Lance Armstrong has announced plans to emerge from self-imposed retirement to compete in professional cycling in 2009, quite possibly (and of course) to include another Tour de France and possible eighth champion’s title. Armstrong says he will take no salary and no bonuses, and quite frankly he doesn’t need them. And quite frankly he'll still make millions. And quite frankly there may be some desire to reclaim that spotlight; he has an ego like any other hero athlete, banging Kate Hudson included (but in all fairness eventually all of us will have banged Kate Hudson).
I got hooked on the Tour in the years of Armstrong’s dominance. I’d awake early for 20-some days every July to catch live coverage and commentary streaming from almost-too-purple-to-be-true lavender fields of Provence, hors catégorie mountain climbs, cobblestone streets and miles of pavement carrying “Fuck you Armstrong!” messages scrawled in pastel chalks. I knew all the riders names, all the stages, all the bulges.
Then scandal. Doping. Landis. Hamilton. I don’t believe Armstrong partakes. His tool, his body, is built differently than yours and mine. He extracts more oxygen from every breath and uses it to generate more power. His heart can pump more blood per minute and beat more times than the average heart. During his cycling career he peed in more bottles than a van full of frat boys on a long road trip with few rest stops. If he’s hiding doping, he does so brilliantly, one slippery dick.
He’s an inspiration to those facing uncertain futures, a dragon slayer who beat back the demon eating at his body. This year alone, nearly eight million people will die of cancer worldwide. I knew one. Chances are you did too. If he rides for them or for him, it doesn’t matter. It's hope and it's entertainment and it's buckets of research money and it’s helping those in fear turn that into action and it’s education.
It’s about living, not just about dying. Viva le Lance.