Another Word from Lance: What the Hell is Going On???

CYCLING: MAY 12 Giro dItalia - Stage 4

If you haven’t already heard, Lance Armstrong is racing in this month’s centenary Giro d’Italia, and as of Monday’s mountainous Stage 16, is in 12th place overall. It’s been a tough few weeks for the cyclist and his team, and although he has begun enforcing a sort of personal media blackout — Armstrong has begun bypassing journalists waiting for him after each stage and heading directly to the team bus or hotel — he was kind enough to send us this dispatch.

Here’s the thing: I thought this whole Giro thing would be a great way to get back in shape for the tour and log some miles on the Italian coast. It’d be good on-the-job training since that asshole tripped me up at the Castilla y Leon (which would be a great name for an indie band, by the way) and I broke my collarbone. The way Johan [Bruyneel, Astana team manager] described it, this would just be a pleasure spin around Rome — he literally said to me, “Lance, the goddamn Pope will be waving to you out his window.” The goddamn Pope.

[more Lance after the jump.]

So I did it, and it started out okay, but now it’s all gone to fucking pot. Astana isn’t even paying the bills anymore, I’ve been pegged as the mastermind of the peloton protest in Milan a few days back, and these mountains are suddenly kicking my ass like my name was Jan Ullrich. And maybe that wouldn’t even be so bad, but because the greatest cyclist of all time is back in the game, the press is all over me, sent from all corners of the world. I can’t fucking escape these people — journalists, writers, photogs, cameramen, they all want a piece of the Lance pie.

And the thing is, I’m such a nice guy, I tried to give it to them. Sound bites. Photos. Interviews. Autographs. Hair samples. I tried to be humble and self-effacing  — everything my team of PR wizards tells me to be — but then I turn on CNN and see headlines like “Armstrong Drops Further in Giro Standings” scroll across the bottom of the screen while Lou Dobbs yells about illegal immigrants (have you ever even been to fucking Texas, Dobbs? They’re everywhere and they want you dead).

It kills me, because I’ve got a reputation to maintain — I mean, yeah, maybe I’m not in the top 10, but give me a break, I haven’t been on a bike in 3 fucking years! I’m racing against some of the other top racers in the world, and none of them retired to date supermodels. But the people watching Lou Dobbs don’t know any of this backstory — all they know is that they see those headlines scroll across the news ticker and they think, “Wow, what happened to Lance? He used to be my hero.” Every stage I don’t win, more people lose hope, and my market value drops a little more.

It’s gotten so bad even Johan is stabbing me in the goddamn back, to the Associated Press of all people:

“At that moment in the race the whole team was with Levi (Leipheimer) and Lance was dropping back a little bit,” Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said. “He wanted a Coke for himself. It was deep in the finale, so I told him, ’Now that you’re here, take a bottle for yourself but bring a few bottles up there at least for Levi and maybe for Popo (Yaroslav Popovych).’ It was nice to see. Lance is definitely not the leader of the team. Levi is.”

So now the only press I’m talking to are from the local high school paper, and I’m stuck riding for Levi. And don’t get me wrong, Levi’s a great guy — great, great guy — but I’m Lance Armstrong. He used to be my water bitch. I used to make him ride back to the team car three, maybe four times a stage during the Tour to get me water, but mostly just to show him who’s the fucking boss. I’d just say something like, “Damn, sure is hot out here today, huh, Levi? A man could really get parched…” and I’d watch his face deflate as he dropped back to load up on fluids at the team car. Now the tables have turned, and I’m left trying to figure out how to carry 10 water bottles up to the front of the course, and he won’t even tell me how to do it.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this — I was supposed to wave to the His Holiness with the pink jersey on my back. Now I’ll just get to ask if he’s thirsty.

[Armstrong’s New Line of Work at Giro: Water Boy – AP]


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