Monday, July 25, 2005
The Tour de
France arrived in
was at the head of the pack. I
couldn’t get my cranky old digital camera working fast enough to get a photo
that includes him. But the one at left
was taken a fraction of a second after he passed by us -- just 30-some
kilometers away from his 7th victory in the Tour de France.
peloton and the Discovery Channel’s team car were gone, we hustled back to
the apartment to watch the end on TV, where we were once again enchanted by
all of the wonderful views of
gained popularity in
Too bad that
cycling is tainted by doping. Since
Lance has won by such a large margin so many times, and since so many
cyclists have taken illegal doping agents, some French surmise that Lance
must be doping. But Lance is the most
tested athlete in the world, and he has never tested positive.
I think it would
be impossible to be doping and to maintain the utter and complete physical
control that he has, year after year, stage after stage, day after day,
minute by minute. Doping might help
some mediocre rider to improve his time in a time trial, but it will not help
him in the long, arduous Tour that involves punishing climbs and treacherous
descents and wicked wet corners.
Lance is no
mediocre rider. He has unsurpassed
discipline and he has worked harder at cycling than anybody ever has. Some of his French critics, no longer
really able to support their suspicions about Lance’s success, now are trying
insults like saying he doesn’t have the character, or humility, necessary for
being a great champion. They will
grudgingly admire his victories, but refuse to consider him a great man.
Some of them
say in order to be a great athlete, you have to overcome some weakness. They say Lance, in his perfection and
obsession, doesn’t have to do this.
They forget so quickly and conveniently that he not only survived cancer,
but he survived a horribly deadly cancer.
A cancer that deadly was more than just a weakness.
Some of the
French critics have said that Lance is just a publicity-hound, an “homme
mediatheque.” But he has said so many
times lately that he can’t wait for the day he doesn’t have to sign any more
autographs and when he can just live a quiet life, out of the camera’s
viewfinder – a time when he will no longer have to give interviews.
bitter Laurent Jalabert (a former racer in the Tour, now a French TV sports
commentator) says Lance doesn’t want to just win, he wants to crush his
adversaries like bugs. But that just
doesn’t fit the image on the screen yesterday (and many other days), where we
saw Lance chatting with, encouraging, joking with, and complimenting other
riders. Jalabert bears a grudge
against Lance from his pre-cancer days, in 1996, when Lance told Jalabert
during one stage of the Tour that he, Lance, was going to win that stage. So what, Jalabert? Get over it.
What I admire
most about Lance is the wonderful message of hope he sends to cancer
kids, family, and friends left Paris this morning for a weeklong vacation in
the south of France (he adores France) during which he says he will eat a
lot, drink wine, go to the beach, and NOT ride a bike. Lance, have a wonderful life.