You wear the yellow bracelets, you laugh at his cameo in “Dodgeball” and will forever relate and single round object to his one testicle (or lack thereof), but this month Lance Armstrong did the unbelievable: he did not win the Tour de France.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he lost, necessarily. He just came in third place, with the first place podium finish being awarded to his teammate and previous Tour winner, Alberto Contador.
Lance is a winner, and when he decided to come out of his nearly-four-year retirement at the hefty age of 37, he traded in his AARP card for a new bike and started training. Despite some tension within his own team as to who would play the role of the leader, he spent the entirety of this 21-day race in the top 10, mostly in the top three, ultimately finishing in 3rd place.
Many people were disappointed when they found out that he hadn’t won his 8th tour. Even though very few Americans actually follow the sport or have any clue what is going on, we sort of live[strong] vicariously through his victories. We love to boast that McDonalds has served over 1 billion burgers, that New York has the best pizza in the world and that Lance has won 7 Tours de France: it’s in our nature to brag, and he gave us something to brag about.
But don’t frown, for Lance has announced that next year he will be riding for a new American-based team, Team Radioshack. He will likely try to pull with him his team director, Johan Bruyneel, with whom he has won all seven of his Tours, as well as some of his powerhouse teammates like Levi Leipheimer (winner of the Amgen Tour of California) and George Hincapie (who has ridden in 14 Tours de France). He will be in better shape by then and much more fueled to win, albeit another year older.
But this year Lance was victorious in many regards. For one thing, he has massively raised cancer awareness around the globe. Over this past year, he had many custom painted bicycles that will be auctioned off with the proceeds going to his foundation. His most recent bike, which he rode down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, was designed by modern artist Damien Hirst, and Lance has feels it is safe to say that auctioned, it will be the most expensive bike ever sold.
Additionally, he is the second oldest cyclist to have ever finished in the top three on the podium. The French press who had previously hated him has now begun to praise him for what he has done for the sport. His cynics now cheer for him and he has become rapidly humanized as someone content with not winning first place. He has won the tour of France in the past, and he has taken this year to win the the people of France.
At the end of the day, Lance is back as an old guy and racing with the most elite riders in the word and still showing them who their daddy is. So Lance, a high five goes out to you from KnightNews.com, and we will be right here rooting for you in 2010.
For those of you who aren’t fluent in the sport of cycling or how it works, here is your crash course:
Andrew’s Crash Course in Tour de France Cycling
1.) The race is made up of 21 days (called “stages”), each stage being its own race.
2.) The rider who finishes all 21 days with the lowest cumulative time is the winner.
3.) Each team is 9 riders on a mission to make their team leader win the Tour, or at least as many stages as possible.
4.) Teams do not belong to a city or country, they are each sponsored by companies, much like Nascar.
5.) Whoever is in the cumulative lead of the Tour will wear a special yellow jersey called the “maillot jaune” until someone else takes the lead the next day.
6.) Trust me, it is much harder than it looks. Much.