Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lance Armstrong Retires From Professional Cycling (Again)

Lance Armstrong officially re-retired from professional cycling again after having retired the first time in 2005. Or as he liked to call it Comeback 2.0 (Eye roll here).

Like I've said in the past. Lance has been a polarizing figure within cycling for his entire career. In his youth it was because of his brash nature and quick tongue. It was his fight with cancer and the development of the Livestrong Foundation. Post cancer he was continually shadowed be doping allegations and just the unbelievable nature of what he had accomplished (Which in my opinion regardless of doping or not is truly an impressive feat).

But I would be lying if I didn't say he was a part of my reason for getting re-introduced to professional cycling.  Like a lot of other Americans his tenacity and dominance of the Tour de France was hard to ignore.

When I first became interested in cycling back in the late eighties Greg Lemond was the man.  And I often imagined myself as Greg winning the tour or the world championships as I was out on my bike.

Of course back then we only got little snippets of cycling from CBS sports specials. Unlike today. Where the coverage is still no where near as good as in Europe but at least we've got something. And we have Lance to thank for that. Without his achievements we would still be viewing half an hour specials about certain races (Only if an American does well in them.).

He brought in a whole new conscienceness of cycling to the general public. You stop anyone on the street and they won't know who Albertor Contador is. Or Floyd Landis. Or maybe even Greg Lemond. But they will know who Lance Armstrong is. He's like Tiger Woods in that he has brought a somewhat fringe sport out into the open. And at least let people know it exists. In fact I'll still here someone when I'm out on a training ride yell, "Go Lance!" every once in a while. Which I know they're just trying to be funny or a smart ass. But it still illustrates my point.

It was because of Lance that we have had some of the most exciting moments in resent years as well. The 2003 Tour de France is still one of the best pieces of racing I've ever seen. His continual dual with Jan Ullrich are the things of legend. And they should be. They were fantastic moments. Regardless of what they were fueled by (Anger and competition, or EPO and testosterone).

Even in the beginning of his comeback with Alberto Contador nipping at his heals. Or in some cases flying by him up the road. It was still interesting stuff. Those fights and the "he said" back and forth in the press is part of what makes our sport so entertaining.  And he was damn impressive too. When you think of all he has been through with cancer and his age (Relatively speaking in the peloton mid thirties is over the hill.) I don't think there was anyone else at that time that could compare and compete with guys ten to fifteen years his junior.

I've always had a great respect for Lance. I don't always like what he does or says. And I'm certainly no "fan boy". But then again I can't think of anyone that I can say that about (At least anyone who's in the public eye). He has had an impressive career, savy business sense, and some of the best self branding I've ever seen.

So, Thank you Lance. It's been real and it's been fun. I hope you enjoy retirement...

Rubber side down,

Big E

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