When Lance Armstrong decided to compete in this years Tour de France after a 3-1/2 year layoff I, like many others thought that he was making a mistake and that he should have remained retired . After seven Tour de France victories,a record that will probably never be equalled, there was nothing more left to prove.Over the past fortnight he has proved me , and all the other doubters, wrong. For him to come in third, after three and a half years away from the sport and inspite of a broken collarbone that seriously hampered his training, and at the advanced age of 37 , is nothing short of magnificent. I regard this third place finish on a par with his earlier victories.
As great a competitor as Armstrong is, he is unfortunately a world class jerk. I don’t pretend to know the finer points of cycling , whether Contador played fair in breaking away from his teammates etc., etc., but this much is fact… when Lance Armstrong joined Team Astana, Contador was the unquestioned team leader and it was Armstong who was in a support role. He acknowledged that and then set out to undermine Contador. I have always rooted for Lance but I didn’t like the way in which he kept sniping at Contador until the latter put the race away in the Alps.After that Lance appeared to accept the inevitable and made nice with Alberto…. only to boycott the Astana team’s victory party after the race. There can be no excuses for such boorish behavior. I will again be rooting for Lance in next year’s tour but , win or lose, I hope he conducts himself better.
Reading all the reader responses to the Tour de France articles, I am surprised to see the number of fans (European and American) who feel that Armstrong ‘s Tour victories were aided by performance enhancing drugs. Considering how often and for how many years he has been tested I don’t see how he could have avoided being caught . The TDF authorities have been out to get Armstrong for a long, long time yet they have never managed to get the goods on him .Plenty of riders have tested positive in the last ten years including Floyd Landis, Richard Virenque , Alexander Vinokurov, Jan Ulrich, Ivan Basso , Bjarne Riis etc., but Armstrong never.Yes, there was one 1999 sample that they claimed tested positive in 2006, seven years after the fact, a period during which it could have been easily tampered with.Until such time as they are able to catch him red handed, it would only be fair to give him his due as one of the greatest, if not the greatest , champions in the history of the Tour de France.
The vindictiveness of the French cycling authorities and the French Press towards lance Armstrong is puzzling. The most common ‘explanation’ is that theycannot bear to see their national sport dominated by a foreigner , and an American at that. Since the French have long been known for their antipathy to Americans , this seems to make as much sense as anything else.Armstrong, on his part, has not made it easy for people to like him. He has been called arrogant, selfish, nasty, ruthless, a sore winner and many other things and with good reason.But then it is true that there is no place for niceness in one’s psyche if one wants to be a winner in such a demanding,cut throat sport. One has to be ruthless if one is to win.I think that the French people ( though not the cycling establishment and the press) recognise this and that they have changed their attitude towards Armstrong in recent years. As for the French press, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to see see Lance Armstrong come back and win the Tour next year and rub their nose in it.