Thursday, September 24, 2009

The X's and Y's of Armstrongs

LA, Lance, Mellow Johnny, what ever the moniker you know it's Armstrong; pro cyclist, seven time Tour de France winner, former UCI World Elite Road Champion, cancer survivor, comeback story of 2009, blah, blah, blah. Heck, even the yellow jersey or yellow wristband means Lance Armstrong to most Americans.

There is another Armstrong - whoa, hold the presses! Yes, it's true. Also a former triathlon, a pro cyclist, world champion. She is often confused with Lance Armstrong's ex-wife, whose name is also Kristin. Kristin Armstrong the cyclist and Lance Armstrong are not related. NOT RELATED. Complete different chromosomes. But hopefully, someday, equally remembered.

Kristin Armstrong just won the UCI World Time Trial Championship (for Elite Women) a great moment, she clearly distanced her nearest competitors, and so has her career.

Kristin's palmares is an extraordinary list of successes that every little girl in America should know about in school. She's the most decorated American woman cyclist in history and yet, walk down the street, ask ANY ONE, even fellow club cyclists, and the most common response (besides a shrug) is "Armstrong's wife?" And that really wicks me off. This is more than just X and Y chromosome stuff. This is about the bullshit way we treat women and women athletes in this country. It's about a male-centric sports culture that can't get its frigg'n head out of a football helmet long enough to recognize great athletes. Maybe I'm lucky, I've gotten to ride with a few women that race or have raced, and once you cinch of the Sidis it's all about discovering your watts not what Watson discovered.

This year we (the US) are putting a Worlds U23 mens team in the Road Race that could very well win it, and could honestly win it with a couple of the cast. Young guys that already have UCI Pro Team homes for 2010. Most of them are nameless to the guys at ESPN and the rest of America, but they are set to lead US cycling into the next decade. Why? Because an Armstrong and the media put cycling on the tube and in the eyes of a bunch of little 10-12 year old boys back in 1999, and kept the vision and dream growing over this past decade. Imagine over that same time if the other Armstrong had been trumpeted?

The six-woman team includes Armstrong and Amber Neben, who have collectively claimed the world TT title for three of the past four years.

Hellooooooo???? Is anyone out there awake in American sportsland??? LET ME REPEAT - they
have collectively claimed the world TT title for three of the past four years.

Those are WORLD titles.

And the rest of the no-name women? Meredith Miller, the U.S. national road champion and Kimberly Anderson, overall winner at La Route de France, Mara Abbott rode to second-place overall at the Giro Donne,
and newest twinkling star Evelyn Stevens, coming off two major stage wins in the US. Collectively these ladies roll out the strongest womens elite Worlds team the US has ever seen, but where is ESPN on that one?

Sadly, this is the final chapter in a great career. Kristin Armstrong, the pro cyclist, is retiring after Saturday's race in Mendrisio, her palmares cast, it will be up to newcomers like Stevens to inspire a new generation of little girls with the hope of velowings. I just think it's sad that we all missed the opportunity to see this Armstrong fly when she was soaring right before our eyes.

If you do want to catch Kristin Armstrong for the last time -
Universal Sports online Saturday, September 26: Elite Women's Road Race (124.2km): 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. EST.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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