Thursday, 27 September 2012

Lance, Tyler, and All Of It

As cyclists, we can hate Lance and what he did all we want. Personally, I think he's a gigantic douche, a sociopath, a bully, he's got some SERIOUS mother issues, you name it, the lot. The funny thing is that over the last several months, I've come to respect his accomplishments more than I did previously. Note that respect and "admire" or "hold in high regard" are not synonymous here.

The situation seems to have been pretty clearly "dope or go home" in this era. LeMond and Hampsten (who remains the one who I hold in the highest regard, and the guy is living the fricking life now - talk about a gigantic case of win) made it pretty clearly to me that as they wound up their careers, EPO became a requisite ante for a seat at the table. When Hampsten, an angelic climber in the pre-EPO era, is struggling to hang onto the autobus, you've got your donkeys turned into thoroughbreds right there. Rejoin the narrative at Tyler's first Euro races and it sure seems that the status at his debut is as it was at Hampsten's exit. The point of that being that if doping was necessary to compete in the game, then doping itself was a front in the battle. Lance, by all accounts that I've read, mastered that front faster and more completely than his peers, and won himself an unassailable advantage.

The other piece of his mastery is simply that he was able to stay that wound up for so long. This little epiphany came to me in the Worlds road race, when Wiggins got dropped and bailed. Can you imagine how hard it was to stay THAT on task for seven plus years? He seems to have kept every detail, legal and not, completely locked down during his whole reign. Wiggins won the Olympic TT and went out on an absolute regal and royal bender - and well done to him for that, but you simply can't imagine Lance doing that. For one thing, he probably had to be conscious of recovering as quickly as possible and working his blood markers (assisted by EPO) back up to the levels needed to productively donate blood for later consumption. And I'd bet that that was a big part of why his seasons were so short and Tour focused - there are only so many pints and liters that you can productively pack away in the windows of opportunity you've got. Gotta get that cord wood stacked, son.

So yeah, the guy was/is an absolute cyborg. He identified and mastered every battle front. How many other guys had the breadth of vision to have Motoman? The guy would be an absolute killer on Wall Street. As I've said before, if there was a market in puppy kicking, the effective Wall Street guys would have utility curves for maximum kicking sustainability per input cost (how little can we spend on food and still have puppies that can take maximum kicks until they aren't puppies anymore?), and you'd see breeding techniques "advance" by millenia, overnight. It's just the way guys like that do it - identify and maximize every possible front in the battle, and try to win all of them. Megalomaniacs, sociopaths, whatever you want to call guys like that, it's how they operate.

UCI also deserves a bunch of credit, too. You can't tell me they saw this guy bringing Nike and Oakley and the entire US market, the demographics of which at the time had unprecedented fertile ground (the baby boom generation) and represented an untapped market like the powers that be could scarcely even imagine, and didn't think "oh yeah, whatever we have to do to build this guy's idol, let's do it." He looks the part, sounds the part, incredible back story, brilliant move on the foundation generating an ever growing legion of loyal fans, shit even his name is ideal - if you were the chief of DC Comics and needed a superhero name and someone said "how about 'LANCE ARMSTRONG' you'd jump across the table and kiss that person. A supertanker of revenue opportunity knocking on your door like that? If you're those self-interested clowns, it's full throttle, kids.

There are shades of grey to this, but in terms of framing how I see the situation, the above works pretty well. He's not without positive attributes, it's just that when you take the good with the bad, you get a hell of a lot of bad.

That's how I see it. Didn't really get into Tyler, there. Maybe I will later.


Kevin Cross said...

Well put. I do hope Hollywood still plans on coming out with his story; the truth is much better than the fiction we constructed.

qualia said...

Loved it!