For my own well-being, I try not to make a habit of listening to former World Tour pros. I just don’t think there’s much perspective to be gained from a bunch of 130-pound man-children with 470-watt FTPs.
But quarantine stir-craziness led me to bend my own rule long enough to watch ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary, “LANCE.” And the experience mostly confirmed why I set that life rule for myself in the first place.
Wisdom and repentance have grown on the 49-year-old Lance Armstrong with the patchiness of a 14-year-old’s beard. He is, like a shitty wine, no finer for his time in the barrel.
Having long used rage (and every conceivable chemical) to drive his pedals, Armstrong has yet to learn that anger is no fuel for a good man’s life. More than once in the film, the confused former athlete urges us to wise up and join him in his spite. His mistimed message for our messed-up times: “Get your hate on!”
For me, the documentary’s most satisfying point was its end, when I got to lift my remote, press that little red button, and turn his story off.
Days later, when the next retired pro popped across my social media feed, I wasn’t exactly hungry to hear him. But I clicked on it anyway … because bikes.
And there was Phil Gaimon—cycling’s Cookie Monster—recording himself on the street. Skinny-necked, bristly-chinned, a construction mask hanging askew off the side of his jaw. Through the reflection in his sunglasses, I could see his phone in one hand and a page of notes in the other.
Like Armstrong, he had a message for the cycling world. But it couldn’t have been more different in its delivery—or its worth.
I want to write all about Gaimon’s welcoming and encouraging message to the new cyclists out there—the thousands upon thousands of North Americans who’ve bought bikes to help deal with the pandemic’s springtime shutdown. And I want to tell you the advice he had for them in dealing with “the old school types in this sport (who) kind of have a cactus up their ass a lot of the time.”
And I want to tell you how he pivoted to talk also to us riders with more experience—even those of us who’ve occasionally toted those fore-mentioned backside cacti.
But you really need to watch it for yourself. (I’ll wait here…)
I’m grateful for messages like his.
On the back of Armstrong’s spite, I needed that bar of soap Gaimon carries on the inside of his right arm. See, even in rejecting Armstrong’s message, I was coming pretty close to “getting my hate on.”
And if I’m going to truly enjoy riding my bike at any level of this by-turns liberating, obnoxious, welcoming, snotty, beautiful and messy sport of ours—first I better get up off my cactus.