Lance and me

My first run in with anything Lance was when I was growing up hanging around my dad’s hardware store. Farmers and construction workers would come in to grab a “pepsi-and-a-nab.” The nab in this case would Lance crackers — you could get cheese or peanut butter.

I knew a Lance in college. Actually, one was a professor and then his son. Another Lance I knew in college was Lance Crowe who is now the Chief of Police in Travelers Rest. Good Lances all.

Then there is Lance Armstrong. While aware of him in the early part of the 2000’s, I didn’t really start paying attention to him until 2006 when I first began to get interested in road riding — and my interest in racing was piqued. He was simply an American rider who was taking it to the Euros on their own turf.

Being a new fan and cyclist, it took a little bit to get initiated into the “other side” of cycling. However, even before that point, I had already formed an impression of the Postal rider. Simply put, I thought of him as a great rider, but not someone with whom I would want to hang out.

Then the two aspects of my interest in cycling collided. There were my racer buddies whose — not all, but many — views of Armstrong varied from ambivalence to disdain. Then there were “cancer activist” friends with whom I participated in charity rides whose — not all, but many — views of the polarizing rider ranged from accepting to worshipful.

I only met Lance once. When I did I was on a bike. It was back in 2008. I was riding in a LiveStrong charity ride in Austin.

Then we hit a wide smooth road.  We had just climbed and things were leveling off and the moderately rolling.  I found myself off the front in another breakaway.  However, it wasn’t just any breakaway… I was in a five man pace line with Lance Armstrong!  We were rolling at over 30 mph.  The line kept rotating and at one point as I came around I could feel that Lance was looking over to see who his interloper was hanging with his boys.

Then I had my only conversation with Armstrong

My next encounter with Lance came after a climb.  Everyone was riding in a double pace-line.  The way this works is two riders ride up front and when they are done leading the group, they split and the next two riders move up to the front to lead for a while.  As we reached the top of a climb and we came to a turn, the lines shuffled and I led the group into the turn by myself.

As soon as we turned, I could see a long hill ahead — probably 200 yards or more.  Then I sensed someone rolling up to my left.  It was Lance.  We started to pull the group together.

I looked over and said, “Hello from Greenville, SC.”  He smiled and said, “Oh, you rode here with that group?  George told me about you guys.”  We talked a little more about the Challenge to Conquer Cancer Ride and then he said, “I’ll have to e-mail George and tell him I rode with you.”  At that point, we were about 50 yards from the top of the climb.  I said, “I’m going to pull off up at the top.  Being up here is a little out of my league.”  Lance replied, “Hey, you’re working harder than me.  Just ease up and take it easy.  There are a lot of hills up on this next section.”  “Thanks for the warning,” I said, “I think I’ll just fade back and rest up for them.”

Okay, I will admit that at that time I was pretty star-struck. The encounter didn’t change my views of the man’s personality, but how often do you find yourself in that position with any rider of international stature — a stature that up to that point was unsullied.

Today? Well, today I would say that my attitude is that I am tired of Lance. Sure, I realize that there are those who have been greatly hurt by the man and I don’t blame them at all for having some very strong feelings. I just don’t.

I have no feelings of ill toward the man. Perhaps it was because he was never that high in my estimation. He hasn’t hurt me because I have not invested anything in him.

As for Lance, I just wish he would go away. However, what I would like to go away more is the actions he participated in. Until those things are changed in the peloton, I am afraid Lance will always be with me.

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About Jonathan Pait

Jonathan started riding mountain bikes in the early 1990s. After discovering the ride can start at the end of his driveway, he moved to the road in 2006. Little did he know that first pedal stroke would lead him on an adventure that has become much larger than the bicycle.