Early in my athletic career, the bragging rights for which have long since expired I was a bike racer. I loved it then and still love it now! I remember a friend and I placing late night calls to the Sports Desk at the Minneapolis StarTribune to get them to print at least a few results from the prior day’s stage at the Tour. Eventually they just got tired of us calling and in the mid-70s, we would get about an inch of coverage the next day – Stage winner, GC all in very small print. In 2001, I was able to see a few stages of the Tour with my son. And now, it almost seems unfathomable that I can watch real time coverage on my iPhone.
Greg Lemond made a huge impact on US recognition of the Tour and in 1989 used technical innovations developed for triathlon for is final Time Trial victory!
Fast forward to 2012 and Lance Armstrong is a household name, not only winning the Tour an unbelievable seven times, but almost more so as a role model, a cancer survivor, prime mover and supporter for cancer research.
Now at age 40 Lance has returned to his roots in Triathlon and now matter how well he does, it is a big deal for all of us. While there are only 198 riders in the Tour d’France, we can in fact be out racing along side Lance in an Ironman or 70.3. This is worth repeating: Age Group Athletes can be racing on the same course at the same time as the seven-time Tour d’France Winner! (Just like we do with Crowie, Chrissie and Rinny!)
Lance is not like Michael Jordon who decided to have a go at baseball and had 51 minor league at bats or even like Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson who for four seasons played for both the NFL Raiders and MLB Kansas City Royals.
Lance is an endurance athlete going back to his roots in Triathlon and he is here to race. He has the background, knowledge and resources for meticulous analysis and training.
Lance is clearly, not just another guy on a bike or another pro to add to the mix. He has to be treated as a serious contender and even while he finished a “disappointing” 7th at the Ironman Texas 70.3, he now has two top ten finishes in his first two races!
While Lance is feeding his own competitive nature, what he is doing for the rest of us is bringing new attention from non-traditional sources to our sport. There will be more fans, more publicity, more news and ultimately more sponsors and not only will it be good for all of us, it already has been.
What better way to illustrate the difference than on the left we have Terenzo Bozzone at the Press Conference at the 2011 Ironman Texas 70.3 and on the right is Lance at this year’s Press Conference. Notice the reflection of the vacant seats in Torenzo’s glasses and the crowds reflected by Lance. Out on the course it was much the same.
Finally in the water and ready for the day to begin: Tim O’Donnell in purple, Michael Raelert in red and Lance in yellow. Always easy to track.
Lance moved into the lead as the group approached the turn-around and rode an individual TT on the way home.
Although traffic is typically congested on the Ironman Texas 70.3 course, everyone slowed down to get at least a look at Lance.
On the run he still had his moto and live video escort.
Although Lance had been run down by Tim O’Donnell, Sebastian Kienle, Ronnie Schildknecht and had faded to sixth, the thrill of passing Lance Armstrong was not lost on Jordan Jones. Admittedly, the additional $750 in price money was more significant to Jordan than it was to Lance.
The weekend ended, as it began, with lots of media attention.
Lance, I will see you at the races and I am thrilled that you are here!