Last night, the Versus network featured a rehash of the “Epid Feud” (their spelling) of “the Contador-Armstrong affair from last year. The broadcast was peppered with such phrases as “the Contador-Armstrong feud threatens to explode” and descriptions of Armstrong as the “greatest champion” (debatable, since what has he done outside of the Tour de France? (Yes, I realize this is like seeing someone walk on water and saying What, is that all he can do?) ) vs. Contador, “the man who wants to take his title.” As if for everyone else, the Tour is just a casual spin in the park . . . . At least one rider had the wisdom to observe, “You’ve got two hundred guys in the Race. It’s not just two.”
It was also necessary to review Contador’s claim that Lance was “just another rider” after he (Contador) dropped him. But Lance is not just another rider, like him or not. He is one of those larger-than-his-sport/skill characters like Merckx, Babe, Brett, Elvis, Cher, Sinatra, Prince, Ali: When only one name serves to identify you to the public, at least that part of the public that is remotely interested in what you do, then you are not just another anything.
The footage from last year’s Tour also featured the obligatory characters sprinting briefly along with racers, often dressed in embarrassing, exotic costumes (though, fortunately, the giant water bottle with surgically grafted legs was missing form the parade). Why is it usually males who feel the need to engage in this sort of kamikaze run? Why not go to the Indy car track and try that? And why can there be such a dearth of topless Janet Jackson look-alikes among them?
Between reviews of last year’s battles, we were treated to promotions for Indy car races in which a car goes end-over-end and bursts into flames. If only a bike crash could result in flames, cycling might gather an audience to compete in size with the flashier sports. Watching a man in bike shorts sit on the ground and wonder where he's at is almost as entertaining as watching a baseball player spit or waiting for Tiger Woods to grope someone. Then again, while Versus was beating the Tour drum, ESPN dwelt on baseball and the NBA. (You will believe a man can hit a ball with a stick! You will believe that rubber balls bounce!)
But none of the Lance-Alberto drama matters. George Hincapie will finally come into his own and win the Tour. It will be a great day for Georges everywhere.