the absolute best in everything and everyone and at the same time caused the polar opposite in everyone else. Everyone that was not in on it. Or everyone that you deemed unfit to reap the rewards that you offered with undying loyaly... So, polar are your opposing sides that I think they should make up a new word for it. Opposar. Maybe? Or the art of it could be called Polar-Opps? Maybe there is already something like that though?

But whatever it is its strong. And while it is apparent that your grasp is slipping in the way that that race is no longer mutable in your hands, your effect is still great. When you slipped from the rankings with enough finality to finally make it believable you left a great void. And cycling will recover from it, people will learn to watch the race even if you are not in it, or provide some sort of context for them to understand it...

The racing too will recover. I thought that after I watched the second have of that fateful timetrial in 2005. Remember how you launched yourself up the Mountain after you passed Rassmussen? And then the water was splashed in your face and we thought you might react - but you didn't. And then you crossed the finish line, eyes, nose and face all steeled as if they have been preparing for a winter alone in the woods.

So, yes, the racing will indeed recover. But no matter how you slice it...whether we love you or hate your guts, you have left a void in this sport. Or maybe a wound? Maybe you left a wound that is still slightly weeping. The scab was reopened for a minute there and we tried to temper it with gauze, but maybe that was not the answer after all, maybe we should just let that shit air dry? Lets try that this time around.

Oh and while you're out saving the world, I keep getting email saying that this dude is stuck in a Russian Prison, can you look into that?