Lance Armstrong is a hyper competitive 38 year old stage racer. Ever since he came back from his three years of Texas hibernation, he’s been confronting the same question when he wakes up: Where did the time go?
In this case, the question focuses on the thirty seconds he lost in the Tour of Murcia time trial to rival Bradley Wiggins. It was Wiggins who finished just behind Armstrong in the 2009 Tour de France and now claims to be the better rider.
The second Lance crossed the finished line and saw the 30 second gap, his mind went into overdrive. Where could he get those thirty seconds back? He doesn’t care than some junior Czech named Frantisek Rabon (HTC-Columbia) won the 22km stage — Rabon aint’ going to be a remote factor in July in the Tour of France.
Nor is he much worried about being seconds slower than Denis Menchov (Rabobank) because Russian’s Rabobank team doesn’t scare Armstrong all that much when he thinks Tour. But Wiggins is a much bigger problem. Big talent on what already looks like a highly motivated and well-trained team.
Now, the thirty second loss to Wiggins isn’t a red alert, disaster scenario. A 30 second deficit in March isn’t the same as a 30 second deficit in a time trial in the Dauphine Libere in late June, weeks before the big French tour. Still, Armstrong is already theorizing about where those 30 seconds went and how to get them back.
He’s calling the wind tunnel guys and sending them film of his position on the bike. He’s running the course over in his mind wondering if he should have gone harder in the corners. He’s looking at his time trial bike with suspicion. He and Johan Bruyneel and coach Chris Carmichael are kicking around ideas. Lance had already picked Radio Shack sports physiologist Allen Lim’s brain.
He’s not angry or panicked or deeply concerned at this point in the season. But he wants those damn thirty seconds back.”In the time trial my position on the bike was good, but I lacked strength,” said Armstrong. “I am aware of the level of my performance, but I’m not stressed.”
Sure, he’s happy he kicked that young Zabriskie kid’s Garmin ass but again, the focus is always the tour. Wiggins is a yellow jersey contender and Zabriskie isn’t.
It would surprise few people if Lance Armstrong put in a call to renowned theoretical physicist Stephan Hawking to just see if he might have some actionable ideas of bending the time continuum. The author of the best seller A Brief History of Time Trialing … no, wait, that last word isn’t supposed to be there — might just provide the Texan with a few clues.
Armstrong is also hopeful of getting an audience with the former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Rumor is that Armstrong will ask the Nobel Peace Prize winner if he has any clues to turning back the clock. Mandela spent 27 years in prison for opposing apartheid and thus knows many tricks for speeding up the passage of time.
One way or another, Armstrong is going to find those 30 seconds. And when he does, he’s going to hogtie them and bring them back to the Shack. But right now he’s just wondering where the time went. And he isn’t getting an younger.