There’s few things that set me off like a good rumour in professional cycling. And there’s none bigger than “Lance Armstrong is making a comeback to the pro peloton and will ride the Tour”. As if by magic…
Brilliant! Utterly A to the M to the A to the ZING! It’s like sending Anna Wintour into a PETA meeting with a steak dinner. Heck I’ve seen people put their hand in a beehive with less effect.
It works like this rumour starts and then the whole cycling world goes batshit-a-tonto-mental. As Euro Peloton puts it
“As usual, Lance has managed to garner all of the attention in the cycling world, and he hasn’t even made his announcement official yet. Starting in California in February, expect the 2009 cycling season to be an absolute circus as one of the biggest names in cycling plans his comeback to the sport.”
Man alive! Paul Kimmage and David Walsh are going to be like a police dog at a protest march if it turns out to be true. The old rumours and stories will be wheeled out and we’ll still be none the wiser to the truth of it all. The keyboard heroes who know something that no one else seems to be able to prove as yet will be mashing the submit button mercilessly.
Armstrong doesn’t need it as a cyclist but as an ego maybe he needs to reclaim his reputation by staking it all on one season which he can say “SEE? I CAN AND DID WIN CLEAN BEYOND DOUBT”. Not that it matters, just do this equation:
Most globally recognisable cyclist + controversial return + rumours + significant shift in attitudes = MASSIVE headline news for cycling.
As Armstrong himself has noted, cycling did very well from his time in the sport, both financially and in terms of global popularity. Add his buy-in power for sponsors and advertisers to a reformed sport on the up again and it’s a pretty good match.
Remember: “the most tested athlete” would be riding in a “clean” peloton. Me? I’m here for the popcorn and beer.