The one cyclist I actually like
I don’t like cyclists as a general rule. I don’t like the way they clog up my local cafe on Saturday mornings and clip-clop around the joint in their pixie shoes.
And I sure as hell can’t cop the sight before breakfast of a middle-aged lawyer on his third wife wearing a lycra jumpsuit more in line with Cirque du Soleil.
But even I’ve stopped swerving at these road vermin this week long enough to ask: how good is Lance Armstrong?
Sure it’s early, but the 38-year-old Texan was given less chance of winning this Tour than beating the testicular, brain and lung cancer that nearly killed him not so long ago.
Well, he’s hovering around the lead and the more fancied Spaniard Alberto Contador couldn’t be blamed for feeling dead before he’s even laid eyes on a proper hill.
Before the Tour, Armstrong was careful to pump up the 26-year-old favourite. Contador was the form rider, the Astana team’s deadly weapon, the younger champion whose time had come.
Armstrong politely explained that Contador was the rightful leader in his group and he would do anything to support him. You know, in much the same way Keating was right behind Hawke.
There was a theory going into this race that Armstrong - after a four year absence from cycling - was really only turning up to spruik his cancer charity.
Ah, the fools. This is the bloke who used to train through chemotherapy, leaving voicemails for teammates in that Southern twang. ``Are you ridin’ or hidin’?’’ he’d ask. Even the flimsiest of friends would find it hard to say no to a bloke in a beanie with a gut full of toxins.
He’s charging towards his eighth Tour de France victory and for some reason we’re all surprised. He may not get there, but any opponent who thinks he’s just competing to get the Livestrong logo on telly is either French or stupid.
The French have much the same problem with the Tour that the Poms have with the Ashes. They don’t win it very often - and this has led to the baseless campaign against Armstrong claiming he was a drug cheat.
``People didn’t expect this,’‘Armstrong told ESPN’s Rick Reilly this week. ``They’re all like, `Ah, the guy cheated his way to the top.’ But now? Nearly 38 years old? Out of cycling for four years?
Tested more than anybody on the planet? Right in it for the yellow jersey? There can’t be a shadow of a doubt left now.’‘
He sounded a little like Ali in Zaire, just before he shook George Foreman and the world.
Everybody doubts that Armstrong can do it except the man himself. And the more the crazy old coot talks himself up, the less his younger rivals think about their own race.
Put it down to a lack of sleep or a dose of the flu, but in my view if Armstrong is wearing a yellow jersey on July 26, it will be a victory as great as Ali’s.
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