I finally got to watch some European bike racing this past weekend—a rare treat with my current schedule. But I won’t deny for a second that the big story on Sunday took place several thousand miles away, in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, just outside the men’s room.
For all its storied climbs, the Dauphine has long been an exercise in posturing and one-off performance. In 1999, Jon Vaughters famously used the race to “answer some questions” about his riding abilities. In 2003, Iban Mayo lured Armstrong into a deep-dug defense of his lead at the race, and it almost cost the Texan a record-tying 5th Tour de France the following month. Most commentators saw Armstrong’s “disappointing” finish in 2004 coming a mile away.
This year, while it was good to see Brad Wiggins riding with aplomb in the hills, I can’t say that there was any less gamesmanship than previous editions. Cadel Evans, for example seemed to be a bit off, but he told the press he was happy enough with second—no surprise, considering the front wheel he rode in the TT, which would have been behind the curve in the Cat 3 fields I race. It is especially strange in light of the Super Secret Project Bike he’d been on in the prologue. And then there was the heads of state bunch sprint for second on the final day, on top of a Cat 1 climb, won (behind an uncontested late jump by Joaquim Rodriguez) by a young FdJ rider who’d been in the break essentially from the gun.
Now lets compare this to the Armstrong/Hamilton incident. At first blush, it is indeed a bit dull, but a quick glance at logistics make it a bit more interesting than “two men meeting in a toilet“. After all, news of Hamilton’s visit had been well publicized—the press even extracted a quote from local flavor Charlie Tarver, who also happens to own/operate Hub of Aspen, a bike shop and Trek dealership where Armstrong goes “to be a regular person“.
On Saturday, Armstrong attended a benefit Century in Tennessee organized by Nissan. That’s probably why Hamilton thought Lance would be out of town that night. But Hamilton didn’t anticipate that Armstrong’s teammates would power through the ride at a decidedly uncharitable 25mph pace. Even with “leisurely” stops and a relatively flat parcours, that’s a pretty quick event appearance.
Now, maybe Armstrong rides that hard at most events in an effort to keep the pack around him down. Certainly the magic of the private jet would have easily allowed Armstrong to get back to Colorado by that evening after wrapping up the bike ride at noon without any special haste. And off-season Aspen is indeed a pretty small town—Tyler wouldn’t have been hard to find, and a chance meeting at one of Armstrong’s favorite eateries isn’t entirely out of the question.
But the confrontation itself went down so late in the evening—between 11 and 11:30pm—that I have a hard time believing it was a casual happenstance. Armstrong appeared at the Tennessee ride at 7am—that’s 5am Mountain Time. A long day with a century, even if he napped on the plane. Compounding the issue, reports of the meeting itself were a little scattered, to say the least. Schaffer ‘s initial tweets said Cache Cache was “crawling” with Outside Magazine staff, yet the magazine’s later blog post says most of them were across the street.
My guess? Armstrong probably got a tip after getting home that Hamilton was at Cache Cache. A quick Google search pulled up the Hamilton event announcement, and minutes later, Armstrong was on his way over, without thinking especially hard about whether this might constitute witness tampering or not. A bunch of journalists, a bit jumbled from The Pass, thin air, and whatever it is that Outside drinks, were on hand, but not quite ready to catch the meeting.
So, when you can tell me that Gilberto Simoni will jet into the TdS from the other side of Europe, intercept Damiano Cunego coming out of the bathroom of his favorite Swiss eatery, and deliver the ultimatum that he better lose the race or some long-buried positive test will be revealed, all under the noses of a gaggle of besotted writers from L’Equipe, then I’ll expect the race to be top news on every cycling site.
But if the best you can do is a daredevil descent from Peter Sagan (nothing to shrug at under normal circumstances) I’m afraid these tune-up events will continue to play second fiddle to the sort of off-course intrigue that only Lance Armstrong can deliver.
thoughts on “Dauphine Drama Can't Top The Men's Room”
FWIW I did a charity ride with Armstrong in 1997. He was wearing Cofidis kit actually, so definitely post cancer. He was on a tandem with one of his doctors. The 30 miles out were low key. The 30 miles back were full race pace with Lance bringing back attacks. He once yelled at me to pull thru, despite the fact we were doing 36mph.
Cosmo, I think the questions JV’s win on Mt. V answered were not related to his riding abilities but the “abilities” of others, since he learned first hand what the juice could do.
Great piece! Love the Sherlock Holmes feel. Looking forward to see what Toilet Gate will produce.
1. I did a charity ride in DC back in 1995 with, get this, both Lance and Greg LeMond. I printed out some pics I got from that new thing called the World Wide Web – I made a photo montage and had each of them sign their respective pages. Greg: totally cool asking questions – saying how cool he thought it was – smiling, talking – just a great people person. Lance: he just looked at it and said nothing . . . . 5 seconds later . . . still staring saying nothing . . . it was awkward. I finally said “I got these photos from the Web and then printed them out – neat huh?” He said nothing, made no eye contact and handed it back to me (with a sig). totally underwhelming experience.
2. I am a washed up CAT II, but now I weight 195 pounds and am 6’3″. I used to be a federal investigator. I nominate myself to be Hamilton’s muscle and alter ego. If I were there I would have gotten right in Lance’s face – what’s he gonna do beat me up? I know a bunch of guys in NE area who have ridden with Hamilton – all say he is the kindest most gentle person ever. I am sure he was shaken up by the incident. Tyler: I’m here for you, buddy.
Lastly, something tells me Landis would have never taken that . . . then again there is a reason why Lance did this to Hamilton and not Landis.
Good article as always.
I loved the CN article’s summary of JV’s fast improvement over prior years’ atheletes such as Charlie Gaul. “But the bikes are a significant improvement these days.” So willing to write off these vast improvements… 20/20 hindsight is a powerful thing I guess.
This is like a scene from a bad mob film — especially when the restaurant owner tells Hamilton to “never come back here again.” Long live Armstrong 4.0!
…i believe mr armstrong is 100% more concerned about the legal implications of his immediate future than he’s willing to let on to the general public…
…undoubtedly as he should be…he knows the truth…he just doesn’t know how much the feds know…
Lance just wanted to be sure Tyler had washed his hands after using the restroom. What’s everyone else thinking???
I’m unimpressed by Lance’s behavior. Sagan’s descent, on the other hand, was incredible. That is one amazingly classy 21 year-old!
That’s probably one of the best post on the site, certainly you are the only commentator that I have read who has bothered to connect the factual dots and timeline regarding this incident; instead of (like most of the cycling “press”) just pitting Lance’s and Tyler’s attorneys studied quotes in quick succession…
As usual we are left with an image of Lance as a brash, arrogant, mean-spirited, vindictive and intimidating s.o.b.
Let’s hope we can soon add self-destructive to that list very soon.
I’ll be glad when contadoper is busted and Lance is out of spot light.
Why are people so concerned about an event they were not party to ? We are all hearing an individual’s take on an event !
Would you go to the “Home Town” of someone you have done a “number” on and expect them to AVOID you ?
Met Eki this week whilst sitting in the Radio Shack vehicle , asked him to step out for a photo which he was gracious enough to do , not too many people would BUT just as easily he could have been too busy or had other things to do !
Same goes for Lance or Lemond , you can get real lucky and get both behaving differently on another occasion ! Who are we to complain about their mood or the lack of cooperation JUST BECAUSE WE DEMAND that they oblige us ?
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Lets face it, cycling involves as much posturing on the bike as off it. Lance has never been afraid to publicly humiliate or intimidate a “lesser opponent”.
What happened with Hamilton was no surprise- but the thing that irks me is the same thing that irked me about Dubya. Ironic that these two chaps were friends and may also share a paralleled legacy.. Their moral compass became skewed – No sense of right or wrong. No sense of what is just or unjust. The “Lets just do whatever has to be done so I don’t lose” attitude, whether that is good or bad- who GAF- just do it. Omnipotent arrogance. Does the world need anymore of that?
It’s time to leave the hotel now. This post might seem a little more random and scattered than a few of my previous ones, but it is an accurate reflection of my mind and body right now. All my energy is devoted to the sole purpose of making it through this race livestrong jerseys.