I became one of those “crazy people on a bicycle that rode in a huge group and annoyed motorists” in 2010. I needed a new hobby that was slightly more dangerous than running on the sidewalk and wasn’t as hard on my knees. Admittedly, I never seriously watched the Tour de France until 2010 therefore missing Lance in his true heyday (hey, I was in high school!), but I did watch the highlight videos on YouTube. I used them as inspiration before my training rides. I’d get up two hours before my big Saturday rides, eat a carb-loaded breakfast and I’d watch videos of Lance crush his opponents on big climbs during the tour. These were my two favorites:
Everyone was in awe of Lance. He became a household name and put cycling on the map. Runners started trading their sneakers for carbon coated road shoes and yellow bands became the new tennis bracelet. Everyone was drinking a cup of the Lance Kool-Aid. Lance gave us hope. He inspired us to ride on and nobody can deny that.
And now he’s a liar, a cheat and a thief. Even after aggressively denying that he doped for years he came clean to Oprah last week saying he used performance enhancing drugs from 1998-2005.
So when the initial news came out about Lance again this summer I was angry, but not at Lance. I was mad at everyone else but him. I made up any excuse I could to defend him. I was mad at the critics and the UCI for waiting so long. They were dealing with doping that dated back to 1999 – 2005. It was 2012! I was mad at my friends who claimed Lance was a cheater. I became hostile when anyone around me started bad mouthing Lance. I didn’t understand why they had to be so vocal against the guy I admired so much.
And that’s when I realized it. He gave me hope and that is enough. He inspired me to ride my bike for thousands of miles, train and raise money for two-day endurance rides but most importantly he suggested that anything was possible with determination and that meant something to me. Of course I’m disappointed that he lied. He built his entire empire on top of an enormous and hurtful calumny. And now comes the fallout where so many people are discouraged because of his lie. That breaks my heart, but I’ve chosen to see how he positively impacted my fitness and be glad. If you were a Lance fanboy (or girl) I feel your pain. I have the same yellow apparel and yes, there is a part of me that wants to burn it, but I challenge you to stand taller. Be glad for the hope he ignited in your rides and your fights against cancer and admit that, at the time, it was enough. It’s okay if he’s no longer your hero, he’s not mine either. You can stop defending him, I will too. And once
you we do, a weight will be lifted and that chip on our shoulder will begin to heal.
So now what? I need a new hero and I see something really exciting in Evelyn Stevens.