Old Armstrong gone. Old, old Armstrong back.
Welcome back, Boss.
Yesterday in the Tour de Suisse, we saw the old, old Lance Armstrong. No, not the almost 39, geriatric former great who spends most of his time tweeting and hanging out with Hollywood stars and cancer fund raising and fending off doping allegations and doing commercials and starting new business ventures and running Livestrong and propping up dying races like Gila and generally strengthening his iron grip on the universe. No, we didn’t see that guy.
The guy we saw was the old, old Armstrong, the original and still champion, the bad-ass, the boss, Big Tex, Mr. Yellow Jersey, He Who Maketh Other Men In Lycra Tremble. Yes, Lance turns back the clock in Switzerland. He is now roughly 33 and getting younger by the moment. El Pistolero is running back to his home in Pinto for more bullets.
Who was driving the chase group up that nasty Albulapass climb but Lance Armstrong himself, Radio Shack Numero Uno. Who was taking names and hitting threshold and dropping Tour de France runner-up Andy Schleck but cycling superhero Lance Armstrong.
When teammates Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden fell back, exhausted and out of rocket fuel, who said let’s go chase down that Gesink guy? Yeah, you know who I’m talking about — Ben Stiller’s sidekick, the man with four kids, the legend, LA, the fearsome cancer killer himself, Mr (standing ovation, please!) Lance (roar of crowd) Armstrong.
Yeah, we saw that old, old Armstrong that rides bikes up the highest mountains at near motorbike speed. The hors categorie Armstrong. Is Lance fast approaching peak fitness, is he ready to rape and pillage, is he ready to punch out El Pistolero? Only he and Johan know the answer to that one.
But we do have an answer — after all these months of tortured and flimsy hypothesis — to the question, will Lance be ready? He’s ready and he’s fighting mad and that’s always a scary thing.
He’s mad at Landis, he’s mad at Outside Magazine for airbrushing a graphic on his t-shirt, he’s mad at the Vuelta for excluding his Radio Shack team, he’s mad that anyone, ever, occasionally, in the universe, doubts him for one nano-second.
He’s lean, he’s bar-fight furious, his teeth are clenched, his Trek is a bazooka, he’s gathering his red and grey assassins. Bring on Le Tour de France. The old, old Armstrong is headed your way.