Tag Archives: social commentary

The Twitter of Little Birds

Sunburst through the oaks while cycling along a sleepy English lane in SussexYou really have to wonder what goes through the minds (so to speak) of some people, most particularly that of a 21 year-old trainee accountant named Emma Way who this week not only clipped a cyclist with her car while breezing down a road in Norwich, and failed to stop, but then was actually dumb enough to boast about the incident on Twitter. “Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier,” she twitted. “I have right of way –  he doesn’t even pay road tax! #bloodycyclists!”

She was lucky indeed that it wasn’t a bloody cyclist she left in her wake. Toby Hockney, the cyclist she clipped and who was participating in the 100-mile Boudicca sportive, escaped uninjured after bouncing into a hedge, although, as he points out, he could easily have been killed.  He was phlegmatic about it, and after a few roadside repairs to his bike went on to finish the sportive. He wasn’t inclined to take the matter further. And so his brush with death amongst the hedgerows might just have passed as yet another of the countless incidents between motorist and cyclists that take place on Britain’s roads had it not been for Miss Way’s incredible stupidity in twitting about it, broadcasting her total ignorance of road laws, her recklessness, carelessness and her callous disregard for the lives and safety of other road users.

The Norfolk police got wind of it and twitted back to her words to the effect that they would very much like to speak with her at her earliest convenience. As her gob-smacking twitter post made the rounds and went viral, the accountancy firm where she was a trainee got wind of it too and have apparently voiced their dissatisfaction, for not only do they not want to have their employees becoming notorious but the firm sponsors cycling and running events around Norfolk. Suddenly Miss Way’s cosy little world began looking a little rocky.

So last night she went on ITV, with a lawyer by her side, and, in a mind-boggling two-minute interview expressed profound regret – for tweeting about the incident! Incredibly, that was what she saw as her big mistake. Not reckless endangerment, not hitting a cyclist, not leaving the scene and failing to report an accident, not even her utterly ignorant and ill-informed opinion on the matter of road tax. Her sole mistake had been making that damn tweet. Her on-air catharsis was overwhelmingly about poor Emma, how she was being made to suffer unduly for an ill judged spur-of-the-moment post on twitter! How she’d been suspended from her job and now found her career in jeopardy, and might face prosecution and all because – in her view – she hadn’t grasped the runaway power of social media. In other words she was horribly, horribly sorry she’d been caught.  “If I could take back that tweet, I would,” she sighed.

I’ll just bet she would.

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Cycling in Saudi Arabia

wheels_of_chanceSo I see women are finally being allowed to ride bicycles in that bastion of enlightenment, Saudi Arabia. A recent easing of restrictions on out-of the-home activities for the distaff side of the Kingdom’s populace means that women and girls will be able to get out on their bikes …sort of.

It seems they will be allowed to go cycling as long as they ride only in recreational parks – not on roads, and certainly not to commute to jobs or schools. Even then they can ride only while draped in their full body-concealing costume (what a delight that must be on a hot day), and at that only if they are accompanied by a male relative. Golly. What fun.

Thin end of the wedge? One can only hope. I suppose the cracks have to start somewhere. And where better than on a bicycle. Looking back over the past century and a bit, to the glory days of the bicycle in the 1890s, it is easy to forget what a difference the bicycle made to women’s liberation.

Once the tipping point was reached women took to cycling in droves. From the sudden fashionableness of bloomers to the bicycle’s becoming the vehicle of liberated women and suffragettes, the bike was at the forefront of social change at the turn of the century. As early women’s right advocate Susan B. Anthony put it: “The bicycle has done more to emancipate women than anything in the world.” Or as Maria Ward, author of Bicycle for Ladies wrote:  “Riding the wheel, our powers are revealed to us.” Maybe the same will – eventually – happen in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

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The Jungle

Urban JungleI am only too aware of my vulnerability when I go pedalling all alone though the darkened streets in town and along our desolate seafront promenade at unsociable hours in the morning, especially when I stop and set up my tripod to take self-timer photos. I keep a wary eye out and over the past year and a bit of doing this have developed an almost deer-like sensitivity to the approach of anything that might be a predator.

Some places along my route I simply won’t stop and shoot, however photogenic they might be, not being satisfied with the lines of sight, deep shadows and the general tenor of the neighbourhoods. Other places I am fairly relaxed, the Bexhill seafront being one, where most of the early birds I encounter are either joggers, council workers or people out walking their dogs, and projecting innocence, harmlessness and bright-eyed early morning ambition.

So I was unpleasantly surprised the other morning when I was all set up with tripod and camera and preparing to do a series of moonlight photos around the King George V Coronation Pavilion,  when I sensed a malevolent presence behind me. I turned to see a man with a very large dog standing a few paces away, completely motionless, staring at me and giving off a really creepy, hostile vibe.  His face was in shadow, but neither his silhouette or that of the dog was familiar; I was sure that I had never seen him before.

As I took this in, not at all liking his suddenly being there, he gave the dog a nudge. It lunged and snarled and although it was on a lead, thank God, it was very intimidating.

And then came the really creepy bit. Instead of walking on, as I expected he would, the shadowy man just stood there in silence staring hard at me, while the dog – some kind of a mastiff – kept hurling itself to the end of the lead, snarling viciously, straining to be let loose to attack. A whole minute passed this way, maybe two. It was scary and intimidating. He was no more than half a dozen paces away. He made no attempt to calm the dog, or to address me, or to continue his walk. He just stood there, silently, creepily, letting his obviously savage mastiff make lunge after lunge in my direction, apparently enjoying his little game.

I had enough, my interest in photographing the King George V Coronation Pavilion fast waning. I gathered up my tripod to use as a weapon, if need be, and sidled around behind my bicycle. “Is there something I can do for you?” I called out, an edge in my voice. The man stared for another few seconds, his dog continuing to snarl and lunge, before he replied. He said: “Fuck you.”

And with that he silenced his dog with a hissed command and then strolled on, staring hard over his shoulder at me as he walked away, projecting malignancy every step of the way.  I gave him some distance, packed my things away and rode on – in the opposite direction. By and large my experiences in the saddle have tended me to the belief that the world and its people are overwhelmingly good, but all the same you just never really know who or what you are going to meet when you set out on a dark and lonely ride.

 

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It’s Not About The Book

You have to wonder what in the world Lance Armstrong was thinking when he decided to unburden himself the other day on Oprah Winfrey’s cable TV show. It is evident from reading the transcript that his volte face and mea culpa wasn’t prompted by a sudden spiritual awakening, desire to cleanse his soul and make amends.

Clearly the man has a deeper, more cunning and undoubtedly more selfish game plan he is playing to. Presumably it looked good to him when he went on air, and perhaps it still does, but as the days drift by with no sign that his much-too-little, much-too-late confession has earned him anything but scorn, you have to wonder where he thinks he is going with all this. Certainly not to the USADA, despite his gallant claims of wanting to clean up the sport and their invitations to come forward and have a chat – under oath, if you don’t mind. His lawyers say he is far too busy to spare the time.

Far too busy doing what, one wonders. Training? For what? He’s banned for life from all meaningful competition. Connecting with sponsors? He doesn’t have any. Doing charitable work for Livestrong? Er…probably not. Bunkering down with his legal team? Now there’s a possibility…

Among the new challenges their client is facing this week is a lawsuit launched by Rob Stutzman a former deputy chief of staff from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s old office who is suing Lance and seeking compensation and damages for the disillusionment he felt at having forked out good cash money (rrp$25.99) for Lance’s bestselling book It’s Not About The Bike. He is joined in the lawsuit by a local amateur cyclist named Jonathon Wheeler who also claims to feel ‘duped’ and ‘betrayed’ after having purchased the book.

I have to say my sympathies are all with the defendant on this one. Both the plaintiffs apparently bought Lance’s book years ago, and both claimed to have enjoyed it at the time and taken inspiration from the story – Stutzman even meeting Armstrong personally and congratulating him on his Tour wins and victory over cancer. Now in the wake of his confession to Oprah, they want their money back – more than just their out of pocket costs, apparently. The court documents they filed ask for all permissible damages. In America, land of the lawsuit, that could be anything.

Now I can understand the disillusionment and the annoyance one might feel at having bought Armstrong’s book and realised later that you’d fed the machine – hell, I bought the book myself (twice!) and recommended it to people I knew who were battling cancer. And when I think back on some of the passages in there and consider how false and cynical the author, I find myself grinding my teeth a little. The guy’s an utter scoundrel, no question about it, but stepping back for a second, letting the wave of annoyance pass, what of the book itself?

It’s Not About The Bike is actually pretty well written, thanks to the ghost-writing talents of Sally Jenkins, the story being told in an engaging tone and voice and as far as I know, the basic plot premise remains true: the then up-and-coming cyclist Lance Armstrong really did beat life-threatening cancer. And a lot of people took a lot of hope from that story. He lied about his drug taking and cheating, of course, and prettied up his character beyond all recognition to those who knew his dark side, but does that change the moral worth of the book? By many, many accounts over the years It’s Not About The Bike really did help a good many cancer sufferers through their own battles with the disease.

Does the fact that he has now been comprehensively revealed to have been a sporting fraud on a breath-taking scale and a thoroughly detestable bully who ruined the lives and reputations of those who crossed him, alter the good the book has done? Certainly his now very public unlikeable-ness is not going to make many people want to buy it in the future, however well written it might be and whatever the truth about his battle against cancer.

But just as stripping titles from disgraced champions and awarding their stolen garlands to runners-up years after the event can’t give those runners up the thrill of winning and the exhilaration of standing on the podium they would have felt at the time, neither (thankfully) can subsequent revelations about Lance Armstrong’s character and his illusory sporting prowess re-work the emotions experienced by believing readers of the past, especially those who credit the book with helping them through their own battles. Even if it was a placebo, it did some good.

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The Golden Age?

Maurice Garin – stripped of his Tour de France win in 1904 for taking the train instead of riding his bike over stretches of the course

And so, the television host said to the former Tour de France champion, a man who had been lionised for years, feted as the greatest cyclist of his day, did you ever use drugs in the course of your career?

“Yes,” came the reply. “Whenever it was necessary.”

“And how often was that?” came the follow-up question.

“Almost all the time!”

This is not a leak of a transcript from Oprah Winfrey’s much anticipated tell-all with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, but was lifted from a decades-old interview with Fausto Coppi, the great Italian road cycling champion of the 1940s and 1950s.

To this day, though, Coppi is lauded as one of the gods of cycling, an icon of a distant and mythical Golden Age in the sport.

So is five-time Tour winner Jacques Anquetil, (1957, 1961-64) who famously remarked that it was impossible “to ride the Tour on mineral water.” And then there’s British cycling champion Tommy Simpson, who died of heart failure while trying to race up Mt. Ventoux during the 1967 Tour de France, a victim of heat, stress and a heady cocktail of amphetamines.

All are heroes today. If their performance enhancing peccadillos are not forgotten, they have at least been glossed over in the popular imagination.

As the latest chapter of the sorry Lance Armstrong saga unfolds, it is worth looking at the history of cheating in the Tour de France to get a sense of perspective. This is not an attempt at rationalisation or justification for what Lance did. Far from it.

But the simple, unpalatable fact is that cheating, drugs and dirty tricks have been part and parcel of the Tour de France nearly from its inception in 1903.

Cheating was so rife in the 1904 edition that Henri Desgrange, the founder and organiser of the Tour, declared he would never run the race again. Not only was the overall winner, Maurice Garin, disqualified (for taking the train over significant stretches of the course), but so were next three place-getters along with the winner of every single stage of the course.

Of the 27 cyclists who actually finished that race, 12 were disqualified, and given bans ranging from one year to life. The race’s eventual official winner, 19 year-old Henri Cornet, was not determined until four months after the event.

And so it went. Henri Desgrange relented on his threat to scrub the Tour de France and the great race survived and prospered – as did the antics. Trains were hopped, taxis taken, nails scattered along the roads, partisan supporters enlisted to beat up rivals on late-night lonely stretches of the course, signposts were tampered with, bicycles sabotaged, itching powder sprinkled in competitor’s jerseys and shorts, food doctored, and inkwells smashed so riders yet to arrive couldn’t sign the control documents to prove they’d taken the correct route.

And then of course there were the stimulants – brandy, strychnine, ether, whatever—anything to get a rider through the nightmarishly tough days and nights of racing, along stages that were often over 200 miles long. In a way the race was tailor made to encourage this sort of thing. Henri Desgrange once famously said that his idea of perfect Tour de France would be one that was so tough that only one rider finished.

Add to this the big prizes at a time when money was hard to come by, a peloton largely comprising young riders from impoverished backgrounds to whom bicycle racing was their one big chance to get ahead, and the passionate following cycling enjoyed, and you had the perfect recipe for a desperate, high stakes, win-at-all-costs mentality, especially given the generally tolerant views on alcohol and drugs in those days.

After WWII came the amphetamines. Devised to keep soldiers awake and aggressive through long hours of battle they were equally handy for bicycle racers competing in the world’s longest and toughest race.

So what makes the Lance Armstrong story any different and his road to redemption any rougher? Well, for one thing none of the aforementioned riders were ever the point man for what the USADA has described in a 1000-page report as “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program sport has ever seen” – one whose secrecy and efficiency was maintained by ruthlessness, bullying, fear and intimidation. Lance was.

Somewhere along the line the casualness of cheating in the past evolved into an almost Frankenstein sort of science in which cyclists, aided by creepy doctors and trainers, were receiving blood transfusions in hotel rooms and tinkering around with their bodies at the molecular level many months before they ever lined up for a race.

To be sure, Lance didn’t invent all this, any more than he invented original sin, nor was he acting alone, but with his success, money, intelligence, influence and cohort of $1000-an-hour lawyers, and the way he used all this to prop up the Lance brand and the Lance machine at any cost he became the poster boy and – deserved – lightning rod for all that went wrong with cycling, his high profile eclipsing even the heads of the UCI who richly deserve their share of the blame. And so it will be interesting to hear what he has to say this evening, whether or not he cares to address, really address, the injuries he has done to so many people over the years, and looking further ahead, to how this ugly chapter in cycling history and its ruthless protagonist will appear to future generations, a few decades from now – colourful rogue or one of sporting history’s greatest scoundrels.

 

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Last Refuge of A Scoundrel

It used to be that patriotism was the last refuge of a scoundrel. Not anymore. Nowadays it seems it is the talk show, and in the case of the scoundrel I have in mind, a cathartic and no-doubt tearful interview with Oprah Winfrey in which the disgraced Lance Armstrong is at long last expected to give his mea culpa and admit to cheating throughout his career. Rumours began circulating a week ago that the boy was contemplating the idea of sticking his hand up and saying ‘I done it’. And sure enough, shortly after the possibility was floated and nothing too drastic happened to rock the Armstrong boat, we hear that Lance is booked for a tell-all interview with Oprah. It just had to be Oprah. Anything less would lack dramatic unity.

After all it was the high church of Oprah Winfrey where the likes of disgraced Olympic sprinter Marion Jones sought forgiveness, along a host of other fallen celebrities. It is a calculated gamble of course – as are most of Lance’s moves – done in the quite realistic hope that if Oprah forgives, America will too and maybe, just maybe, there will be a payoff in the form of a reduction in his lifetime ban from elite competition.  It is a nice deal for Oprah too, since her new cable TV efforts haven’t exactly set the world on fire – the big tell-all interview with Lance will send her ratings through their presently rather low roof, at least when the interview is aired on Thursday night in the US.

Naturally there is lots of speculation about what the expected confession will cost Lance in terms of lawsuits, perjury charges, repayments of winnings, bonuses and other legal nightmares he might be facing, but from what I have read he seems to have the statute of limitations in his corner, along with some very, very formidable legal talent and a personal fortune of something like $100 million to fund his own side of any court battles. The costs and degrees of difficulty that would be faced by anybody but the US Government itself in taking on the Lance machine might well make the game not worth the candle. And as for Uncle Sam, well, he walked abruptly away from his investigation, quietly and without any explanation way last February and thus far has shown no interest in resuming it. Lance is probably fairly safe.

As for the TV appearance and widely expected mea culpa – the news networks today are all saying he ‘fessed up in the interview, which was filmed yesterday at Lance’s house in Austin – it is bound to be rather grotesque, whatever he says, and whoever else he blames.

As far as my two cents goes (not far), it is not the drug taking that is the really nasty part of the story – after all it seems the peloton was nearly all dirty in the 1990s, early 2000s and so in that sense it was a level playing field; he cheated better than his peers, that’s all – what I find troubling is the bullying and ruthless destruction of anyone who got in his way, or raised a question or cast a doubt. And by all accounts he was absolutely vicious, ruthless and vindictive as hell. He left a lot of wreckage behind him.

If Lance is genuinely sorry – truly repents – his past ‘indiscretions’ one would think his first act would be to try to find some way of not only seeking forgiveness from those who he brutally put down, but to do something meaningful to repair the damage he did to their lives and livelihoods. Perhaps he will. I don’t know. I hope so.  They deserve it. And if he truly was sorry he would see that. And if Oprah does her job as an interviewer she would raise some of these questions, and elicit his views on what he did to others and what he feels he owes them – besides an appearance on Oprah

I won’t hold my breath though. I’ve not seen the interview, so maybe it really is full of tearful genuine repentance and a heartfelt desire to put things right as best he can, whatever the cost, financially and personally. But my sense is that this kind of thing is not in his nature or his game plan.  Nor, I am guessing,is it in anybody else’s. It’s not about the bike, as Lance says in his book, or the collateral damage he inflicted with it; it’s all about Lance.

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For That Run Down Feeling, Try Cycling

For the past week I have been battling a cold and cough that I seem to have picked up on our very rainy weekend away on the Isle of Wight. As unpleasant and deleterious to my riding as this as been, I can at least take comfort in the fact that my feeling ‘run down’ is only metaphorical, unlike two of Britain’s most prominent cyclists – Bradley Wiggins and his Team Sky coach Shane Sutton – who were indeed run down this past week, in separate incidents, within twenty-four hours of each other.

Happily they both survived these encounters. Although both were injured – Shane Sutton somewhat more seriously that Wiggins – the pair are likely to be in the saddle sooner rather than later, and if there is a silver lining to all this, above and beyond their survival, it is that cycling and safety on the roads has been highlighted in a very topical and newsworthy way.

Wiggins was already on the record as saying more needed to be done to make it safer for cyclists to use the roads (as is our right) – as well as calling on cyclists to do something for themselves, by riding responsibly and taking suitable precautions. I expect he may have more to say on the topic now. I hope he does. As a Tour de France winner, Britain’s first, a gold-medal Olympian and short-odds bet for British sportsperson of the year, he certainly has a bully pulpit.

But as I listened to, and read, the platitudes offered up by the usual cavalcade of talking heads, bureaucrats and politicians, all of them pompously extolling their supposedly cycling friendly credentials and the many fuzzy feel-good initiatives they support in their usual abstracted and ultimately meaningless sort of way, and then added to these platitudes the old libels being dragged out again about cyclists not paying ‘road tax’, I find myself despairing.

My homeward ride along Bexhill Road this morning did little to raise my spirits or my hopes, not with the ‘Slow Down’ sign on the roadside up ahead of me flashing on for every single car that whizzed past my elbow, not a one of them obeying the 30mph speed limit. Not a single one. And maybe two out of ten giving me the supposedly minimum legal clearance of a metre or so.

And as for cycling infrastructure, the only reason I was riding this busy, narrow and very dangerous stretch of road at all was because as unpleasant as it was, and is, it still beats riding over the mass of loose, slippery fist-sized beach cobbles that cover what the local council is pleased to call a cycle path – a new and much boasted-about cycle path at that! I can’t see that changing any time soon.

I see where the woman who clipped Bradley Wiggins with her Vauxhall as she pulled out of a petrol station forecourt – God, how many times has that nearly happened to me! – has been summonsed to appear on a charge of driving without due care and attention. In a perverse sort of way I kind of pity her. Because of the high-profile nature of the guy she ran over – a national icon, for God’s sake – she’s likely cop a much stiffer penalty, and/or suffer greater opprobrium, than if she’d run over a simple no-account like Yours Truly. A bit like in The Bonfire of the Vanities, she’ll end up playing at least in part the role of sacrificial lamb to atone for the many failings of motorized society, and justice served, the world can go on spinning just as before.

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A Wasted Opportunity

When I was returning home the other day from Bexhill-on-Sea, where I had been shooting some pictures of the pre-dawn mist that was cloaking the seafront and adding its bit of atmosphere, I discovered that while I had been busy with my camera a much thicker sea fog had crept in along the coast to the east of me and was blanketing the dangerous stretch of Bexhill Road that lay between me and home. And so I did what I hadn’t done for a long time and took the new Bexhill-Hastings cycle path that opened with such fanfare last April.

Lordy.

I hadn’t thought much of it at the time (you can read my review here) and avoided it assiduously ever since. Now, having experienced it again, with fresh eyes so to speak, all I can say is the months have not been kind. Even when new it was rough, a sort of cobbling together of a gritty beach path at one end and an almost unbelievable pot-holed access road to a cavalcade of beach huts at the other. In between these points a heavy grid-like rubber matting had been laid over the shingle on the beach. And that was it, aside from some raffish iron sculptures that had been erected at the Bexhill end of the link presumably as a sort of monument to the idea of this being a cycle path and to give the local politicos something artsy to be photographed beside at the opening ceremony.

Not only was the path as a whole rough and unpleasant to ride over, it projected an unkempt feel, even when new, that was little helped by the shabby desolation of the stretch of coast that runs along one side of the path, and the chain-link-and-barbed wire fence that runs along the other, where the Southeastern Rail marshalling yard is. The location of course, can’t really be helped – it is what it is – but surly the path never needed to be so deliberately, so derisively, down-at-heel.

The idea – or so the promotional bumf went – was to promote cycling as a genuine alternative form of transportation between Hastings and Bexhill, and provide a link that would be useful for commuters and shoppers and recreational cyclists alike, and hopefully, over time help to reduce the number of cars that are presently clogging Bexhill Road.

One would have though, given the grandly stated intentions, they might have paved it, as most dedicated bicycle paths are paved, but one would be wrong. All the council did was thrown down some rubber mesh over the shingle to connect two rough and unimproved end points, commission some sculptures and make speeches extolling their ostensibly now-proven green credentials at the opening.

Six months later, after a rainy summer, those cyclists who might actually want to use such a link are left with the hangover: a gritty washboard of a path at the (better) Bexhill end and unpleasantly long stretches of rubber mesh so covered by drifts of shingle and large rounded beach cobbles as to be all but un-rideable short of a full-suspension MBT. It is definitely no fun on a road bike, and jolting enough on an expedition tourer. Who’s going to want to do this every day? To be sure, you can still thread your way around these drifts, but it’s not hard to extrapolate from the curve. Winter is coming and the washed up cobble will only spread wider, become thicker. At this rate by next spring only those with good memories will be able to follow the path, at least over those rubber mesh sections – unless of course someone comes along to shovel it all away. And I can’t see that happening. Who’s going to spend the money? Those who oversaw the building of this $380,000 bit of tokenism have ticked their green boxes and moved on to grander things – like the $100 million Hastings-Bexhill by-pass through a conservation area to handle the expected growth in traffic.

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Lancing A Boil

Wow. In the end even Oakley walked – belatedly joining Nike, Giro, Sram, Anheuser-Busch and Trek and others in their mass abandonment of Lance Armstrong in a tumultuous week that saw the disgraced Texan stripped of all seven Tour de France titles and lose every single one of his sponsors. Not even Tiger Woods fell so hard or so fast, but then of course Tiger had the good sense to man-up and admit he made ‘mistakes’. No such statement has been forthcoming from Lance, however, nor is any expected. Instead, in a stagy, manipulative sound-bite at a 15th anniversary Livestrong gala over the weekend told his presumably dwindling crowd of supporters that he had better weeks, but had been a lot worse – a thinly veiled and emotive reference to his days as a cancer patient.

Of course Lance famously recovered from his cancer – a genuinely remarkable and courageous thing – but his present downward career spiral has all the hallmarks of being terminal. The sponsors are gone. They ain’t coming back. He can say goodbye to at least $35 million in future earnings. He can’t compete in any sanctioned sport. No more appearance money. And it’s hard to imagine his lucrative public speaking career continuing apace – unless he really does do the tearful mea culpa routine and there appears to be no sign of that. On the other hand he has the statute of limitations on his side (or seems to) and an estimated personal wealth of about $100 million, or so I’ve read. That’ll buy a lot of aloha in his own cloistered little world and so I expect he will simply shrug his shoulders and fade into the greenery, still a very wealthy man and with many good years to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. He wasn’t good to cycling, but cycling was sure good to him.

So what to make of it? Well, in announcing the UCI’s acceptance of the USADA report into Armstrong and the US Postal Team’s shenanigans, UCI president Pat McQuaid said Lance Armstrong had ‘no place in cycling’ and that he ‘deserves to be forgotten’. I’d say that’s true for the first bit, but not for the second. On the contrary, he deserves to be remembered – as a bully, a liar, a fraud and a cheat and an example of something that must never be allowed to happen again.

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Tall Tale Texans in the Saddle

Clearly I missed a trick when I took up journalism and magazine writing all those years ago, for although I have had a pleasurable well-travelled career in the interim the real money, it seems, was in fitting bicycles to their riders – or at least it is if what I read in the on-going saga of Lance Armstrong is anything to go by. Listed in the breakdown of payments in the $1 million Lance gave to the ever-helpful Dr Ferrari is a $25,000 payment that was, we are supposed to believe, given to the good doctor’s son for advice on, among other things, saddle height.

That’s mighty impressive. It makes one wonder what a full bike fitting would cost at Chez Ferrari. It also makes one wonder just how stupid we, the great unwashed, are all supposed to be. That’s the thing I find most offensive about this whole sorry train-wreck: this continual insulting of the public’s intelligence, the arrogant assumption that we are so dense, so thick, so gullible, so eager to believe the big-talking Texan that we will accept at face value absolutely anything he or his co-conspirators have to say, no matter how derisory. To be sure, there are undoubtedly people who would and do accept this nonsense – as Abraham Lincoln said you can full some of the people all the time. But not everybody, or even most people. And frankly the charade is really getting a little tiresome now.

I see where Nike, Trek, Giro and Anheuser-Busch have grown weary of the game too, feeling a little foolish one supposes, and their baling out makes one wonder how much longer their former protégé can keep playing the calliope on his own – unless he truly is as la-la as he evidently believes the rest of the world to be.

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