Monday, July 26, 2010

It's been great - now please go

We all have relatives and friends we love, are excited to see them when they visit, laugh, share great memories, eat, drink, but sooner or later, it's time for them to go. No disrespect, it's just time to move on.

Lance Armstrong - it's been great, really great - now please go.

ps - and take your friend Johan with you

I have, generally speaking, been a Lance Armstrong fan over the course of his career as a pro cyclist. Watching him light up the Tour de France has generated a great collection of memories over the past decade. Some of those memories have become iconic images of cycling and will enliven the pages of cycling history for the next century. And outside July Armstrong has amassed a pro palmares that by any pro career standard would be cherished - beginning with his 1993 World Championship in the cold and torrential rain in Oslo, Norway. I also have huge respect, far beyond the cycling, for what he has done for so many people who have been stricken by cancer; many of those lives have been energized by his remarkable story and rebirth from a situation so dire that it more often than not kills.

The 2010 Tour de France was your 13th Tour, unlucky 13 some would say, but you hung in there and showed some class - well until the last stage, 20, into Paris with that last minute change of kit fiasco. If you had only played with (the UCI), instead of against the other kids. Could you just not turn loose the lime light? Was magnanimity just too far a stretch? Was it Contador or just an ego that said this is my show and I'm going to take it with me regardless my position. Do you remember when your former teammate "Eki", Viatcheslav Ekimov, retired? During the final stage of the 2006 Tour de France, he announced that the 2006 Tour would be his last. Remember? He was honored by the peloton on the final stage, who allowed him to lead them over the line on the first of the traditional eight laps of the Champs-Élysées - the peloton acknowledged one of their own. That's how one graciously, with humility leaves a sport that has given him so much, more than he could ever give it, history tells that tale. In 98
Grand Boucles there has never been a rider, or director sportif, or team, or even a Tour director, that has risen above or outlasted the Tour itself - you won't, you can't, you shouldn't try.

America has several new and wonderful teams and cyclists on the horizon, your role in the sport has to some degree enabled that. Your career has built upon the triumphs of the likes of Greg LeMond, and Andy Hampsten, and their's on the unknown, unsung efforts of American cycling pioneers like Jonathan "Jacques" Boyer, Ron Kiefel, Mike Neel, George Mount and John Eustice that had to cross the Atlantic to earn places on European squads. We build, and move on, for others... for other dreams, for other memories.

So it's time for American pro cycling to blossom without Armstrong. It's time for kids breaking free from training wheels to discover new heroes. Look around your RadioShack team and toast a beer to all those under 35 years old who have had a chance to make a mark outside the Armstrong shadow - not many. If you want to further the Armstrong cycling legacy, then put your weight behind a true honest youth cycling movement in America - something you have never done - call it the Little League of Cycling - where kids of every socio-economic background can have the opportunity to ride, race, be coached, learn teamwork and maybe someday challenge for the top step of the podium after three weeks on the roads of Le Tour de France.

You said once "It's not about the bike." Now prove it.

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