They Say The Season Starts This Week

Jan 13 2011

TdU bannerUnless the spike in high-priority, all-caps emails on “LANCE ARMSRTONG’S FINAL RACE OUTSIDE THE US” have mislead me, a bunch of clowns in Switzerland who haven’t shoveled my driveway four times in the past two weeks seem to think the season is getting underway again.

Then again, I should count myself lucky that over-zealous and under-coordinated PR is worst of my concerns—I could end up having to pay $13,000 for their approval to write blog posts about how much they suck.

While I appreciate the contributions Australians have made to cycling—especially to race support requests—is a mid-January race really appropriate repayment? A FauxTour event in a month where storylines have historically been limited to doping and Jan Ullrich’s waistline comes across with all the sincerity of Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence.

With the UCI’s calendar already shipping the ProTour peloton off to Canada for a week, you’d think a mid-season jaunt to Australia would provide no greater challenge. Certainly the conditions of Aussie “winters” aren’t going to pose any obstacle, and might even be a welcome reprise from the mid-July heat.

I’m sure there’s no argument about the mid-January date from one Lance Armstrong, though, whose waning and increasingly embarrassing presence at bike races is the only reason PR flacks are stuffing my inbox in the first place.

Lance ArmstrongHis 38-year-old legs will no doubt appreciate the pace of a rusty peloton, and the beaming Australian summer will provide a brilliant backdrop for what is essentially a promotional appearance—because, as he’s long maintained, flying a private jet halfway around the world furthers the fight against cancer.

While the racing may yet prove strenuous for Armstrong, the media coverage certainly hasn’t. With stories breaking on a tiny fib about compensation, some potential retroactive testing, and the fact that he’s a lousy spokesman, the Texan fielded softballs about his legacy and whether or not he plans to win.

Even the task of simply recording responses seemed to much for the TdU press pool. When Armstrong was asked why it seemed like cyclists doped so much, an AP reporter (in addition to botching the seven-time Tour winner’s age) phrased his lede to suggest that the Texan believes drug testing itself compels riders to dope. The Sydney Morning Herald, taking the the exact same Armstrong quote, inferred he meant that riders dope because the sport is so hard.

While I award Armstrong no points for clarity, his actual meaning—that cycling’s stringent anti-doping efforts catch more dopers than other sports’ flimsy protocols—seemed easy enough to suss out from the other side of the planet. 2011 will clearly be a banner year for cycling coverage in the mainstream press.

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