Lance Armstrong just did what everyone who followed the Tour de France this year saw he would do: He won for the seventh time in a row. Now the race is over and he’s going into retirement. Which makes me feel lost on a couple of counts.
First: No more Tour. For the last three weeks — as for the past several years during Tour time — we’ve gotten up every morning and stumbled straight to the TV to turn on OLN’s live race coverage. I know I’ve whined about the incumbent announcers (it’s only a matter of time before someone gives Phil Liggett the Phil Rizzutto treatment and turns transcripts of his play-by-play into a book of “poetry. No, wait: Someone already has), but the anticipation of the unknown drama to unfold in the next morning’s stage has been wonderful. Would we wake up to a big breakaway? To Lance finally collapsing under relentless attack or having the Tour-ending mishap he always managed to avoid? (No way.) With the tube on, I’d fire up my laptop and keep track of the time gaps from the official Tour site. Every day: a coffee-powered multimedia frenzy. Now, it’ll back to the sports page and box scores when I get up (hey, the serious stuff can wait till I’m really awake).
Second: No more Lance. Paddling free of the hype-and-glitz whirlpool for a second — the cancer miracle, the celebrity girlfriend and all the rest — as an athlete the guy is really in a class by himself not just in cycling but in all sports. It’s astounding: his ability to plan and train the way he has all this time, and the combination of strength, guts and genius to perform when the moment demands it and resist the daily efforts of scores of people who have dedicated themselves to beating you. That has been thrilling to watch year in and year out; and — I probably have lots of company — I’m just a little sad to see it come to an end.