Lance Armstrong is racing the Galveston 70.3 this weekend. If you are a triathlete, there is little doubt that you know that his return (yes I said return) to triathlon has really sparked an interest in our quarky little sport. In an online poll conducted on the Ironman Facebook page, he is the fan pick to win the men’s side of the race, but I for one am not willing to anoint him the next king of the three sports. Unbelievable sportsman, yes. King of 1/2 IM and IM racing? Not quite yet.
In the poll, fans are selecting from four athletes, but really the only two that are in contention are Lance Armstrong and Michael Raelert. As I am writing this, Armstrong has just over 400 votes and Raelert has just over 370 votes. Chris Lieto (my favorite iron distance triathlete) was going to participate in this race, but pulled out with an injury. I really as disappointed because he could almost match Armstrong’s pace on the bike. Lieto and Armstrong had a little friendly time trial in Hawaii a couple of years ago as Lieto trained for Kona. The result? Armstrong barely edged out Lieto. Barely.
Thinking back to what I wrote up about Lance Armstrong before Panama 70.3 where he came really, really close to winning, it would seem I am down on Lance. Looking at the entries related to my questions about doping and what his former teammates say about him it looks like I have some type of bone to pick with him. Could be that he was my boss in a former life and I still carry that grudge.
But I really want to like Lance. I think what you are seeing is my resistance to hitting my knees and pounding my fists on the road as he flies by me on his bike like the Tifosi used to do in Italy for their cycling campionissimo. I am not resigned to the fact that he will win every race he enters just because he is, well, Lance.
He is fantastic for the sport of triathlon. He will bring big sponsorship dollars and innovation to our sport. Other pros will enjoy the new technologies and money that he brings with him. But Lieto, Macca, Crowie, Raelert, and other top professionals need to stand up to him instead of being star struck. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think anyone has rolled over for him yet. While you have to respect his accomplishment of seven (yes seven) wins at the Tour de France, this is a new sport. It reminds me of when Michael Jordan started the new PED named “crack” and tried his hand at baseball. While Jordan never made it to the big show, he did try his best to be a two sport athlete. I think at Kona 2012, all the top pros will bring their A game and Armstrong will finish off the podium. I would like to see someone take a page out of Contador’s playbook and really use a psychological game to work Armstrong over. Except I would like to see triathletes remain drug free. Using the “it was in this hamburger I ate” excuse is not going to work with IMNA.
One athlete that was not in the poll that you should never count out is Matthew Russell. Of course I pick him mostly because of his last name and he looks just like me too. But, the native New Yorker moved down to Austin to live and train and I gotta think he has made several trip to Galveston to train on the course. Why not use your home court advantage? He is strong and I think as a dark horse, he has every chance to podium this weekend.
As for the women’s race, I think this race belongs to Caitlin Snow. Of course, if Angela Naeth was going to this race, she would be my pick for the win. Angela is in Las Vegas to race Leadman this weekend. There are some great athletes racing Leadman, but I am going to stick with my winner and say Angela, rock and roll this weekend. Go for the win. We know you have it in you.
I think it will be interesting to see who wins Galveston. If it is Armstrong, the triathlon world will go crazy. If it is anyone else, they are going to have to catch and beat him on the run, because you know no matter how much time you put on him on the swim, he is going to hunt you down like a wounded animal. You know he is going to put time on the field and barring injury or a mechanical, Armstrong will be first off the bike. It remains to be seen if Raelert and Russell (man I wish I was related to him) will be able to catch and hold him off on the run.
What do you guys think? Am I the last holdout to jump on the “Lance Armstrong is the greatest triathlete ever” bandwagon?