There was a picture that fascinated me at my shop back early last decade. It was of the owner, a few other Trek dealers, and the man himself—disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. The group portrait itself wasn’t what was fascinating. What continuously captured my attention was Armstrong’s stance and facial expression. The Trek dealers were stoked and leaning in to their cash-cow hero. But Lance was noticeably uncomfortable. Being in the middle of this love fest didn’t allow for him to lean away. Yet, his posture as he clutched his bottle of Shiner Bock was doing just that. His face finished the sentiment almost mouthing the thought, “Jesus f***ing Christ, get me the f*** out of here.”

There was always something disturbing in that image. Now I know.

Cycleboredom | Confessions of a Former Fanboy - Miracle Victory

Full Disclosure

As I read through Reasoned Decision I find myself churning through a surprising myriad of emotions and thoughts. So, not unlike USADA witnesses, I decided to share.

[Note: This is the 4th revision of this post, started sometime back in 2010. Please bear with the disjointed elements, ‘cuz that’s exactly what this post is constructed of.]

First, let’s get this out in the open: I was a fanboy.

I was a fanboy, a Lance-ophile, and an eager proliferator of the yellow word. Lance and the USPS Pro Cycling Team were a major part of my cycling world from 2000-2004. I purchased (mostly at wholesale/EP) copious product slathered in the requisite USPS flavor. I received numerous yellow-flavored gifts not limited to books, magazines, and calendars. In fact, it should be known that I was gifted Liz Kreutz’s vomitous Comeback 2.0 as recent as December 2009.

Cycleboredom | Confessions of a Former Fanboy - The Stuff
Just *some* of the stuff I acquired during the Yellow Years.

I managed one of the fastest growing Trek dealers in the nation from 2000-2004. I dealt pure, unrefined, Yellow. I never had to give the first hit for free—they came into my shop begging for it. Wonderboy’s exploits primed them for monetary release. I can unequivocally claim myself as one of those directly profiting from the Lance Effect. My shop was lauded by none other than John Burke as one of the top 5 shops he had seen worldwide. John Burke taught me and my management team the concept of Kaizen so we could deal the Yellow more efficiently.

I believed in high-cadence, extraordinary VO2, smarter training, higher aerobic thresholds, anger as motivation, and weighing food. I even faltered slightly as Greg LeMond was painted as vindictive and crazy.

I read that book. I believed that book. I even bought Carmichael’s book. I can’t believe I bought Carmichael’s book.

I saved all the magazines. I saved newspaper clippings. I saved signed posters.

The pervasiveness of the Yellow spread into non-cycling areas of my life. I’m ashamed to admit I was wearing the disgraced bracelet LiveSTRONG during my wedding. It haunts me every time I see images or video of that day. Also, when my grandmother passed due to cancer, I was pissed they removed the disgraced bracelet I gave her when she was prepared.

Ahh, those were the days.

Dealing With It

I can’t possibly attempt to recall everything associated with the Yellow Years. Nor will I try to conjure up what began my path down what was termed “the dark side.” Let’s just say there have obviously been a multitude of points along the LA timeline that wore away the luster of the Yellow Years. Believe it or not, it started with the backdated steroid positive in ’99. However, it merely tainted a win I was more than willing to accept. From then until I decided to dive into the murky waters of the Anti-Lance movement on Twitter in 2009, my admiration eroded as fast as the evidence and rumors intensified.

The release of the USADA files fulfilled a journey many of us both desired and feared. The sheer amount of evidence produced is simultaneously jaw dropping and rage inducing.

Yet, contained in that anger is something I wasn’t expecting— dejection. Over the course of those 7 years, there were innumerable moments defining much of my “realtime” Tour memories. These were not mere observations of an interested fan, at times raw emotion was hurled at the images flickering before me.

The first explosion of Setriere, Ventoux with Pantani, feigning fatigue then giving Ulrich “Das Look”, avoiding Beloki and disaster, overcoming disaster with Mayo, and the repeated crushing of the 2004 “No Gifts” Tour; all these and more produced considerable reactions. I clearly recall screaming in despair, “NO! NO! NO!” when the musette caught his handlebar. Then like a Phoenix on CERA, elation rose from the tarmac as he left everyone including a flapping jersey’d Iban Mayo in a fury of adrenaline and anger. I celebrated this with an emphatic scream of, “GO! GO! GO! GOOOO!!!” (Give or take a GO!)

During the Yellow Years I watched each one of these countless times, scrutinizing as I rewound each moment of attack soaking up the glory of absolute pelotonal destruction.

Cycleboredom | Confessions of a Former Fanboy - Stuff Detail
If there was a logo or association, I possessed it. Or, at least tried to.

What Next? (Open Letter Style)

So Wonderboy, WTF do I do with those memories? Granted, we’ve romanticized and idolized a host of riders tainted by doping. Yet we continue to revel in their hematocritical achievements with wild abandonment. But what about you? Although we’ve discovered 99% of the peloton had firewater in their blood, accepting many of these riders is infinitely more palatable than you. As we’ve come to discover, you are an asshole unparalleled. You’ve destroyed peoples’ lives and careers, coerced friends/teammates into potentially fatal acts of substance injection, berated/belittled those that didn’t, all while raking in massive sums of money under the pretense of a herculean lie to the entire world for well over a decade.

It’s good to hear you’re “unaffected” by those you affected.

Cycleboredom | Confessions of a Former Fanboy - Jerseys
Although I may have rocked them with #prostyle, I still rocked them. A lot.

In the end, and in real life, none of this matters. We, as fans, simply deified someone who proved to be all too painfully human. We crafted an idealized perfect hero from a story that wasn’t. This in the end, and not to trivialize all who suffered from his actions, is simply sport.

However, in this day and age, sport exists as it does because of fans. For this process to work, we have to be assured what we’re seeing is true. If the cheating continues, the fans won’t. Lack of fans give no incentive for sponsors to, well, sponsor. No sponsors means no teams. You see where this is going.

I’ll admit one last thing—I’m still a fanboy of pro cycling. Let’s hope this (necessary) upheaval produces the change we need for all of us to continue our love of this beautiful sport.

Cycleboredom | Confessions of a Former Fanboy - The Entire Disgusting Thing
This ain’t all of it. I didn’t include the books, magazines, posters, calendars…

  • https://twitter.com/1goodthing Roland Schrebler

    Dear Mr. Boredom (I always wanted to write that), I too was a very very early fan-boy. My wife and I drove up to Philly to witness the USPRO $1,000,000 price “purchased” by LA (according to Phil Anderson). I have pictures I took of Lance on the podium. I cheered for at least the first two tour victories, and I think my german heritage, translated into Ulrich fandom, was probably the only thing that saved me from cheering for all of them. I definetly cheered for George H, even though I knew something was up with that mountain victory. Even without drugs, it was won the wrong way.

    When did it change? The way LA treated Kevin Livingstone like a jerk when he left USPS. The no gifts tour, when he just HAD to win everything, in obnoxious fashion. I never bought all the gear, but I did wear a bracelet on summer long one year.

    The reality, for me, is that cycling was exciting and cool for some of those years. Pantani climbing like crazy for his tour win, that was great to watch. Museeuw hammering away at P-R = great. Ulrich and Lance battles = great. I enjoyed every minute of it. I still enjoy watching, but now it seems a bit of a guilty pleasure.

    Where do we go from here? i don’t know. I know I still want the sport to be about suffering, mostly self induced suffering. I know when I went out and turned my self inside out in the hills of Frederick this weekend, I didn’t think about Lance or dope once during the ride.

    • http://www.cycleboredom.com Chris

      Fantastic comment. In the end, it’s always about the ride—our ride.

  • http://nowebsite Perry Sing

    The best Lance Armstrong article since the USADA report. loved it.

  • bj

    hey
    I great of how you felt and what you feel now. Does this change your view of greats like Anquetil or Coppi ? Armstrong will even have the same effect years to come. I dont think I regret my joy of Armstrongs battle up steep hills in France, but yes it is sad that he cheated. Even though if you take away the EPO and such I stil feel we can use the force and determination he showed, the new way of focusing only on one race, TDF, and not racing around the world as a travelling circus tapering your energy, and the way he changed the philosophy on candence ( remember Ulrich stuck on big gears). Too bad he was forced to cheat over a peloton that oozed mickey fins. But history shows that cycling had this problem long before Armstrong. Yes, being kept in the dark for a decade does not feel good. Anyway its okay to vent and show what you feel. Have many great rides in the future. cheers

    • http://www.cycleboredom.com Chris

      Thanks for the comment. It’s an interesting dilemma that I adressed a bit towards the end of the post. I found the rest of the peloton’s indiscretions infinitely more palatable than LA’s, since he was an unparalleled asshole who bullied his friends and teammates, and destroyed peoples’ careers all to keep the lie alive. I still love Pantani, Museeuw, Merckx and the rest simply because they weren’t the monster Lance is turning out to be.

  • http://blodsmak.no Blodsmak

    The Independent, in 1999: “LANCE ARMSTRONG last night toasted his Tour de France victory as a ‘miracle of medicine'”: http://www.independent.ie/sport/armstrong-victory-a-miracle-of-medicine-403821.html

  • Kevin Halls

    What all you fanboys should feel guilty for is the constant berating you dished out to all of those who knew early on. The fact that you also bought in with your dollars is sad. After this shock wears off you should take a step back and realize that you were a great deal of the problem. funneling $ to this obvious fraud and working to deflect the wheels of justice with a tide of “fanboy logic” which defied all logic. And the trickle down pain you caused all of the clean athletes across all sports should make you ashamed.

    • http://www.cycleboredom.com Chris

      Heheh, thanks for your comment Kevin. Granted, I bought into the lie. But, since you couldn’t possibly know my entire story from this post, why don’t you ask the internet about me regarding this subject. Go ahead, ask. 😉

  • http://www.greggdeal.com Gregg

    I agree with Kevin. Shame on you for believing that people work hard and succeed. If you were my fan, I’d do drugs too. How dare you have hope for good things. You’re such an asshole.

    #sarcasm

    Take it easy, there, Kevin. Not everyone understands the purposes and rantings of a cynical prick. You have ease into it.

  • HughJassPhD

    Great article, but I disagree with Kevin. This has just been a witch hunt and another attempt to bring down a proud American, Frenchy crushing, non-positive testing hero. I blame Obama or something……

  • kevin Halls

    Ill say one thing, it is certainly interesting to see the fans of LA come unravelled. It is a good thing, a way of processing that is very well studied. To anyone reading this, my critisism is not with you personally it is with the groupthink that evolves around a cult of personality. Gregg, what you call cynisism I call common sense. I dont believe that I am gifted in understanding human nature and yet LA exuded dickhead from the moment he opened his mouth on live tv. It is baffling how anyone bought into it. Unfortunately he created a legion of fans in his own image. I was never cynical concerning LA. I am a physician with more than enough experience in exercise phys to understand the story as it unfolded. I have always remained optimistic that in time all would be revealed…and it has. I have given my life to medicine (the helping people part not the $ part) and cycling and will probably die poor as a result. What you call rantings I see as medicine that those who supported the fraud must take. Of course I applaud Cycle Boredom’s (and those like him) reversal but it would have meant a lot more a few years ago. Remember when you said, “look what he has done for cancer…Look what he has done for cycling”? Well look. He has bombed both into the stone age. To the extent that I am critical of LA is the extent that he duped the most suffering and helpless among us for personal gain. So go ahead and call me cynical and an asshole etc. I can take it. It is nothing compared to the monumental effect this has on my patient population in terms of immediate psychological effects and long term damage to the ability of legit charities to raise $ for their cause.

  • http://www.iwearspandex.com Brian Stephens

    Great post! I too was a Lance fanboy. Not quite wearing all the USPS jerseys and gear, but wearing the yellow bracelet and having my wife call LA my “boyfriend.” Yeah, I was a huge fan. I fell in love with the sport because of LA.

    I feel sorry for guys like Kevin. No offense, Kevin, but I’m going to lump you into a group similar to the group think you mentioned. First, I have a problem with anyone who says “I knew it right from the start.” Really? You knew LA was a doper, a bully, and a prick…right when he said hello on TV. Tell me more Mr. Armchair QB. Did you also know that most elite athletes have an arrogance about them? Now tell me more about the future, since you can read the tea leaves better than anyone.

    I feel sorry that Kevin wasn’t a fan. If you gave up and were not a fan, then you missed some intense drama. Sure it’s all false now and they were probably all doped, but wow, that drama was fabulous. I would be mad at myself if I didn’t enjoy the cycling as it unfolded. Did you not watch McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds hit homeruns? Yeah, I watched that too and loved it.

    It’s not like they told us “Santa Claus doesn’t exist.” He still exists…he’s just using a jet pack and having the toys made in China.

  • kevin Halls

    Like I said…A legion of fans in his own image. Please, I am honored but there is no room for you to feel sorry for me. But like I said…I can take it. So let it out…its all part of the processing. Right now you are at stage two…yearning. And yes I knew. Call it gestalt based upon a number of factors but I knew. I just collected a bet that I made back in 2000 that LA was doping and that it would be revealed. Only $10 but I am on record at least with those around me. And I was not the only one either. As I recall the consesus among my peers (cyclists, triathletes, Dr.’s) was that everyone was doing it even back then. Well Brian I dont know what is in the tea leaves for sport but it looks like for you its business as usual…On to the next fraud. Let us know who it is this time as you appear to be a leading indicator.