Writing anything that in any way detracts from the fight against cancer certainly makes that person seem a fool. Lance Armstrong knew that. Who is going to call out the beloved seven-time Tour winner over his calculated jersey stunt Sunday and not tarnish the support of cancer awareness? Armstrong knew that. Well then call me a fool and call me out as I say good riddance to Lance Armstrong.
If you don’t know, Sunday was the final day of the three week Tour de France. The race had been highly competitive with a very close finish between winner Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. With the exception of the green sprint jersey title that wasn’t settled until the final dash to the line Sunday, the stage yesterday was a slow celebratory parade into Paris with the various jersey winners having fun posing for a variety of photos. Except Armstrong had another idea. Outfitting the Radio Shack team in special black jersey’s with the number 28 on the back was Armstrong’s way of drawing attention to the estimated 28 million people in the world currently fighting against cancer. On the surface a fine idea except for the fact Radio Shack was breaking a Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rule stating a team must start and finish any race in the same jerseys. Armstrong knew that.
Every stage of the Tour de France starts with a ceremonial procession for a few kilometers before the official start at Kilometer 0. During that procession, officials made it clear that the Radio Shack jerseys needed to be changed. Suddenly the cameras were no longer focused on the leaders of the Tour as they should. They were now all focused on Armstrong and the cruel officials who were thwarting Armstrong’s fight for cancer awareness. The Versus channel’s duo of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, who long ago gave up their journalistic credibility to become shills for Armstrong, debated the situation with Liggett stunningly siding with the race officials to the dismay of Sherwen.
Eventually, the riders pulled over and changed their jerseys. Good television as riders sat on the curbs pinning their race numbers back onto the proper jersey. Up front the other riders all had to stop and wait. Armstrong showed his defiance by being the last to succumb to this indignity. Despite winning the Tour seven times, Armstrong never was treated by Tour officials with the degree of respect Armstrong felt he deserved as he made clear over many years. His defiance allowed him one final opportunity to thumb his nose at the officials. Certainly the black 28 jerseys were on full display for a great deal of the telecast and will soon be appearing on the backs of riders all over the world. Armstrong knew that.
Here’s one other thing Armstrong knew. He knew all this would happen. At the daily sign-in, Armstrong and team showed up in their proper Radio Shack jerseys. Only after signing in on Sunday did they change to the black jerseys. All the mess could have been avoided, but then Armstrong knew there wouldn’t be any television coverage. If you feel all this needless commotion helped advance the fight against cancer then there is nothing more to say. However, if you feel that there are better ways to make the point of that so many still suffer with cancer, then you can understand that Armstrong’s fight must always go hand-in-hand with his desire to keep his name and face in forefront right along with the cancer fight.
Now for the final time, Armstrong has retired. American television coverage of the Tour is sure to suffer despite the fact that future Tours might be the most compelling in years. Armstrong won’t be out of the news though. There are rumors of a run for Governor of Texas and federal investigators are digging deeply into the latest charges of Armstrong and team rider doping. Meanwhile the fight against cancer will go on in many ways just as compelling and deserving of attention as the Livestrong campaign.
During Armstrong’s final appearance on the finishing podium as a member of the team-winning Radio Shack squad, all team members again wore the black jerseys. That was a fine and fitting tribute for the cancer awareness fight. It just wasn’t enough to satisfy Lance Armstrong, and Armstrong knew that.