To Lance or not to Lance - that is the question.
On RAGBRAI you learn to embrace the unexpected. It might be getting a flat or getting caught in the rain. Or it could be getting caught in a pace line lead by Lance Armstrong.
That's what happened to me yesterday on RAGBRAI. It was not even 8 a.m. and Lance, wearing cycling gear from his store Mellow Johnny's in Austin, Texas, buzzed past me on my left.
As fast as you can say RAGBRAI, I jumped on to his group's wheel and rode fast for the next seven miles. The adrenaline was pumping. Is this what it might have felt like riding with him on the Tour de France?
If he should stop, what would I say to him? Should I get my picture taken with him? If it were five years ago when I rode my first RAGBRAI, I would have said yes in a heartbeat. But that was before he admitted to doping.
Not only did he admit that he doped once, but he said he had been doping for years. He repeatedly lied when asked. He won the Tour de France seven times and now these accomplishments were stripped from him. That's the bad and the ugly.
The silver lining was that he gave the sport a face. A face that looked like us. The U.S. Cycling Association needed a salesperson. We needed an American face which we could believe and love. And along came Lance...cancer survivor, winner, cool Texan, hero to many.
He also partnered with the American Cancer Association and formed the Livestrong Foundation. Because he fought cancer and won, we believed he could do the same in cycling.
People love an underdog. Isn't that what we love about athletics? That the underdog can overcome obstacles and become the winner.
The fact is, he came to RAGBRAI to ride. To ride with people like you and me. I think he enjoyed the non-competitive pace lines. I think RAGBRAI has given him a chance to reconnect with riding, not racing. If I could have asked him one question, it would not have been about doping. It would have been, “What's your favorite kind of pie?”