Comedy takes a back seat as Armstrong gets serious about eighth Tour de France victory.
Team manager Johan Bruyneel today announced the roster for Le Grand Depart, July 3rd in Rotterdam. As expected, the Texan will be supported by big guns Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, Yaroslav Popovych and Andreas Kloden.
The surprise was the omission of tour veterans and Armstrong favorites, comedians Ben Stiller and Robin Williams. While generally of no use in the mountains or even the flatter stages, the two funny men have been a huge advantage for Armstrong in terms of recovery.
In previous tours, Stiller and Williams have kept the team loose and laughing despite the constant pressure to perform at the highest level. No other Protour team had the curative benefits of two famous Hollywood comedians on their roster.
The 2010 Tour de France is now officially the No Joking Around tour. “This is it for Lance. We don’t have the luxury of comedy anymore. There’s no funny business. Lance wants needs to stay focused and angry,” said Johan Bruyneel.
Sources also indicate that Armstrong felt that Williams, at age 58, was simply too old for the rigors of riding in the Radio Shack bus and spontaneously ad-libbing.
“There’s nothing more grueling than the tour–mentally and physically. Last year Williams just wasn’t funny when we reached the Pyrenees. The air was too thin for him and he was having trouble breathing,” said Philippe Maertens, Radio Shack press officer.
The Stiller omission was perhaps the more shocking in terms for comedic impact. In recent months, reports have surfaced that Armstrong felt the comedy rapport the two had established was now gone. In particular, Ben Stillers’ Stillerstrong routine, a parody of Livestrong, didn’t play well with the seven time Tour de France champion.
“Lance hated that stuff — thought it was sophomoric crap. Ben crossed the line and you don’t do that with Lance. He’s off the bus permanently. Lance even threw out his DVD of Dodgeball,” said Maertens.
It’s a sign that has to worry adversaries like Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. Armstrong has apparently forbidden all Radio Shack team personnel from cracking jokes or in any way “lightening the mood.” Each rider on the tour roster has signed a document stating their strict adherence to the No Comedy Code.
Lance Armstrong is ready for the 2010 Tour de France, baby. We’re not joking and neither is Lance.