Two biggest stories in cycling right now, off-season, November 28th.
First, Astana is toxic. Second. Lance Armstrong is motor-pacing Tejay van Garderen. While the Lance story doesn’t carry the shock and disgust of Astana’s whopping five doping cases (2 WorldTour, 3 Conti), there’s definitely surprise.
According to a Danish journalist interviewing Armstrong at his home in Aspen, Colorado, the man who won and lost 7 Tours de France is working with the young BMC star. The ex-Boss quote: “I just motor-paced Tejay for an hour. My ass is about to fall off.”
The Danish journalist and photographer were interviewing Armstrong for an upcoming edition of Rouleur and the motor-pacing news was treated as sudden big news. However, that story was out in Velonews back on October 21st in relation to Van Garderen riding former BMC teammate George Hincapie’s gran fondo — along with Lance Armstrong.
The United Stated Anti-doping Agency prevented Armstrong from riding his buddy Hincapie’s fondo — called by one doping critic, the gran fraud0 — but Tejay’s comments about Armstrong then are just as applicable to the motor-pacing news today.
“Lance lives down the block from me, in Aspen. We’ve gone on some rides together, he’s even motor-paced me behind his Vespa. I don’t feel like there’s any hidden agenda there. He still loves the sport, and wants to see it get better. I don’t think he is the evil guy he’s been depicted to be, in all these books and movies, but I suppose that is ultimately going to be left up for people to decide for themselves,” said van Garderen.
That last sentence is the kicker. Right now, most people have a pretty low opinion of Armstrong. Twisted Spoke thinks that’s a problem for Tejay and the sport of pro cycling. He can hold whatever personal opinion he wants of Armstrong but if the goal of the younger generation of cyclists is to do whatever they can to make people believe in clean cycling, then hanging out with the most infamous doper is an unwise move.
Van Garderen, along with Andrew Talansky of Cannondale-Garmin, are the two most visible and influential pros in the United States. They are role models for other riders and the sport. The decision to have Lance motor-pace is a bad one for that reason.
it’s all well and good if Tejay thinks Lance isn’t evil and doesn’t have a hidden agenda. So but him a round of drinks, invite him to the house for dinner, name your next child after him — but don’t involve him in anything related to your cycling career.
We have a lot of respect for Van Garderen. We once did a 25 minute interview with him and came away very impressed. He’s genuine, articulate, funny, unscripted. You ask a question, he gives you a direct, honest answer. As a role model, it would be hard to find a better one.
In fact, you can make a nice argument that Tejay’s quotes on Armstrong are just another sign of his confidence in being a leader at BMC and for the sport. He’s not afraid to say what he thinks even if it pisses a few people off. He grew into his leadership role over the last two years at BMC and his 5th place overall in this year’s Tour de France, after a number of crashes, was physically and mentally impressive.
And in Van Garderen’s defense, he’s also been outspoken is his belief that Armstrong should testify in full about his doping. Last year when Armstrong told Le Monde that he didn’t think it was possible to win the Tour de France clean, Van Garderen hammered him. “The sport has turned a corner. I mean, I finished fifth in the Tour de France and I did that clean,” said van Garderen. “I believe Cadel won the Tour clean, I believe Wiggins won the Tour clean … If Lance chooses not to believe that, then I’d say that’s a pity for him because it has turned a corner since his era.”
There’s the issue right there: a sport turning the corner. Let’s not backtrack. If we were Tejay, we’d be placing an ad in Craigslist: Tour de France contender needs someone to motor-pace. Must not be high profile convicted doper with dark past.