The Unstoppable Force
Did you think the Pyrenean climbs might slow him? Think
Lance Armstrong has chosen to make his final Tour de France
into his uber-performance. He’s proven that he’s unbeatable. His team has failed
several times this year. When that happens it’s like watching him being attacked
by a salivating pack of wolves, except that the only one who doesn’t flinch is
Lance. He seems capable of evaluating everybody’s stakes and motivation
You can almost see Armstrong thinking, “What does rider A
really want and how can that help me further my goals? What does rider B want
and how can that help me further my goals?” Etc.
The competition this year believed that if you could
isolate Armstrong from his team you could inflict damage. Unfortunately for
them, we’re rapidly learning that when Armstrong’s team fails he simply starts
to use other teams against one another. In the case of T-Mobile, he’s making a
habit of using them against themselves. Jan Ulrich, Alexander Vinikurov, and
Andreas Kloden have all finished on the podium within the last two years of the
Tour de France. Now this impressive lineup are all members of the same team. You
might think such a coallition would be unbeatable. Think again. Armstrong is
making them look like Keystone Cops. Is he capable of mind control? Don’t doubt
it for a second.
Every time Armstrong survives another attack, blame for
allowing him to escape flies about like Jello desert in a junior high school
lunch room. Babblefish a few international Internet message boards if you don’t
believe me. But assigning blame to Armstrong’s rivals is ignoring the facts.
It’s not necessarily their fault. He escapes for the same reasons every time:
He’s the strongest
He’s the best tactician
He has the most experience
He’s the most meticulously prepared
He wins the mental game before the starters gun even goes off
I first heard of Lance Armstrong while reading an issue of
Triathlon Magazine, about 18 years ago. He was fifteen at the time, but he was
manhandling seasoned pros. In subsequent discussions it became obvious that a
very special athlete had appeared on the scene. Lance was arrogant and
self-assured, a battering ram just dying for something to smash into. He’s made
a career of picking the toughest obstacles and flattening them.
A former US Postal teammate of Armstrong’s once told me
something along these lines (I can only paraphrase): When Lance first reported
to the team he was in bad shape, struggling to get over the easiest of the
climbs. It wasn’t long, though, before I really started feeling sorry… for the
cancer. That disease picked the wrong guy to mess with.
Did it ever! As the result of attacking Lance, cancer in
general will never be the same. Have you noticed the shift in perception about
the disease over the last seven years? It’s sort of like when Buster Douglas
KO’d Mike Tyson. Pretty soon, everybody wanted to get in on the act.
I recently wrote a separate article on a similar subject
(it was titled Own Your Own Planet – Call Now), but how can you make too big a
deal of accomplishments like these? Speaking of that other article, check out
this response to it from Phil Carpenter of Santa Barbara:
I think Armstrong is actually an alien from another planet
that is a doppleganger of earth. His extra large heart, amazing ability to
defeat the big C and his obviously superior pheremones that attracted Sheryl
Crow are unequivocal proof of his alien heritage. I only hope his whole race of
men from his planet don't decide to come here and take all our women!
Hmm. He has a really good point.
Dave Shields is the author of Amazon’s #1 Selling Sports
Novel, The Race. In June the book became the first sports themed novel ever to
win the Ben Franklin Award for Best New Voice in Fiction. To learn more or
purchase the novel go here.
Editors note: David has been busy working on his follow
up novel to the successful "The Race." Scheduled for publication in Spring of
2006. Get a taste of the continuing action as the young Utah native Ben Barnes
continues his adventures in le Tour.
Read chapter one of Dave’s upcoming sequel to The Race: