Paul Andrews

Lance’s Chances: Not the team leader, you say??

In Bicycle Racing, Lance's Chances on December 11, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Whatever else you can say about Lance Armstrong, and we do a lot and often, he’s a master of public relations. He is helped along by the fact the bike press seems to have no institutional memory, but Lance spins as well off the cranks as on.

The latest: “Lance says he will not be Team RadioShack’s main rider,” from the widely watched, respected, and linked Guardian. Now the Guardian, to be fair, is not the bike press and perhaps can be forgiven. But really, Lance not “the main rider” of ANY team Lance is on? Puhleez.

It should be noted off the top that nowhere does Lance actually say what the headline says. What Lance did say is that it would be “irresponsible” to build TRS (techie aside: Remember those initials? As in the TRS-80, or Trash 80 as we unaffectionately nicknamed it?) around him. OK, fair enough: Parse the statement out and it’s more or less true. You want other potential winners on the team, which was not the case back when Lance was riding for Discovery Channel and U.S. Postal.

But parse it any way you want: It doesn’t mean he won’t be the “main rider.” I suppose you could split hairs about what “main rider” means, so let’s put it in simplest terms. Main rider means the focal point of the team, the team leader, the chief strategist, the guy everyone looks to for direction. No disrespect to Levi or Andreas or whomever, those guys are not going to be TRS’s “main rider” as long as Lance is in town.

What you have to keep in mind here is that Lance, at this point in the 2010 season (yeah it’s early, as in 2009), wants to get everyone on his side and on the same page. He also wants to deflect attention away from himself for the sake of team building. Kudos on those fronts.

We went through this same poor-mouthing a year ago, when there was no way Lance was going for a Tour victory, and there was no way Alberto Contador was not going to be Astana’s “main rider.” The next thing we knew there was the famous breakaway in Stage 3 and all hell broke loose.

We don’t blame Lance for gullible news reports. It’s up to the press to reality-check his truth massaging. But we’re not going to spend too much time between now and July 2010 trying to figure out who, if not Lance, will be Team Radio Shack’s main rider.

As the VeloNews version noted, after taking the same bait as the Guardian, team director Johann Bruyneel admitted, “Lance is definitely the leader of the team.” Lance says he’ll race for two more years.

Why Lance is always Da Leadah!!

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