The A-Rod vernacular of the week seems to dance around the proper way to cycle in or out of Tic-Tacs as a means of strengthening your forearms, as well as your resolve, when it comes to avoiding a rush to judgment about what actually happened back in the day when the Texas Rangers threw all that money at the free-agent shortstop and made him and his
fictional cousin do stupid things. Stuff they’re not sure they can admit to, even though they’ve denied it in the past to other TV interviewers.
Couple that with an episode of “House” I happened to come across the other day (summary linked here), on USA Network, from season two in 2005. The story is about a pro bike rider who falls over during a race, caused a huge pileup, and he’s taken to the hospital unconscious. House immediately though the guy was doping, and would lie about it, so he’d never figure out what really caused his condition. One of the doctors thinks the guy may have cancer — so the cyclist’s manager goes to the press with it in hopes of gaining sympathy, knowing there’s more to it than that. House figures out the truth. We won’t spoil it for you.
The name of the episode, appropriately, is “Spin.”
Spin forward to this weekend as we try to get our padded seat around this bike race that’s heading our way. Listen … can you hear it?
Lance Armstrong is living strong again. He’s already shouted down a reporter named Paul Kimmage, a former cyclist who has ridden in the Tour de France and is now writing for the Sunday Times of London, who accused him of setting the sport of cycling back years by his appearance in this week’s Tour of California (tour site linked here). That was a week ago, before Stage 1 in Sacramento. Kimmage called Armstrong as the “cancer” returning to the sport. Armstrong said Kimmage wasn’t worth the chair he was sitting in. NPR’s Tom Goldman did a great job reporting that story last week on “Morning Edition” (linked here, listen to the 4-minute piece). A-Rod’s name comes up in this story somehow.
How will Sir Lancelot be received around here? The cancer survivors, like Tim Bruno here in Fresno, have shown their support in many ways so far.
Today, the pack cruises from Visalia to Paso Robles. It starts at 10 a.m. and ends about 4:30 p.m. Follow it live on Versus (site linked here).
Friday, it’s Solvang, where Stage 6 is a time trial in a place that’s kind of home turf for the Austin, Tex., native, to train out here.
During Stage 7 on Saturday morning, he’ll be in the pack going from Santa Clarita to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Then it’s onto Stage 8 to finish it up on Sunday. And then we’ll get an even better way to gauge whether he’s in any shape to challenge again for the Tour de France title this summer.
The other day I asked Phil Liggett, the TV voice of the sport and about as recognizable to cycling as Dick Button is to figure skating, how the Tour of California actually ranked on the world stage of cycling. He put it in the top five, just ahead of the Tour of Switzerland, with the Tour de France obviously No. 1. Then, in his Trevor Denman South African accent, he rattled off a couple of other races that I didn’t quite catch before he got to ranking this nine-day, 800-mile event that’s only a couple of years old now.
Pretty quick jump on the fast track of cycling’s radar, I’d say. With or without the Armstrong factor. There’s enough of the world’s top names included with current leader Levi Leipheimer, Italy’s Ivan Basso , George Hincapie and the return of Floyd Landis, stuck in 37th place as we pedal forward from this point.
But with Armstrong in the loop, already it’s a must-at-least-pretend-to-be-interested thing to follow, either on TV (where most of it is live) and in the rest of the existing media.
Liggett calls the Armstrong factor “debatable,” but he was at the Tour Down Under in Australia last month and witnessed the record turnout.
“It was unreal, they were beside themselves,” Liggett said of the Aussies, which, in that part of the world, we’re not sure how the gravity affects one being beside oneself, or if that’s even possible with the South Pole so close by.
Although Armstrong currently resides in fourth place, about 30 seconds off the lead, the only real news he’s made was by stupidly allowing his bike to be stolen early on. We can already see this shaping up into a sequel to “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”
Maybe Lance meant to do that.
Next stop, the Alamo.
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