When I turned on my glowing rectangle this morning, the news that Oprah Winfrey will interview Lance Armstrong screamed out at me from every tiny window and rivulet of news feed. I sighed a deep sigh, the same one we reserve, here in New England, for when it snows hard on April 1st.
Am I the only one who is really done with the Armstrong saga? Am I the only one dis-interested in a confession or a continuing prevarication or whatever comes next?
To be clear, I am not angry at Lance Armstrong. I don’t feel he owes me an apology. He’s got to deal with the consequences of his actions, just like anyone else. I am just not that interested in what comes next for him.
I am glad we know much of went on during cycling’s EPO era. The truth is always valuable, if only to reorder the past in our minds, to feel more comfortable with what we’ve seen, and what we will see. But the details of what went on and Lance’s personal story are two separate things. I am not interested in his perspective, his feelings.
I have closure now. I know what happened, and I know why it happened. It is, taken as a whole and in retrospect, a tragically human story, the weaknesses inherit in our collective character producing a tale the Greek’s would have coated in wax and feathers. If only it were fiction, we could all smile at the brilliance of it.
And also, there are things I enjoyed about watching the racing of that lost period, an enjoyment unspoiled by confirmation of what we all (or most of us) long suspected. I am comfortable with the moral ambiguity of the whole story. In a way, I believe, we have to fail this way, we humans. It’s in our nature.
But I feel tired of Lance Armstrong now. It’s that feeling of standing in the driveway during a late season snow storm, the fat flakes lazing down from the sky, having to move it all out of the way yet again before life can go on, unhampered by factors well beyond my control.
Image: Matt O’Keefe
When I was new to shaving, which is to say in high school, my skin was awfully sensitive to the cruelty of dragging a blade across my skin. My neck was seemingly perpetually red and inflamed, swatted honey bee-angry. In my senior year my mother discovered a shaving cream made by some company better known for women’s cosmetics than men’s skin care, a concept which was at that time still exceedingly novel and prone to suggestions that the user may not have been the most manly among men.
Fortunately, my shaving cream wasn’t subject to public scrutiny. It stayed in a medicine cabinet I shared only with my sister.
I’d forgotten that I ever used the stuff until recently when I opened a tin of Rapha’s Shaving Cream. The consistency was that of buttercream frosting—creamy and with a stickiness that showed an affinity for skin. The moment I dipped my finger in the tin, I was transported back to 1982. Actually, the experience was kind of eerie. I even recalled how my mom told me the stuff was expensive, but if it helped, she’d keep getting it for me.
I don’t recall how long I used it; I don’t recall the brand or when I stopped using it, but it was some time in undergraduate school. My strongest memory of the stuff, aside from its consistency, was how much happier my skin was as a result of using it. Generally speaking, I think almost all shaving creams are created equal, if inferior. Foam or gel, it’s all about the same.
The Rapha Shaving Cream, which at $20 for a 4-oz. (125ml) tin is even more precious than some Napa Cabs, takes that man-care shaving cream and goes it at least one better. Frankly, it smells more amazing than most embrocations. The aroma comes from a complex blend of ingredients but what hits you when you open it is a lovely blend of lavender and conifer.
While I don’t suffer skin irritation the way that I used to, there’s no doubt that my face is happier when I use this stuff. Same for the insides of my thighs when I shave my legs with it (which I’ve done all of twice). Shaving my face with this is plenty; my household really can’t tolerate me being that amazing.
Were I English, or at least based in Europe, I’m aware that the price on this stuff wouldn’t seem outrageous; the exchange rate skews the cost from merely expensive to ungodly.
A word to our friends in Rapha’s product management: Can you please change the color of either the Winter Embrocation or the Shaving Cream? Identical black tins, both residing on my bathroom sink, is a disaster in waiting.
Which brings me to the Rapha Post Shave Lotion. At $27, it’s even more expensive than the shaving cream, but given that the pump bottle is 5 oz. (150ml) and how little you use following each shave, it’s a good deal better value. It also can’t be mistaken for an embrocation, so there’s that, too.
The Post Shave Lotion benefits from the same minty-lavender aromatics and can calm anything from the angriest razor burns to crazed meth heads. I would even nominate this stuff as a possible hostage negotiator.
Using these two skin care products reminded me what a peasant I am at heart. I absolutely love both of them, but my sense is that together they make me more terrific than I deserve to be. Of course, if I needed to charm the wallets out of a Wall Street board room, this stuff would rate as a daily necessity.
I’m being silly here, but that’s truly the point. I can’t explain it, but I get a bit giddy when I open the tin and prepare to shave. And that’s why I’m writing; I hadn’t planned to review these products and ought to be embarrassed to reveal that, but I really don’t care. These products are my new definition for luxurious.
Pardon me, I haven’t shaved yet today.
When I heard the news that Lance Armstrong was considering a confession, I chuckled. Back in the news already? We shouldn’t be surprised that he’s in the news again, already. Even without a confession to throw into the mix, the Lance Armstrong show isn’t over by a longshot. We’ve still got Johan Bruyneel’s appeal to play out, and that guarantees to make this story more amusing if nothing else. I say amusing, because I suspect Bruyneel’s defense will be as detached from reality as Hein Verbruggen’s suggestion that he knew Armstrong to be clean.
Then there is the possible perjury charge Armstrong faces due to his testimony in the SCA case, not to mention the civil litigation that could siphon off more millions than his lawyers have already swallowed. In short, news regarding Armstrong will continue to keep him in the media spotlight for a few years to come, no matter how tired you are of him.
When I actually considered the notion of a confession, though, my initial thought was that would be like General Electric paying taxes. Not gonna happen. The motivation for his possible confession has been said to be a desire to compete as a triathlete and runner. Could it be that he could have his ban reduced to less than eight years? This would be where we conjure the image of winged simians and sphincters. And unless his ban is reduced to less than eight years, all he would get out of the deal is the opportunity to be the world’s fastest age-grouper; he’s already 41. He’s not going to win Ironman—any Ironman—at 49.
I suspect that competition, while relevant to his desires today, is but a red herring to his longer-term aspirations. First is the issue of income. His net worth is estimated to be $125 million. Some estimates suggest that as much as half that fortune could be erased by lawyers and settlements. Given the expenses associated with flying around on private jets and the fact that he doesn’t have the money fountains of either the Livestrong Foundation or Nike to keep his bank account topped off (or outright cover said travel), Armstrong could be facing a lifestyle downgrade.
Armstrong needs the confession in order to climb out of the box he’s in. Right now, he’s disgraced and essentially unemployable. With a confession—penalties aside—he can begin patching up relationships with the likes of Livestrong and Nike, which would allow him to begin earning again, through a means other than wealth management. Americans love a good confession, and the only thing we love more than a tawdry tale is a story of redemption.
We shouldn’t bank on personal growth for Armstrong as a result of confession. See it for what it is: a business strategy. Confession in this case will simply be another PR effort. Confession may be good for the soul, but we shouldn’t expect that Armstrong’s motivation is a change of heart.
The single greatest motivation for a confession by Armstrong has nothing to do with athletics, though, and this is where a confession of some variety could actually pay dividends. Armstrong has long eyed politics as his next act following the wind-down of his life as an athlete. Should Armstrong be convicted of perjury, because it is considered a crime of moral turpitude, he’ll be unable to hold any elected office other than triathlon club president. A negotiated confession, one that is given in exchange for some variety of plea deal to take the possibility of a perjury case off the table, may be Armstrong’s most compelling reason to confess now, even though the entire world knows enough about his doping to write a Wikipedia entry on it.
Forget for an instant that he definitely perjured himself in his SCA testimony. Forget that we all know that. A plea deal is just that, a negotiated agreement; it is about compromise, not the truth. If Armstrong can avoid being found guilty of perjury, he can run for elected office. Texas governors have a history of colorful nicknames, such as Dubya and Governor Good Hair. What sort of nickname do you suppose Armstrong would receive?
Politics. It always comes down to politics, doesn’t it?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Happy New Year to all of you. I’m going to use this week’s column to catch up on a few things and, hopefully, do my part to drive a stake into that one story that just won’t die.
First off, I hope that you’re able to get through at least the first week of 2013 without breaking any of your resolutions.
Sadly, I guess I already have. Out here in the high prairie of Wyoming, it’s just been too dang cold to get in “at least a short ride every day of the year.” I have two beautiful touring bikes in the garage, just waiting to be tested for a magazine article, but Laramie streets are covered in ice and temperatures have consistently stayed below zero (and yeah, we’re talking Fahrenheit here) since I put that new calendar on the wall.
Well, at least the wind isn’t blowing. (Yeah, just wait, Pelkey.)
I have other excuses on tap, too. Late last year, two other lawyers and I got motivated to go out on our own and, as of January 1, the firm of Neubauer, Pelkey and Goldfinger, LLP, officially opened its doors, just a block from the county courthouse. We’ll see how that goes.
Cheap advice I
I also want to mention again that I welcome readers’ question on a variety of subjects. Looking through old “Explainers” here at RKP and over at VeloNews, the collection includes columns on everything ranging from B.S. sales pitches by the manufacturers of supplements to bike racing near the front in World War II to questions about bounced checks from race promoters to the very first guy to have his Tour de France title stripped.
Seriously, if you do have a question that you’d like to see addressed in this column, feel free to send an email to my personal address at Charles@Pelkey.com.
“The Explainer” was originally intended to serve as a quick way to answer common questions during the Tour de France and other major races. It’s kinda morphed into something else, but I do look forward to addressing your questions.
I admit that we’ve gotten distracted along the way, particularly in light of the news that came out this fall from USADA about that one guy from Texas.
Oh yeah, that reminds me … the aforementioned story that simply will not die.
Cheap Advice II
The Twitterverse is all abuzz this morning with news that one Lance Edward Armstrong is now poised to confess to the world that he had, indeed, used performance-enhancing drugs.
Gee. What next? I hear Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is finally going to admit that he’s rather tall, too.
According to the New York Times’ Juliet Macur, Armstrong’s thinking is that he might just get that life-time ban reduced to the point where he could actually think about competing in triathlon and other sports before his AARP membership kicks in.
In other words, there won’t be an ounce of contrition in that heartfelt confessional from Saint Lance. If it happens, it will be done for the most self-serving of reasons.
Look, if I wanted to hear stories about your cheating, Mr. Armstrong, I’d listen to the people who have been telling the truth since 1999. I’d talk to David Walsh, Emma O’Reilly, Betsy Andreu, Greg LeMond (the only American to ever win the Tour de France, by the way) or good ol’ Bob Hammon, who runs SCA and is looking to get a few million back from ya. I really don’t need your spin on the subject anymore.
Seriously, Lance, just walk away. Settle your lawsuits; pay off your lawyers; hell, you might even get that crack legal team of yours to work a plea deal on a potential perjury charge. Then get the @#$% outta here.
You’ll still have tens of millions in the bank. When all’s said and done, you’ll have a pretty good life … unless it’s the attention you want. Look, you’re a rich guy. Go do what you say you do on your Twitter page and focus on “raising my 5 kids.” Like your former sponsor said, “Just do it.”
I don’t care if you confess, but please, just go away. Move on. More importantly, let the sport move on. Racing fans, riders and yes, even cancer patients … really, we’ll all be just fine without you.
It’s over, man.
The Explainer is a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
There is snow on the ground here now, the remnants of last week’s storm. It’s been frigidly cold, and so the sun melt that comes during the day has really only shrunken and compacted what fell. The edges of the road are smeared with ice where the melt has run off the curb and refrozen overnight. It’s rideable, but narrowed and a little unpredictable.
And so the commute gets a little nervous, the six inches or foot we’ve lost to the ice making the whole parade of us, cars and bikes, a mite tighter than any of us would choose. Twice on the way in just this morning, I was nearly squeezed out coming into lights.
I think a lot about how we share the road now. Having been hit a couple times, just riding along minding my own business, following the rules, I am far more careful in traffic than I was ten years ago. This has made the whole city riding experience better and less fraught. The more I follow the rules and ease up on the speed, the more friendly waves and space I seem to get.
I have changed, and certainly the driving zeitgeist has changed as well. With the wholesale adoption of mobile phones came a dark period, every other driver seemingly barreling along with their head down, but that has possibly eased up a bit, the spate of accidents and deaths that resulted perhaps curbing the worst behavior most of the time. It’s hard to tell with all the variables changing almost all the time.
There was a time when I believed that a war of sorts would develop between riders and drivers, so hectic and angry were my commutes, but in retrospect, I think that was more about me and my attitude than the world at large. I felt entitled to my piece of the road, and I made a lot of noise when I didn’t get what I thought was mine. I was younger, and thought I knew things.
Today, I ride pretty easy, though conflicts occasionally arise. I have bad days with my own attitude, and my analogs behind their wheels have their own trying times. We are all just trying to get somewhere, and sometimes we step on each others toes (faces).
This week’s Group Ride asks the question: How is it where you are? Do cars and drivers get along? Is it getting better or worse? How are you changing? And what future do you see for riding your bike on the road?
Image: Matt O’Keefe
It’s like the classic trust fall, except facing forward, with your eyes open and your wheels spinning freely beneath you. And despite the eyes-wide nature of it, the consequences for misplaced trust are, perhaps, even more dire. I have not heard of corporate retreat attendees breaking collar bones or sustaining concussions. Larry from accounting skulking into an ambulance after Sheila failed to catch his plummeting girth.
Learning to ride in a paceline is one of the core skills of cycling on the road, and at some point, someone tells us how to do it. Stay close. Don’t overlap wheels. Rotate outwards off the front. Signal the potholes and oncoming bullshit. Don’t panic. The directions are simpler to follow than the ones that come with most build-yourself bookcases.
These are the basic rules, but what you find over time is that there are wheels you can ride and wheels you cannot. Mainly, I think, this is a matter of trust. There are people I trust to lead me, and those I don’t, and the difference isn’t always in the speed or quality of the rider.
I ride fairly often with my neighbor, Jon. Jon is relatively new to road cycling, but he is strong and fast, and he and I have a rapport on and off the bike that makes him one of my favorite cycling companions. We can roll along side-by-side, chatting, or we can put our heads down and cover ground, swapping turns on the front. This can be wordless, which is nice.
There are plenty of really experienced cyclists I won’t tuck in behind. I find myself drifting off their outside shoulder to see what’s coming, slotting back in, poking back out. It’s nervous and tiring and probably annoying for the rider behind me, but there are just some people I can’t get all the way to that trusting place with, no matter how I want to.
Life has these parallels.
Padraig and I were talking last week about the “simpatico” we’ve developed. As we ride RKP down the road, we trust each other to make the right decisions for day-to-day posting, including editorial decisions, images, etc. I accept his editing more readily than I do other editors, and he takes my feedback gracefully, and the end product is something we’re both happy with. This is not to say there aren’t better writers and editors out there. It’s just that we trust each other in that way. Our styles are compatible.
And that’s what it comes down to, for me, on the bike.
You can be fast and smooth, but if your riding style doesn’t mesh with mine, I’m probably going to spend a lot of time drifting off your shoulder. Or you can be a newbie, just coming to terms with moving quickly in close quarters, but if you intuit the road the way I do, put out all the cues I expect to see, I will sit blindly on your wheel all day (my pulls notwithstanding).
Riding someone else’s wheel asks a lot of you, like the classic trust fall of so many corporate bonding sessions. The paceline is where you find out who you can work with, and who you can’t, and I would wager that your regular riding buddies are all people whose wheels you can follow without too much thinking, that there are plenty of really nice people you don’t ride with, mainly because it’s too stressful. I have met old hands with tens-of-thousands of miles in their legs who are simply too blase on the road to follow with any sense of confidence.
There is an etiquette to riding in a group that ensures everyone’s safety, but there are things beyond that make you feel comfortable on the bike, on a wheel, at top speed. I have done the trust fall, a hotel conference room, poorly lit and badly carpeted, giggling nervously and then leaning back into the eager clutches of people whose names I don’t remember now. It was over in second.
The same transaction on the bike can last all day, your body hurtling through space, spanning distances, suspended above the ground by a whisper of carbon or metal, and your life in the hands of the people around you. These are bonding sessions, in the classic sense, and there is more to the game than simply falling backwards and hoping for the best. This is where you find out who you can trust.
Image: Matt O’Keefe