Returning to the Fray

by Rant on January 28, 2009 · 9 comments

in Floyd Landis,Lance Armstrong

Looking at my calendar, it appears that one of my main subjects on this blog, one Mr. Floyd Landis, is less than 36 hours (as I write this) from the expiration of the suspension imposed on him by an arbitration panel in 2007, which was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in 2008. No need to get into the whys and wherefores of his case, I suspect. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you already know all that. No need to rehash old territory.

At least a few publications have interviewed Landis, what with his imminent return to the ranks of active pro racers. VeloNews.com has a teaser for the article that’s appearing in their March 2009 issue (on newsstands now, or soon, given that my copy arrived in the mail last week). Landis is resurfacing after what VeloNews writer Neal Rogers called “six months of self-imposed media exile.” Landis speaks about his time in the wilderness, as Rogers reports:

“I kind of decided not too long ago that that was it, I’m moving forward,” Landis said. “I’m not going to worry about whatever happened over the last two years. It doesn’t serve any purpose for the team to focus on it, and for that matter it’s not anything the team should have to focus on. As far as I am concerned it’s finished.”

Good to hear that. It’s definitely time to move on. So, about his return to racing is Landis out to prove anything to anyone? No, he says:

“I don’t feel in any way I am coming back to race to prove anything to anyone, or to myself for that matter. I enjoy racing for the same reason the majority of people race their bikes, whether it’s on a professional level or any other level. I think the sport deserves to have the best riders in the best races. For that reason I think this year is going to be better than it has been in a long time.”

Meanwhile, over at CyclingNews.com, their interview with Landis ends with this quote:

Just getting back is making [me] excited. I feel that being focused and training again, that is reward in itself. Our team is going there to race to win, but I am happy to have the chance to be back racing and a part of the excitement … I missed it.

Hoist a glass to Floyd's returnAnd it will be good to see Landis racing again, too. No mention in either article of whether Team OUCH plans to race at the International Cycling Classic, a/k/a Superweek. (Then again, why wouldn’t they? It’s one of the biggest series of events during July.)

Since tomorrow (as I write this) is the 29th, and I believe that’s the day Floyd’s suspension officially ends, I’ll be hoisting a glass of Jack Daniels in his honor during the evening.

Meanwhile, I got an email yesterday from Marc, TBV’s French correspondent, that had a translation of an interview with Marc Madiot the directeur sportif of the Français des jeux cycling team that appeared in the January 26th issue of Le Monde. What Madiot has to say about Armstrong’s return to the sport will doubtless raise a few hackles.

What does Lance Armstrong’s return in the Tour Down Under (which ended Sunday, January 25 in Australia) mean to you?

I don’t pay much attention to him. I say “Bravo Armstrong” when he gets himself involved in the struggle against cancer. But I’m not convinced that racing again is the best means of promoting that. He should have been able to get involved in a different way, telling young people how racing enabled him to get over his illness. But not by coming back to the peloton.

What bothers you about his return?

There was an Armstrong era. He even moved me to tears, in the 1995Tour, when he won the Limoges stage, two days after the death of his teammate Fabio Casatelli (in a fall in the Pyrenees). Afterwards, he became a machine.

You seem angry . . .

No, but Armstrong’s return isn’t good for cycling, but for himself. When you read L’Equipe, and you find two pages about him and three lines about the race. . . . In a car, you don’t make progress by going backwards. We need to add some dynamism to cycling, and not by the past, but by the future. I want the current generation to forget. We have to get over the doping trauma.

But in Australia the cameras were back en masse for the peloton, thanks to Armstrong.

Cycling doesn’t need stars, it needs riders and new faces. This isn’t Hollywood. Cycling is your old home, not glitter.

I’m sure there’s more than a few people who will take issue with Madiot’s opinions. Love him or hate him, Lance Armstrong attracts a whole lot of media attention. That’s certainly a benefit to Lance and his LIVESTRONG cause. But it’s also a help to cycling. Unless Armstrong gets popped for an anti-doping violation (and boy, would that get the chattering classes chattering), the media attention he’s generating certainly helps advance the sport of cycling, too.

But Madiot makes a good point. If the stories are so focused on Armstrong that the actual racing gets just a smidgeon of coverage, then that’s not so good for the sport. The promoters and sponsors want to see some media coverage for all the time, effort and money they put into the events, after all. There’s a balancing act in terms of how much to write about Armstrong and how much to write about the racing. My guess is that, in time, the novelty of Armstrong’s return will wear off. And when it does, the coverage will balance out. Armstrong and his cause will get some space, as will the actual events. It may not be perfectly even, but it will be a lot more so.

And, to be honest, cancer, cancer research and cancer treatment need to be talked about more. Armstrong’s comeback certainly helps get that message out. I’m sure he’ll relish the opportunity to compete again, too. Given his form at the Tour Down Under, I suspect he’s going to be making some pretty big statements on the road throughout the season.

Next up for the “Comback Kid” is the Tour of California, where Armstrong will have a couple of former winners of that race to contend with. One of whom is making his own return. But you already knew that.

And speaking of getting the message out, read the latest post at Fat Cyclist. If you’ve got a few extra dollars, consider making a donation, too. You might win a cool bike (that is, if you donate by 1/31/09). But more importantly, you’ll be helping a good cause.

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{ 9 comments }

Matt January 29, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Thanks for the reminder that TODAY is the end of Floyds suspension. I will also be hoisting a toast to having him back in the peleton tonight (I’ll be having a tasty dark ale that I brewed and bottle-conditioned to peak flavor). Very good news to hear his attitude. I always tell my wife what good is worrying about things that you have absolutly NO control over? Spend your energies on things you CAN influence. Of course, this advice is very easy to give but so very hard to follow. But it sounds good.

As to the Lance comeback, all I can say is “Bring it on!” For the first time ever we got daily televised coverage of the Tour Down Under! Cycling in JANUARY! Apparently this was the eleventh year of that race. Sad to say, that I might have heard of it, but surley never followed it. Sure the media was in a feeding frenzy for anything Lance, but the race and coverage were pretty normal as far as I could tell. And with so many sponsors pulling up anchor and taking their sponsor dollars with them in the last few years, how can MORE media attention and coverage be bad for the sport? At the end of the day, the articles and pictures are of the winners, as it should be. I think the ToC will be a spectacular race! I’m only wondering how this will work. Will Lance be working for Levi? It’s HIS race, just like the TdF is Alberto’s. From what Lance said and did in the TdU, he didn’t act like he was in it to be a media hog. His presence helped bring MILLIONS of dollars and much media exposure to the Anti-cancer message he claims is his focus. So far so good. It’s shaping up to be an amazing racing season!

mindtron January 29, 2009 at 1:05 pm

“…the race and coverage were pretty normal as far as I could tell”

the race coverage by cycling media was normal, but the only other media coverage out there was about Lance. Heck even the ESPN cycling feed had two stories the first day and neither told you who won the stage–only that Lance had finished in the pack. The NYT has had 3 cycling articles recently and all have been exclusively about Lance.

My issue with Lance is that he never seemed to care about anything other than the Tour. I mean it is sad that he is finally riding the Giro after he retired. I am happy that he will be giving some of the other monuments of cycling a, hopefully, serious go this year.

I also hope that the domestic scene will get a little more coverage as well because it could use it.

eightzero January 29, 2009 at 6:07 pm

“Message: don’t mess with the system.”

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/2008682193_kirk29.html

The reader-supplied comment (there’s only one) is particularly insightful.

William Schart January 29, 2009 at 9:30 pm

So cycling doesn’t need stars? Huh? Strange comment to me.

I can’t recall where and when, but I seem to recall at one time I read a comment to the opposite. I sort of think maybe it was in reference to the NBA and the era immediately before Magic/Bird. Attendance was down, etc., and some of the think was that there were no real stars or superstars to fire up the public interest. Also think about that minor league baseball team that Michael Jordan played for; they had a lot more attendance, as did other teams in the league when they played away games.

I know there here in the Show-me state, the last 2 years there has been a lot of publicity for the Tour of Missouri detailing who the “stars” are, and their qualifications as stars.

Get a bunch of cat 5 riders who are pretty well matched and who are willing to really race, to the best of their abilities, and you can have a pretty exciting race in terms of lots of action and a result that is uncertain for most of the race. But how much interest will there be? (Other than friends/relatives)

Ask the University of Utah football team about this. The BCS system is not really set up to determine the best team in college football, but to make lots of money by pitting 2 star teams (i.e., ones from “star” conferences). The Utahs and Boise States don’t have a chance to make it to the big game, no matter how good a team they are, because they are not perceived to have the star drawing power that Oklahoma, Texas, USC, LSU, etc. have.

Morgan Hunter January 30, 2009 at 7:48 am

Marc Madiot the directeur sportif of the Français des jeux cycling team, says, he doesn’t need “stars” – sure he doesn’t – he needs “Olympians.” They do it “for the love of the sport”, naturally it would also mean his budget would leave a lot more for his pocket.

Can you imagine, cycling “Stars” actually expect getting paid for doing work, what next? free healthcare for Everyone! Socialists,all of them!

Hope that Floyd Landis has a GREAT SEASON – hope he can do what he did on that historic stage sometime again…I will keep watching him just to see it happen again!

Rant January 30, 2009 at 10:51 am

Eightzero,
Sorry your comment got caught in moderation. Interesting article. The comment by PirateVbFan is dead-on. The system needs to be changed. Kirk should have had the opportunity to swim, once Jessica Hardy was dropped from the team (regardless of the ultimate disposition of Hardy’s case).
Morgan,
Sorry about the moderation thing. Seems to have gotten both you and Eightzero. A sport without stars? Seems an odd concept. There will always be standout athletes, regardless of “amateur” or “professional” status. That’s just the way things work. And stars help keep the interest in sports stronger among more casual fans. Not a bad thing, in my opinion.
mindtron,
Welcome to RYHO. I agree that it’s a shame Armstrong didn’t seriously contest the other Grand Tours before now. That’s the downside of focusing on one event, to the exclusion of all others. Winning the TdF is huge, but there are other races to be ridden, after all. I’m hoping that domestic racing gets better coverage, too. It’s long past time.
Matt,
Too bad there’s no race today for Floyd to participate in. That would be quite the exclamation point on all of this.
William,
I think Madiot’s a bit off his rocker if he seriously thinks that cycling would be better off without any stars. Sponsors wouldn’t be as interested or willing to pay the money that the promoters need to put on races. Sponsors wouldn’t be willing to pay money to fund the rolling billboards known as cycling teams. And there would be fewer fans following the sport. He has a point about Armstrong’s return overshadowing actual race coverage, but I can’t agree that the sport would be better off with no stars.

morgan Hunter January 30, 2009 at 11:38 am

There is an old adage in show business: “No publicity is bad publicity.”

It is really a very subtle adage, stating both positive and negative points of a situation. On the positive side Madiot and people like him resenting Armstrongs return are forgetting that any publicity that gets cycling in the news is worthwhile – yes – even and probably the most, the drug cheating scandals. Therfore, No publicity is bad publicity.

On the other hand from purely advertisement perspective, and a simple comma insertion, the whole meaning can change to: No public ity, Is bad publicity!

So – take your pick – one of the few adages where “you can have your cake and eat it too.”

morgan Hunter February 1, 2009 at 8:52 am

is it just me – or is there something here that looks like a real CONFLICT OF INTEREST issue:

“Hawk Relay Cycling Team, a —- International Cycling Union (UCI) professional Track trade team based in Los Angeles, California —- which includes 2-time World Pursuit Champion Sarah Hammer, 2-time US Olympian Adam Duvendeck, and Canadian National Champion Travis Smith, have partnered with Felt Bicycles for the 2009 season.”

Theresa February 1, 2009 at 4:01 pm

All I can say is, Floyd Landis should be the next winner of the Tour of MO!!!!
We have “stars” in cycling! George, Christian, Dom Rollin, Cavendish, etc!! They were royalty at the ToM, I saw it first hand!
And Mark C had teenage girls crying!!!
The domestic teams need more coverage. They were swarmed before the starts of the stages!
I personally chased Tony Cruz, DZ, Michael Barry, CVV, and Brad Huff!

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