On Lance & Doping – My Take

oprah-lance-interviewTonight marks the official end of the Lance Armstrong era in cycling. I am personally hurt by the lies that Lance has construed to be truth to his millions of worldwide fans. Lance didn’t kill anyone doing what he did, but what he did was deceive so many people that saw him as a role model and hero. He certainly did beat cancer and then go on to win 7 tours, but only while on the most elaborate doping program ever construed in professional sports.

When I sit down to watch the first segment of his interview tonight with Oprah I will be relieved that he’s finally coming clean. I’m sure tears will be shed and his true colors will finally be shown and that is of a coward that manipulated so many people. His admission will bring more detriment to the sport of cycling in the near term, but let’s not forget about all of the great moments that occurred in cycling over the past year, not to be overshadowed by Lance and his big mess.

2012 Cycling Highlights:

  • Ryder Hesjedal became the first Canadian to win the Giro d’Italia
  • Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first Brit to win the Tour de France and then went on to win a gold medal at the London Olympic Games.
  • Colorado hosted their second annual Pro Cycling Challenge with over 1 million spectators
  • Tom Boonen won 4 of the spring Classics!

When I had the dream of becoming a pro cyclist myself, I looked up to Lance and that was well before he won his first Tour de France. Believe it or not I even have a Post Cereal trading card of him from the 1993 Olympic Games.

Lance at Mt. Snow 1999. Photo: Matt Shafer

Lance at Mt. Snow 1999. Photo: Matt Shafer

I first met Lance in 1999 after he won the tour that year and he decided to race the NORBA National at Mount Snow, Vermont. A teammate of mine at the time had lost his father to cancer only 3 months before and Lance was a breath of fresh air to talk to. Not to mention this was well before the fame and fortune took over his reasoning. I really looked up to him even more from that point forward. In the back of my mind I truly believed he was 100% clean during his entire career.

One of the reasons I thought of Lance as being clean was that my very first cycling coach, Bob Beal, back in 2000 was also one of Lance’s very first coaches. I remember going to Bob’s house in Hingham, MA during Thanksgiving week in 2000 to go through a round of computrainer testing. This sort of physical testing was what Bob used to gauge his clients’ baseline of fitness. I had to pedal my bike on a stationary trainer and the wattage (resistance) would go up in increments of 20 watts every minute. If I was not able to hold 18 mph after the wattage increase, the test would be over. I lasted a full 28 minutes. Lance lasted 56 minutes! (and most likely before he was doping since he was also 18 years old at the time when he completed his first test)

When we finished the test Bob was very open to talk about his time coaching Lance. He was quick to say that Lance was by far his most gifted athlete, but also the hardest to coach and he didn’t like being told what to do. Lance had a physical gift and in Bob’s words, Lance was a “genetic freak.” I’ll never forget hearing about Bob’s encounters with Lance and he was even kind enough to give Bob his very first yellow jersey with a personal thank you message for all of Bob’s guidance over the years.

I really hope that after tonight’s interview and the conclusion of the interview tomorrow that cycling can officially move on from its dirty past. There’s always a silver lining to a bad situation and the silver lining here is that Lance did bring cycling back to the masses in the United States. I sincerely hope that we can all look ahead and not to the past in cycling. I believe that cycling has a bright future in the United States and abroad. The sport is the cleanest it’s been and riders have transitioned away from the needle to improving their body’s performance with better training and nutrition science. The changing of the guard is coming and I can’t wait to see what’s next for the most beautiful sport that is cycling. Keep riding and don’t look back!

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