Lance Armstrong, cycling, and the nature of heroes

I love watching the Tour de France. I started watching it when I got into cycling way back in the Greg LeMond days, and I’ve been a fan since. OLN’s awesome coverage has been so good for me — I can’t get enough of it.

And this is professional bike racing. I spend hours every day watching a sport with people pedaling on bikes, and when I go to a Mariners game I’m bored.

Someone asked me yesterday who I liked “besides Lance”. Everything pales in comparison to Lance and my admiration for him, so to have a reasonable conversation about the Tour you have to remove him immediately. I talked about Basso, and some of the obscure cool guys I like (Floyd Landis and Levi Leipheimer, for instance… Robbie McEwan’s crazy, and… I’ll stop now) but I glossed over Tyler Hamilton. I always liked Tyler, and thenin 2003, he became a favorite. Racing with a broken collarbone in incredible pain, he led a one-man breakaway during one stage and finished fourth, in what was one of the most courageous things I’ve ever seen in sports. This article‘s a good explanation of what happened.

Then disgrace– he got caught blood doping and is out (I believe) for two years. He’s appealing.

For me, I’m disappointed because cycling’s a sport I enjoy. I don’t know so much about the teams and the riders that I’m caught up in the politics and rivalries as I am with baseball. I don’t know too much about the players — while I know in kind of a vague, academic way that bicyclists as a whole do a lot of performance-enhancing drugs even though they’re tested like crazy, I don’t know names of players who do and players who almost certainly do. There’s an inspirational mind-over-matter aspect to doing something the body is not supposed to do, overcoming adversity, and a lot of strategies and complicated psychological games teams and riders engage in.

And it’s not work for me, where baseball.. I’ve been writing about baseball as a job one way or another since 1998. I can know about pro cycling without having everyone know I know about it — it’s like having a cool secret. And because no one else cares, no one asks either.

I totally, totally dig it.