Second piano falls on Armstrong. The Hincapie grand.
Yesterday, it was the Hamilton upright, 500 pounds, pretty scratched with some questionable history. Today the man with the “20+ year career, 500 drug controls worldwide” was hit by the 880 pound Big George Hincapie grand.
That’s gotta hurt and indeed there’s been no response so far from Armstrong and his A team spin crew. The Legend is dead, the Myth is destroyed and now it’s just a matter of watching how and when the building collapses.
When Tyler Hamilton testified to the FDA that he’d seen Lance Armstrong inject EPO, there was still the possibility of a counter-attack, a variation of the Landis debunk that the Texan had employed with success last year. Landis jealous, crazy, a serial liar, an angry, bitter and vengeful failure. Armstrong spin-master Fabiani checked all those boxes and many people bought the show.
George Hincapie is a different story and a far more damning one. He’s practically Lance’s brother, best friend, long time teammates, from Postal through Discovery. There’s no jealousy, book deal or craziness with big George. He has the credibility and likeablility that Hamilton lost years ago. You can’t not like George who is unsparing in his friendlessness with fans and willingness to do anything to promote US cycling.
When George Hincapie has something to say, people listen and take it as truth. What the news stories claim he said in testimony about Armstrong and performance enhancing drugs is nothing less than the end, the sledgehammer, the death-knell for the Armstrong mythology.
It’s poignant and sad and perhaps inevitable. Grand juries and bible oaths have a way of extracting the truth. The immediate future for Lance Armstrong will be perhaps the most painful time in his life other than chemo. He will crawl on the floor in agony before this is over. He’s a tough and intelligent and self-aware man and he’ll find a way through it. We don’t envy the soul searching or his options.
We can’t actually imagine the outcome but you can be sure the Armstrong legal team, a crack squad as strong as any of Lance’s Tour rosters, is stumped right now. There is no Postal Blue Train to pull him through this with flying colors and thunderous applause. Their public response to the Hincapie claims is probably in revision 28 right now and Lance is still agonizing and indecisive. Because the only right response is the truth and Lance has been adamant that he would fight this to his grave.
In our mind, there really is no way out. This isn’t something Lance Armstrong can train for, he can’t simply ride away from it like it was Ullrich or Joseba Beloki or Ivan Basso. You can’t “drop” this kind of misery. There isn’t enough spin in the world to take this off the front page.
Lance Armstrong has done everything possible to protect his image. His tale is one of the greatest stories in sports, cancer survivor wins seven Tour de Frances, red, white and blue, hope and courage and confidence. The best people in Hollywood would have trouble topping that screenplay. That said, you can watch a legacy melt in 60 Minutes on Sunday.
There’s a fascinating transformation about to happen. If Armstrong retired twice, you could also say his triumphant image is about to be retired and rewritten. The role reversal will be something to watch: Landis is now the honest one and Armstrong, well, we’ll just have to watch for the final chapter.
It ain’t over until the last piano falls.