It’s hard to believe that Lance Armstrong has been retired from competitive cycling for seven years. Sure, he unretired in 2009 and finished third in that year’s Tour de France, but the excitement he generated in the Tour during his seven-year reign (1999-2005) was unprecedented.
Remember what those glory years were like here in the ATX when Mr. Yellow Jersey dominated the Tour like no other rider before or since? The interest level in the Tour was so great that it was just about all folks here could talk about. When would Lance attack? How long could he hold back? Could he hang in there on the mountains? Was his team protecting him well? What speeds would he hit on the individual time trials? Did you check out that time trial bike?
People got up early and followed the Tour before work and the Statesman sent Suzanne Halliburton and a photographer to cover it on a daily basis. The Alamo Drafthouse opened early (with breakfast) and beamed Tour coverage on a large screen. Plenty of Austinites even went to France to witness Lance’s conquests first hand.
(Pop quiz. Who’s leading this year’s Tour? Didn’t think so. I had to google the Tour to find out some Brit named Bradley Wiggins is leading.)
My point is hardly anybody in these parts cares about the Tour de France anymore. Obviously, the fact that Armstrong is retired (well, sorta) plays a role in our collective lack of interest in the Tour but I think it goes deeper than that.
The sport of cycling is so dirty it’s big news when someone on the Tour doesn’t get busted. For some reason, rest days in the Tour usually are when they throw someone out of the peloton. On Tuesday’s rest day, French rider Remy di Gregorio was booted for drugs. Last year, Alexandr Kolobnev got kicked out on a rest day and the two-time winner and supposedly the best cyclist in the world, Alberto Contador tested positive for a banned substance on a rest day two years ago.
Naturally, the guy who is leading—Wiggins—is also the subject of performance-enhancing drug rumors. And our own Lance Armstrong (and his doctors and coaches) are in hot water once again. This time it’s for leading a drug conspiracy.
When will it end? But that’s what this sport is all about—drugs. It’s probably nothing new. Someone did a search and concluded that the last undisputed clean winner of the Tour was probably Greg Lemond in 1990.
Track is hardly unscathed by drugs. That will be all too apparent when track and field starts at the London Olympics on Olympic 3rd. I can say with some certainty that not a single women’s track record from the 100 meters through the 1500—all held by drug queens–will even be threatened in London. Those drug assisted records are that untouchable.
Too bad the runners and the world records they set more than 20 years ago can’t simply be deleted from the books.
- Leonel Manzano, the Olympic Trials 1500-meter champ, is already in Europe prepping for the London Olympics. Leo the Lion ran last night in a small meet in France and won the 800 meters in 1:46.79. That’s not close to his PR of 1:44.56, but Leo’s first round of the 1500 in London isn’t until August 3rd.
- Kristen Messer will also be in London, but Kristin will be in the Paralympics that are held concurrently with the Olympics. Messer, who was a fixture for years in Austin road races in her racing wheelchair, will race in the 100 and 200 meters in London. Messer, who began competing when she joined Marathon Kids while still in grade school, now lives in Spokane.
- When Kara June Thorne ran in the steeplechase at the Olympic Trials a couple of weeks ago, she had a secret. Thorne revealed in her post-Trials blog that she was eight weeks pregnant when she ran in Eugene. Congrats to Kara and her husband, former UT All American Joe Thorne.
- The top runner in Austin the past two years—Scott MacPherson—is taking it easy this summer, building his base. Scotty Mac probably won’t race until September when he’s planning to run the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon which is annually one of the fastest half marathons in the country.
- Kelly Williamson won the Muncie (Indiana) 70.3 last weekend in the insane time of 2:10:53, but the course was cut in half because of record breaking heat that exceeded 105. Williamson, who had been training near Las Vegas (the 70.3 World Champs are there in September), was unfazed by the heat and finished 15th overall. As usual, her running was off-the-charts. Her 10-K split of 35:48 in the oppressive conditions was only bettered by six male pros.
- You might have missed this, but a masters runner finally broke the sub-4-minute mile barrier. Anthony Whiteman, a two-time British Olympian, ran 3:58.79 in June to become the first masters runner ever to break four minutes outdoors. (Irishman Eamonn Coghlan ran 3:58.15 in 1994 on an indoor track.) Last week, Whiteman ran 3:42.02 for 1500 meters for another world master mark and that time would also have translated to a sub-4 minute mile.
- The 10th annual Zilker Relays are scheduled for Friday evening August 31st. The Relays just picked up a new title sponsor—PNC Mortgage. James Allen, one of the most selfless, generous runners in town who is an executive with PNC, engineered the sponsorship package.
- What I’m listening to this morning: “A Tribute to Nicolette Larson: Lotta Love Concert.” A beautiful album dedicated to the singer who died in 1997 by Larson’s friends such as Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Linda Ronstadt and Jimmy Buffet.
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