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October 14, 2010

Sketchy Cycling with Lance Armstrong

Photo At 10:42 a.m., Lance Armstrong sent out the following Twitter message to his 2.6 million tweeps: "Hey Vermont - let's ride!! 4pm in Waterbury. Corner of Main St & Warren Ct at what looks like a park to me (on Google Earth). #twitterride!"

To bike dorks, here's what the message actually sounded like: "Hey buddy. Just blowin thru town 4 a few hours. Dying 2 see u. Wanna come 4 a ride?"

As a result of that reading of Lance's tweet, just about every Spandex-clad cycling nerd in northern and central Vermont showed up at 4 p.m. on the dot to ride with Lance. You know, an intimate little spin.

But it wasn't just bike weenies who showed up. There were parents and their kids, gawking office workers and people who just love seeing a celebrity, even if it's one who's under federal investigation for doping allegations. Oh, and me. I was there. On my Huffy. 

Around 4 p.m., the assembled crowd got word that Sir Lance had just arrived at BTV and was en route. We know this because he Tweeted was was going to be late. Because he's Lance Armstrong, he's probably allowed to use his cell phone on the plane. He's also probably allowed to man the flight controls and carry on liquids in containers larger than three ounces. You know, just cuz he's Lance. 

The waiting around gave me ample opportunity to check out what the crowd was wearing. There were folks in their fancy team kits who looked ready to paceline from here to New Hampshire. Other folks wore all manner of cancer-fighting LIVESTRONG (live strongly, perhaps?) paraphernalia, from branded hoodies and T-shirts those loathsome yellow silicone bracelets. Some folks chose to show their support by wearing full replica Team Radio Shack kits, which is sort of like wearing a Michael Bublé t-shirt to a Michael Bublé concert. Dude, we know you like him; that's why you're here. 

But the top prize in the afternoon's best-dressed competition goes to the fellow who boldly wore cycling tights made to look like acid washed jeans. If only he'd had the Spandex jean jacket top that went with them. Then the look would be complete. Kudos to you, brother! Somewhere, Twisted Sister is jealous. 

IMG_5100These tights are a thing of beauty. 

We were all getting a little antsy when out of nowhere, Lance rolled up. It was like he rode in on the mist. More likely, one of his handlers for the three hours that he was scheduled to be in our fair state dropped him off around the corner after he did a quick change into his bike kit in the car. Unless he's like Superman and wears that thing under his street clothes. Then he hopped out and pedaled up to the group like "Oh, hey guys. What are you doing here?"

Unsurprisingly, the crowd descended on him like frat guys on a beer bong. Within a few seconds of him cruising up to the group of about 200, Lance was swarmed by people, every single one of whom seemed to shove a camera in his face. While I was angling for a photo or two, up popped WCAX's sports dude Seth Leavitt, who seemed to have materialized from underneath the crowd. Sneaky TV people.

IMG_0477Lance never talks to a lady without his helmet on. Photo by Rose Long

Anyway, with Seth all up in Lance's junk, picture-time was over. Luckily, the interview didn't take long and then it was on to the riding portion of Lance's micro-visit. He was in Vermont to speak at the Mary Haas Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Foundation Awareness Dinner at Sugarbush. But only for a few hours — he had to get back to Colorado where one of his baby mamas was about to pop out yet another Armstrong progeny. This'll be the fifth. Pretty impressive for a guy with only one nut.

The ride itself went like this: spazzy cyclists hammered to get next to his Lanceness and people were all over the road. It was like herky-jerky flash mob cycling. Despite some direction by the finest Mayberry-style cops in Vermont, the (mostly male) cyclists were out of control, riding all over the road.  What is it about seeing sports celebrities that makes so many men desperate to sniff jock? I mean, I love cycling, but I wanted to ride Lance's jock about as much as I want to eat hot tar, which is not that much. 

Photo-1Lance getting schooled in the art of hill climbing by UVM cycling team member Rose Long. 

While I and a few compadres tootled up the hills of Route 100 heading towards Sugarbush, others were doing whatever it took to keep pace with seven-time Tour de France winner Lance — passing slowpokes by crossing the double yellow line, riding on the opposite shoulder, injecting human growth hormone into their bums, you name it. For real, my lungs were burning about a mile into the damn trip. Out of the gate, we were going like 25 miles per hour. Uphill. 

Now, I'm not going to say I got dropped from the peloton. I'm going to say that I voluntarily removed myself from the pack when it seemed prudent to do so. No one knew exactly where the ride was going — some people said Lance was riding all the way to Sugarbush — and I didn't want to get stuck out in Fayston in the dark. So I turned around and pedaled back to my car. 

Apparently, I didn't miss much. Lance road the 7.5 miles to the intersection with Rt. 100b, pulled off in the car turnaround, pressed some flesh, posed for some photos, kissed some babies and then told the crowd he was sorry he had to dash, but he had to go give a talk about being awesome and hating cancer. Then he hopped in a van and drove off. The rest of the cyclists, or rather, those who followed Lance the whole way and managed not to crash on some sketchy downhills, turned around and rode back to their cars in the fading light.  

Lance headed off to the black-tie optional, invitation-only event ($250 a plate, $1000 for a private meet-and-greet ticket) and flew out shortly thereafter. Though he's heading back to his other lady in Colorado, at least I know we'll always have Waterbury. 

Hey Lauren,
Ugh, sounds pretty negative. Why did you go? Your article left a pretty cynically bad taste in my mouth.
Oh well,

Wow....bitter much??????

You crack me up! I hope Google can handle the search requests today for those acid washed cycling tights.

"To bike dorks, here's what the message actually sounded like: 'Hey buddy. Just blowin thru town 4 a few hours. Dying 2 see u. Wanna come 4 a ride?'"

Why, do all bike dorks think that Twitter is a private messaging system?

It seems like you have a problem with what Armstrong did, but it's unclear why, exactly. Is it because he only "road" 7.5 miles?

Acid washed spandex? Is that what the kids are calling "jeggings"?

Oh, Jimmy.... Do you EVER drink decaf?

It's humor. Unwad those panties and lighten up. You'll live longer and probably avoid the cancer Lance is fighting.

Sorry Ken, I don't think referring to Armstrong as "a guy with one nut" is particularly funny, and not just because it's tasteless; and neither is your cancer quip. You might be surprised to learn that most people aren't amused by cancer.

Sound like, with all the people coming out to see him, that this is a common occurrence, and he tried to A) let as many people see him and get the Lance-vibe as possible, and B) deal with the constraints of what is probably a hectic schedule. I wish I could have gone and put my rusty Columbia through its paces.
I don't envy Lauren's role in this - a reporter there to report on the event - I think that the real experience is for the fans.
That being said it would have been insightful to hear more form the "mobs" view, instead of the reporters view on the "mob".

I'm not a Lance Armstrong fan but man, the bitterness, childishness, and self-righteousness of this piece is astounding.

First, those "loathsome yellow bands" and the foundation they advertise have raised over $250 million for cancer research in the hopes that other men won't ever have to have "one nut" and you won't ever have to have one tit. What have YOU done to better this world, Lauren? I thought your comments were pretty loathsome, especially considering what cancer did to P.F.

Second, why is everyone who swarms to get a picture of Lance considered a "frat guy on a beer bong" except when you do it and it's simply "angling for a photo or two"? An intentional juxtaposition to show how great you are?

And finally, Ken, if anyone has their panties in a bunch, it's the overly-defensive Seven Days staff. You guys need thicker skin and higher self esteem.


Alan Cote of the BFP did a better job of getting insight from the "mob":

Why report on the news if all you're doing is showing bitterness for no apparent reason? I expect more when I come to 7 days than a negative, poorly written article making fun of as many people as possible.

I gotta say I am a fan of 7Days, but this article/blog post was just poor! The Free Press had ya beat here 7Days. If I want to turn to you for decent coverage 7Days, ya can't put forth crap like this. NO balance only cynical report.

I'd have to agree with most of the previous folks. Snarkiness is not very becoming, 7 Days.

I'm so pissed I missed this! I was in meetings all day and saw his tweet about 5 minutes after they had already left. I suppose now I'll have to glue my face to my twitter feed :)

This piece is very disrespectful to survivors of testicular cancer.

Would Olber refer to women who have had a mastectomy as women `with one tit`?

She should be able to write a fun piece without being so disrespectful.

juliet macur,a reporter of simular bent on sullying the hard ass armstrong. 1 testy i dont think so.under indictment is not guilt, what ever happen to the presumption of innocence.on an on!! fame and fortune, the mix for the philistine to be just, the philistines

Read through this, laughed my head off, read through the comments and boggled. These celebrity events really are absurd if you think about it, and quite frankly, I think Lance fans could do with the ability to laugh right about now. It makes getting through apprehensive times like this far easier.

(Full disclosure:I have a huge love/hate complex about the guy. Though I kind of really don't want him to get sent to prison for what his opponents probably all did too)

funny stuff. thanks.

I'm in the love/loathe camp. But underneath those feelings, I respect the man.

I would love to draw that sort of crowd to support causes I'm interested in.

More bad writing by 7days. Do the writers have degrees?

Oh my, the Lance Fanboy-ism is strong in here today. I enjoyed it, Lo.

A bit distasteful at places, but funny and really well written piece. Beats anything produced by the copy machine interns at BFP. We need more of this stuff! I suppose some people think you can't criticize a man who did so much good for others. I suggest you look into the foundation's financial statements, hopefully it'll open your eyes. You could find it to be closer to a handy personal spending account, a tax saving tool, clever business operation. Not what most of us imagine under the word "foundation". Using it as an umbrella policy against anything negative bothers me the most.

The man may be a great biker in a very dirty sport. He and his off-the-bike activities show he is more likely very negative character, or a tool of very despicable people.

A sad situation no matter how you look at it. I hope Rose kicked his a$s up that climb.

Floyd Landis? THE Floyd Landis? Doper, cheater, and liar? You're gonna criticize ANYONE? You shouldn't even offer an opinion on other dopers, cheaters, and liars. Bicycle racing could have been a great sport if it weren't for losers like you. Go fix your own life instead of trying to help us with ours.

Re: the author's one ball comment.

Lance makes a joke of its existence himself, calling his ranch Juan Pelota.

Got a laugh (especially at some of the un PC stuff). Thank you for this! But what amazed me most is the lack of sense of humor of his fans. Seriously, they all should just chill. His Lanceness!

Dear Lauren,
Obviously you have not had cancer. The dopey bracelets actually gave me (and possibly 70 million other wearers) strength while going through chemo for five months. I would advise you not to belittle ANY aspect of the Livestrong campaign until you have gotten thru life-threatening cancer. Which I don't wish you to have. WHich Lance doesn't wish you to have. Which is why he is world-beloved--because he fights a global fight against cancer. Oh, and he's a pretty good bike rider.

Who are you to judge? Really. Get a stronger-life.

Great piece, Lauren - I was out of town for Lance's visit - glad I got your take on the experience!

After watching close friends and family die from cancer and being a fellow endurance athlete, I applaud and respect anyone famous or not who has the courage and tenacity to challenge him or herself both physically and mentally to benefit the greater good. Shame on someone who can so callously and publicly humiliate even her fellow Vermonters who ride for a cause and symbolize what is so great about their sport and our home. A balanced narrative is warranted for a star who is far from perfect, but those who insult without due merit are either miserable and jealous or the biggest hypocrites I have ever witnessed!

What an uninteresting and misplaced attempt at humor. One of the only times in recent memory that I've preferred the reporting of the Free Press over Seven Days. Oh well.

Wonder if Lauren would have ripped the event as badly if it had been a Critical Mass event, Dragon Boat Race(breast cancer fundraisers) or a Gay PRide parade. May be is was another veiled shot at rich people, god knows Vter's hate rich people. Cyclists are geeks and easy targets. Kinda like picking on the kids on the short bus. If Mohamed Ali came to Waterbury would he have had the same review?

The "loathsome yellow band" on my right wrist connects me to my father, who died three years ago of cancer.

I enjoy being able to feel a sense of remembrance for a lost loved one. It has nothing to do with you, or anyone else. If my yellow band fuels the fire that is your snarkiness -- well, I'm fine with that.

Do you understand that a high volume of commercialization is what cancer foundations WANT? They want to make awareness almost a "trend" because guess what? THEY NEED MONEY. FOR CANCER RESEARCH. They need to charge $250 a plate because THAT MONEY GOES TO CANCER RESEARCH.

Do you even have a heart? Or a college degree? I'm honestly disgusted with your opinions... and existence.

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