Our hero, Lance Armstrong

Who is the cyclist wearing sunglasses, a white T-shirt and gray cargo shorts in the video? Lance Armstrong, 7 times winner of the Tour de France.

Everyone is riding brakeless fixies. First instance of blowing a red light (0.52) — video is cut abruptly while only the first couple of cyclists are in the intersection. Swerving around cars, speeding between them and startling the drivers (1:11 and elsewhere). Riding four and five across, taking up the entire road. Camera motor scooter passes a moving vehicle on the right (1:19). Riding while carrying a beer keg in one hand (1:48). Another red light run — especially brazen, while passing a waiting vehicle on the right, then turning left at high speed into moving cross traffic (1:56). Passing a through vehicle on the left, some cyclists then turning right in front of it while others including Lance merge in front of it inside the intersection, motorist blows horn (2:10). Riding around the left side of a traffic circle (2:16).

Ride draws attention from the police (2:35), and this is included in the video. Our hero appears to have special status with the police — the ride continues unabated. Trick riding in the street facing backwards on the bicycle (3:15). Foul language and a clear shot of the beer keg (4:20). More trick riding in the street (4:29), cyclist riding on handlebars. More trick riding (4:47, two cyclists leaning against each other). What appears to be vandalizing of a signal control box (5:13). Lots of shots that are cut just as a critical situation develops. Few helmets.

I’m no slave to authority, thank you. Think about how our great country got its start. But what’s the point here? The video only builds the image of cyclists as scofflaws, rowdies and daredevils, and it has the imprimatur of our nation’s most famous cyclist. As this is a heavily-edited video, I can imagine that the ride included more craziness than was shown.

A cyclist who cared about the reputation of cycling would not ride with this group, or if taken by surprise, would refuse to continue, or to be included in the video. Instead, Lance was a willing and eager participant. And he was in his mid-30s and the father of three children when this was shot — with enough life experience, I would hope, to understand the responsibility that accompanies fame, and the importance of his example to younger folks.

I read his book, It’s Not About the Bike, and so got to experience in some small way the drama of his illness and recovery. I rooted for him in the Tour de France, year after year. I saw him on the Charlie Rose show a few years ago, and he is an impressive interviewee. But now he has lost his creds with me as a spokesman for cycling. It’s like — it’s like Shoeless Joe Jackson, the baseball player who conspired to throw the World Series in the 1919 Chicago Black Sox scandal. A boy is reported to have uttered the immortal line “say it ain’t so, Joe” as Jackson left the courthouse after pleading guilty.

The video has over 330,000 views as of March 25, 2010. The Youtube page has lots of semi-literate comments heavy with admiration and foul language.

I suppose that times have changed.

One Response to Our hero, Lance Armstrong

  1. Lance has long been a scofflaw, and he has been more part of the problem more than the solution. He has no real concept of a bicycle s a legal vehicle, but as an extra-legal device he uses/plays with on public streets. I’ve been seeing it since he was a teenage phenom in Dallas, Texas.

    I jokingly comment that I coached Lance once. Back when he was younger, he and a companion blew through a stop sign across some exit/entrance ramps I was stopped at. I caught up with them where the parallel trail they had gotten onto crossed a busy highway. I was on the cross street, and they were on the parallel trail, as we all waited for the light. I commented that they really shouldn’t have run the stop sign a quarter a mile back. Lance suggested that I try a physically impossible sex act.

    I know he has matured since then, but I keep seeing the same mind-set displayed in his attitude toward bicycles and bicycle facilities.

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