Mercier & Armstrong. Cycling odd couple.
Just read the Telegraph story about Lance Armstrong doing regular rides in the Colorado Rockies with the “Anti-Lance” Scott Mercier, the US Postal rider who said no thanks to the team doctor handing him steroids and EPO.
According to the story, Lance began following Mercier on twitter, which made the guy a little nervous so he gave Lance his phone number to get the confrontation out of the way faster. Only it wasn’t Armstrong trying to work an angle but simply wanting to ride and talk over some personal history.
In the past, before the Great Fall, Before the Oprah Disaster, before the Chute Avec Consequences — to twist a French phrase — ordinary folks wanted to do a ride with Armstrong to see up close if he looked invincible; now they want to ride with him to see if he’s remorseful, self-aware or at the very least human.
The duo of Armstrong and Mercier, who left pro cycling and opened a restaurant in Hawaii and later went into financial planning, is certainly an odd one. Devil and Saint, which was exactly how the two were portrayed in the shocking USADA report on doping at US Postal. Mercier was the one with the unbendable moral code, Armstrong the rider who’d do anything — dope, bully and bribe — to win no matter what the collateral damages.
On Armstrong’s grand Redemption Tour, he’s made stops all over the world, meeting in person with a good number of the people he crushed on the way to seven Tour de France victories. There was former Postal soigneur Emma O’Reilly in Ireland and Frenchman Christophe Bassons, the original poster boy for clean cycling, in France. We can’t recall now if Armstrong’s attempt to reconcile with Filippo Simeoni has happened our not. Simeoni was the rider Armstrong famously chased down and chastised during stage 18 of the 2004 Tour for saying things about Lance’s dope doctor Michele Ferrari.
Still yet to book on the Redemption Tour: a ski trip in Montana with former Postal Lieutenant and co-author of The Secret Race, Tyler Hamilton. No word yet on the Belfast pub crawl with long-time enemy and troll David Walsh or the ultimate “I’m Sorry Sojourn,” a camping trip with Floyd Landis. Perhaps Lance is waiting to see if Johan Bruyneel and former UCI president Patrick McQuaid can join the party.
The most revealing statement by Mercier on his new-found riding buddy is to wonder why this is happening at all. “I don’t know where our friendship is going and it’s bizarre quite frankly,” says Mercier. “He might be playing me, I don’t know. My daughter makes these duck tape wallets and made one for Lance, which was yellow with the number seven on it. He uses it, he walks around with this duck tape wallet, and sent her this really sweet video thanking her for it. He surprises you.”
There you have the core essence of the Redemption Tour: Armstrong’s mission is to prove that he’s not an asshole, that he has a sense of humor, that he is well-aware of the horrible things he’s done to people and is committed to making amends.
As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous of the step drinkers must take when they hit rock bottom, Lance has ”made a searching and fearless moral inventory.” As Armstrong wrote on his twitter bio, he’s “an imperfect guy in an imperfect world.” A but of blame shifting but none the less definable progress.
These steps toward a full-soul cleanse are where $500 an hour lawyers aren’t much help, the ones Armstrong has to take alone and with genuine intentions. There can’t be a PR script or hidden agenda or statements that stop short of the truth. The Boss is on the right track now and we all know when Lance decides on a path, he’s all in, 110% focused.
That brings us back to Hamilton and Landis and Walsh because he can’t stop short of the summit. Gotta go all the way on this one — because it’s the Grand Tour of Redemption.
Twisted Spoke invites Lance Armstrong out to Marin County, California for a bike ride and wine tasting plus dinner at the house and a dip in the hot tub. He can autograph my copies of It’s Not About The Bike and Every Second Counts and the wife and kids and I will pass on whatever advice we think is helpful. We can’t promise any duct tape wallets but my daughter makes a beautiful origami crane.