An audience with Lance Armstrong, one of the greats

Adrian Musolino Columnist

21 Have your say

    Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong of the U.S. addresses a press conference for the Tour Down Under cycling race in Adelaide, Australia, Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009. AP Photo/Aman Sharma

    There are a few perks in my line of work. One of them is mingling with your heroes, being in the inner sanctum of major events, in the presence of greats. Lance Armstrong ranks very highly among them.

    Here in Adelaide for his return in the Tour Down Under, Armstrong is causing quite storm, and deservedly so.

    What comes across from my time with Armstrong?

    That’s he a complex individual who is incredibly intelligent, articulate, funny and very aware of how the media works, he takes an immense interest in work written about him, aware of his role as icon and the expectations that come with it.

    One international journalist compared the fanfare around Armstrong in Adelaide to Jesus Christ.

    “I’ve been called a lot of things in my life … I don’t know that he rode either … he did a lot of things apparently but I don’t think he rode,” joked Armstrong.

    This is the rider who transcends cycling and helped its rise despite the drug sagas. The most famous cancer survivor who gives hope and fights hard to eventually eradicate the disease.

    Then there is the controversy.

    Armstrong maintains he has a clear conscience and I’m sure I’m not the only one that hopes with all hope that he is telling the truth.

    Cycling has been plagued with drug cheats, and the history of the sport has often needed a rewrite as the cheats were found out: Landis, Ullrich, Basso, Hamilton and so forth.

    Armstrong has committed to stringent drug testing. Has he always been clean?

    He has to have been. Surely.

    His reasons for a comeback are incredibly noble, and unlike an Ali or Jordan, there is a deeper mission here, one not dependant on results.

    “The reasons are twofold. First and foremost we want to take the Livestrong message across the world and the burden of this disease.

    “My bike has a couple of numbers on it. One is 1,274, the amount of days since I last raced a professional bike race in Paris, 2005. The other is 27.5, for 27.5 million. In those 1,274 days, approximately 27.5 million people have died from this disease.

    “It’s a staggering number when you stop and think about it, it seems like I’ve been off the bike for a while but it’s only been a few years and in the meantime about the same number of people who live in this country are gone.

    “That is the main reason. But you still have to have a passion for the sport, and I still do.”

    That passion burns deep and don’t think this comeback is half-hearted.

    This isn’t a sport for half-hearted attempts. Non-commitment will be punished on the climbs, in the heat and the hours on the saddle.

    On the Thursday before the Tour started, in a training ride up the Tours steepest climb Armstrong left his teammates behind. Despite his age, he rode away from them like he has done to countless rivals over the years.

    That night he hit the town with old teammate George Hincapie, enjoying Adelaide’s finest beer with a rider and friend who helped guide him to his previous Tour de France crowns.

    Armstrong’s presence caused quite a storm in the pub, but he was good enough to mingle with fans and pose for photographs.

    The speed and intensity of text messages that flew throughout the city alerting people that the worlds greatest cyclists was frequenting a popular Adelaide pub demonstrated that the capital of South Australia really is one big country town and the popularity of Lance transcends his sport.

    We are very lucky to bear witness to a great.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • January 18th 2009 @ 6:54am
      Sherry said | January 18th 2009 @ 6:54am | ! Report

      I don’t care if Lance turns out to be a serial killer; what he’s done and is doing for cancer research is terrific. There are thousands of sports people who make big bucks worldwide, but very few of them are using their money and name to promote good works. Whatever happened to SportAid?
      Go Lance!

      Incidentally, Adrian, what is Adelaide’s finest beer?

    • January 18th 2009 @ 8:00am
      Sam said | January 18th 2009 @ 8:00am | ! Report


      Lance is probably my all time favourite sportsman. Infact I specifically took up cycling as a hobby as I was inspired by his Tour de France feats after beating cancer.

      It’s a shame the French press still are out to get him even though they have found nothing as yet in terms of him being a drug cheat. He is someone to me who comes of as not displaying that typical American showboating arrogance. One of the greats in world sport.

    • Columnist

      January 18th 2009 @ 9:35am
      Spiro Zavos said | January 18th 2009 @ 9:35am | ! Report

      Adrian, a lovely piece. It’s great when a sporting hero turns out to be everything you imagine. One of the downs of sports journalism is to see athletes/players who you admire for their deeds on the field of play who are total idiots and fools off the field. We tend to equate grace on the field with an inevitable grace off the field. Often, unfortunately, this is not the case.
      But when someone like Lance Armstrong is as splendid off his bike as he is on it, then everyone is a winner.
      I think in answer to Sherry’s question, Adelaide’s finest beer is probably some variety of Coopers,a family-owned boutique brewery that makes ales that are the nectar of the gods. Good stuff for Armstrong, if he drinks beer, you’d think.

    • Columnist

      January 18th 2009 @ 10:34am
      Adrian Musolino said | January 18th 2009 @ 10:34am | ! Report

      Thanks Spiro. Yes it was an absolute pleasure and he spoke with great insight on matters as diverse as the Bush presidency, the hope of Obama, cycling, pain and obviously cancer.

      As for what is Adelaide’s finest it is probably a Coopers, possibly Pale Ale. No official word on what type Lance was drinking but according to those at the pub he seemed to be enjoying it.

      Just a side note. Yesterday I was hanging around the riders village and watching the mechanic prepare Lance’s bike. Next to me there were Spanish and Italian riders, his competitors, taking photos with Lance’s bike. It was incredible to see his competitors become fans like that.

    • Roar Pro

      January 18th 2009 @ 10:59am
      Forgetmenot said | January 18th 2009 @ 10:59am | ! Report

      I read Armstrongs biography about this time last year, and it really shows you that he was just normal human being trying to use his talents to the best. It shows he has a real love of life.
      I admire him for spending so much time raising money for cancer.

      He has his priorities right, and he has been rewarded greatly for it.

    • January 18th 2009 @ 2:54pm
      James Ward said | January 18th 2009 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

      That really is an incredible stat! He is an icon and Adelaide is very lucky to have him

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