The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Eyes Wide Shut

Floyd Landis recently went on national television to repeat his allegations against Lance Armstrong. As he spoke, his eyes shifted, his voice quavered, he twisted in his chair, and, in general, he expressed himself in the most circuitious way possible as if he were incapable of making a direct statement. This is not the kind of man you would buy a used car or anything else from. Most jurors, I think, would not believe him. But, of course, this does not mean he’s lying.

The purpose of his television appearance was to convict Armstrong in the court of public opinion. Many famous cases–of which this is likely to be one–are argued in front of cameras, as well as in the courtroom. It is now all too obvious that Lance Armstrong has powerful enemies, and despite how “dishonest” Landis appears, they are succeeding in destroying Lance piece by piece. It is not a pretty sight.

July 25, 2010   Comments Off on Eyes Wide Shut

Au revoir, Lance

Not sure if there is a causal relationship, but Lance Armstrong has been crashing on a regular basis—starting in the Tour of California—ever since the Landis accusations started coming out. His crashes in the Tour de France this year have finished his chances of a possible podium position. Did Lady Luck abandon him, as Paul Sherwin suggested? Was it age? Or did he simply lack the concentration required to avoid accidents? Who knows?

I do know that Lance Armstrong has been a great champion. We salute you, Lance. Good luck in the Hawaii Ironman Competition, if you decide to compete next year. Live strong, and the rest of us will try to do the same.

July 11, 2010   Comments Off on Au revoir, Lance

Stage 8

Tomorrow on Stage 8 in the Alps we’ll discover who is the strongest in this year’s Tour. I suspect the overall race will be between Cadel Evans, Andy Schleck, Lance Armstrong, and, of course, Alberto Contador, although someone like Vinokourov may surprise. The great British hope, Bradley Wiggins, will crack at some point. Not sure I want him to, however, because he is wonderfully poised in front of the English press who never fail to shove a microphone in his face the moment he crosses the finish line. I have not heard him put one word wrong, even when he’s heaving for breath. I also imagine Cadel will crack, though perhaps not tomorrow—he always has in the past. Lance may stay with the leaders—he’s looking very strong this year—but unfortunately he’s already two minutes down on those who matter. So that leaves Contador and Schleck, though in my mind this really isn’t a contest. Contador can ride away from anyone.

Still, it has been one of Lance’s bravest performances to date. One hopes out of nostaglia that this will continue to the end.

By the way, if you’ve never heard Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin describe a stage of the Tour, you owe yourself the pleasure of doing so. No one in any sport can compare with these two. They make what could easily be the most boring event on the planet as interesting and exciting as a prize fight. Every year Liggett and Sherwin are the real heroes of the Tour de France.

July 10, 2010   Comments Off on Stage 8

How quickly things change

I’m sure Lance understood, as did the rest of us, that his dream of winning another Tour ended today on Stage 3, when he found himself 2.30 behind the leader in the overall classification. As a credit to him, he offered no excuses. If it were a younger Armstrong, I would not be so quick to write him off, but Contador and Evans are no longer within reach. Armstrong is not the climber he once was.

Perhaps this will finally be Cadel Evans’ year. I would very much like to see him win, and put the weepy, cranky, helmet-butting image of two years ago behind him. He certainly deserves it. No one has worked harder than Cadel Evans.

July 6, 2010   Comments Off on How quickly things change

Is it really possible?

Lance rode a very fast Prologue yesterday, bettering Contador’s time, and, of course, stayed in contention today. The experts who watched the time trial said he seemed more comfortable than last year. What is one to make of this? Is Armstrong really capable of competing with the leaders in this year’s Tour? Given his age (he will be 39 in September) and everything that has happened to him (accused basically of being the worst doper in history), I find this hard to believe. This is a man who has pushed his body to the limit for ten years. Where does he find the mental strength?

There are normal people—like you and I—there are champions, and then there are those who possess physical and mental skills that make them stand even above the champions. Lance Armstrong is one of these. No matter what you think of him, he is one of the greatest athletes who has ever lived.

I’m still not yet ready to believe he will be there in the end. It’s too improbable, too unlikely, but I must say I’m beginning to wonder. It seems as if nothing can stop this man when he sets his mind on something.

July 4, 2010   Comments Off on Is it really possible?

Round Four

The Wall Street Journal had a three-page spread on the Lance Armstrong-Floyd Landis debacle in today’s Weekend Edition. It was basically a hit piece designed to denigrate Armstrong on the day he begins riding his last Tour. (Hey, what else would you expect from the ultra conservative Journal?) The article contained all of Landis’s previous accusations, plus a few others for good measure. There is a verisimilitude about them that makes for interesting reading, like stopping the team bus along an alpine road to perform transfusions. I personally have no doubt that Landis is telling the truth and the accusations are true. But I don’t care in the least. Armstrong did what every other top rider did. It was the only way to compete.

I do wish Landis was doing this to clean up the sport, but he is not. The sport is about as clean as it can get at this point. The testers have gotten more sophisticated and catch the obvious cheaters. What Landis really wants is revenge. His sole aim is to bring down Armstrong, tarnish his victories, and reduce him to what Landis has become himself—a guy living in an isolated cabin at the end of a dirt road several miles from L.A. It is disgusting stuff.

July 3, 2010   Comments Off on Round Four

Lance

Lance Armstrong has dodged another bullet and will compete on Saturday in his last Tour de France. Regardless of what has been said or written about him, he is still a great champion and I want him to do well, though I very much doubt he will equal last year’s performance and stand on the podium at the end of the Tour. Armstrong is a very smart man with a very special body, capable of willing himself to do almost anything, but his time has passed. One hopes that his Tour will end in dignity and that the era of cycling which he represents will end with him.

July 1, 2010   Comments Off on Lance

Curious George

A whole day and more after Stage 14 of the Tour de France, I am still thinking about George Hincapie, who came within five seconds of wearing the yellow jersey. I keep hearing the disappointment and anger in his voice as he wondered why his “friends” on Garmin and Astana would reel him in. It was his life’s dream to wear the yellow jersey, and he had ridden his guts out to achieve it. I am astonished that Hincapie would suppose, even for a second, that there was such a thing as honor among teams of professional cyclists. Having ridden professionally since he was nineteen, he must surely know that it’s about advertising, money, and doing what you’re told.

But, oh god, what a boy’s heart. For imagining that, because he was a loyal and trusted teammate for most of his adult life, his friends on other teams would allow him a day of recognition and glory, who can forget George Hincapie, the kid from Queens, who loved, and still loves cycling so much that he believed that just for one moment, he could stop the world.

July 19, 2009   2 Comments

Where’s the Love?

The English on ITV have stopped repeating the mantra that Lance does not belong in the Tour de France this year. After nine stages, it’s obvious how solid and competitive he is. The French authorities have not changed their tune, however, and have tested Lance for drugs three times in the last forty-eight hours. Of course, they are desperate to prove that his record number of victories in the Tour was drug-fueled. Liggett and Sherwen have called this tactic “silly,” but, of course, it’s part of a larger strategy to disrupt Armstrong’s ability to recuperate after races and break his concentration. There is much to admire about the French, but this kind of pettiness is not one of them.

I’m still processing Contador’s attack at the end of stage 7. Obviously, he had a score to settle, but it goes deeper than that. It was more than pride. I didn’t quite understand this until I heard Bob Roll’s comments on Lance and the team. Roll said that pissing off Armstrong was not a good idea, because he never failed to punish those who did. This much I already knew. More interesting was Roll’s comment that Contador did not have the full backing of the Astana team. Roll implied that if the team were split, the majority of riders would support Armstrong.

The pressure on Alberto Contador must be immense. Not only is he expected to win the race, but he’s got this pesky old man reducing his chances in frustratingly unanticipated ways. It must be like dealing with an aging superhero. Poor Alberto. He keeps shouting, “Where’s the love? Where’s the love?” and no one, except the other Spanish riders, responds.

We are still in for some surprises before this year’s Tour finishes in Paris, I think, but no one can say that Lance Armstrong has not done himself proud.

July 12, 2009   Comments Off on Where’s the Love?

The Incomparable Lance

Armstrong

On the third stage of this year’s Tour de France, Lance Armstrong went with the final breakaway and moved from tenth to third in the classification. Commenting on the race, he said, “I was just trying to stay up front, stay out of trouble, and then it happened. It was good positioning, experience, and a little bit of good luck.” No, Lance. I can say what you cannot. It was sublime. It was genius.

P.S. The Guardian has offered a more prosaic explanation of why Lance took off with Team Columbia. Someone tipped him. Presumably, George Hincapie, Lance’s old buddy. It may be true, but I wonder. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure out that with Mark Cavendish in their ranks, it’s exactly what Team Columbia would do. Still, as an American, Lance Armstrong could never have the nous to anticipate such a move. George must have whispered it to him on the curve just before the wind split the field.

July 6, 2009   Comments Off on The Incomparable Lance