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Posted on September 10, 2008
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Regular readers, will know that I’m a cycling obsessive.  I came to the sport quite late in my long and unlikely life after no longer being able to afford the bus and turning in desperation to the rusted old bicycle that had spent the last two years outside the block of flats I lived in at the time.  This all happened when Lance Armstrong won his first Tour de France in 1999.  So, as I puffed and wheezed up the hill out of Bondi, in my mind I was Lance, studying his opponents dispassionately before dropping the deraileur to the big cog and charging painlessly up the Luiz Arden.  Of course things have soured a little since then as every one of his serious contenders has been implicated in some way in the  plague of EPO doping that has made modern cycling into an endurance version of Wide World of Wrestling and Lance its dream of unilateral  American superiority. Lance, due to either extraordinary good fortune, brilliant pharmacy or the very slight possibility that he was clean, remained untouched by the controversy, though belief in the authenticity of his extraterrestrial haul of seven tour victories is thin on the ground.  Now it seems, pricked by the taunting of the new “clean riders”, he has decided at the age of 38 to contest the tour again and this time do it with complete access.  He intends to prove, whatever it costs, that he can win the tour clean.  Its quite a story.  But then he is quite a freak.  Here’s the Vanity Fair article that broke the news….

“The subject swings, inevitably, to the dreaded topic: doping. Another reason Armstrong is entering the Tour is to bury the notion, once and for all, that drugs helped propel him to victory, that his generation of cyclists were deviants. By winning the 2009 Tour, under rigid anti-doping strictures, he believes he’ll forever silence the doubters. “You know, when I first came back, in ’98, ’99, there was a huge revenge factor,” he explains. “I was basically just not wanted by the sport. And was kicked out of the French team because I was cancer sick and so I was angry at people. And I was going to come back and prove that a survivor could do that. There’s a little of that revenge spirit in me now.

“There’s this perception in cycling that this generation is now the cleanest generation we’ve had in decades, if not forever. And the generation that I raced with was the dirty generation. And, granted, I’ll be totally honest with you, the year that I won the Tour, many of the guys that got 2nd through 10th, a lot of them are gone. Out. Caught. Positive Tests. Suspended. Whatever.… And so I can understand why people look at that and go, Well, [they] were caught—and you weren’t? So there is a nice element here where I can come with really a completely comprehensive program and there will be no way to cheat.”

Armstrong recognizes that the European press may very well be laying in wait for him, hoping he’ll fail. “I didn’t go out of my way to make friends with the French media,” he says. “In fact, I was combative. I was unavailable, arrogant, and I was that way to a lot of them. Anybody who wrote a negative article: Done. Never speak to them again. I won’t do that this time. I mean, these daily or weekly [phone conferences]? Everyone’s invited. From the bitterest of rivals I’ve ever had in the pressroom: Get on call. If you’ve got a question, ask it.… They’ll realize that I’m not messing around.” The difference this time, he says, is that he won’t be flaunting his Americanism in their faces. “The constituency that I represent,” he says, “is now cancer survivors.”

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