Armstrong to win green jersey in Tour of the Gila?

A green jersey at Gila?

Lance Armstrong has a closet full of yellow jerseys. Maybe somebody should award him a green jersey. Green as in cashola because wherever Armstrong goes, the money flows.

As the superstar cyclist heads to the Tour of the Gila with his two Radio Shack buddies, Levi Leipheimer and Jason McCartney, New Mexico tourism officials can already taste the silver dollars.

“We estimated that the race and the state received about $400,000 to $500,000 in magazine, website and electronic media coverage and much of that was due to Team Astana being in the race last year,” said Richard Eds from the New Mexico Tourism Department. “We certainly welcome them back this year.”

When some people whine about Armstrong’s high appearance fees, just remember, that’s still a bargain rate when factoring in what Armstrong brings to the bank account: mucho green. He’s a money magnet.

“Lance Armstrong and Team Astana competing in the Tour of the Gila last year meant thousands of dollars in extra media coverage and increased the visibility of this event, and thus New Mexico, many fold,” Eds said. “Hotels and restaurants were happy to have Lance and the team in town and will be equally excited this year to have Lance, Levi and Radio Shack in the race again.”

Having Armstrong at Gila is pure gold. Almost nobody has the fund raising skills of the Armstrong Foundation and it’s also hard to beat Armstrong when it comes to getting people to spend dollars. Armstrong is like the Pope, Brad Pitt, Obama and Bono of U2 all rolled into one. Who doesn’t want a piece of that? Armstrong walks on water and where ever he goes, his disciples follow. Even into the desert of New Mexico. Where doesn’t thou leadest oh famous endurance athlete?

According to an article posted on the web site of Forbes Magazine, Armstrong is the “most influential athlete in the country.” Half of all Americans recognize Lance Armstrong’s name. Nearly one-third view him as “influential.” And 46 percent “like him a lot,” according the data. Money and influence go well together.

So between April 28th and May 2nd, his biggest charity will be the state of New Mexico. Mellow Johnny will ride under his own bike shop brand since the UCI prohibits ProTour teams from competing in events like Gila.

“This is really cool, could not be happier about the direction of our race, the fact that Levi and Lance are coming back, and that the fields are stacked with North America’s best riders,” said Race Director Jack Brennan. “This will be a showcase of talent.” Exactly — and a showcase of dollars.

All joking aside, it’s worth giving Armstrong serious credit for keeping American races alive and doing whatever he can to boost the domestic racing scene. When you consider his astonishing number of commitments, both for charities, business ventures, appearances, endorsement obligations and world travel to meet dignitaries around the world, it’s amazing he still has energy to pedal a bike. And did we forget to mention four kids? Hell, he even does the Pinewood Derby race.

While Alberto Contador goes to bed every night at a reasonable hour and thinks of nothing outside the narrow confines of bike racing, Armstrong moves in another stratosphere. And it’s the color of green.

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