Lance, have a seat. We need to talk. No, not later, son. Right now.
Lance, your friends and I have seen news stories about you coming out of retirement and racing in the Tour de France next year. To tell the truth, you’ve got us all worried.
No, we’re not worried about whether you could win an eighth Tour. The fact is, none of us care. Well, that’s not true. Your friend Al Trautwig cares, but he’s not really the guy you want to impress, is he? The truth is, you’ve definitely hit the point of diminishing returns on Tour wins. Not a single person in this room — put your hand down, Al — will think you’re a better man for winning eight times instead of seven.
I know what L’Equipe said. Yes, I know it was rude, and you’re striking back the only way you know how. But you need to start looking at the bigger picture.
Think back for a minute, Lance. A year ago, you were hinting that you wouldn’t race the Tour in 2005 — that you’d take a year off. You milked the "will-he-won’t-he" publicity for all it’s worth for as long as you could, then went on Oprah — Oprah, for crying out loud! — to reveal the stunning news that you’d once again do the exact same thing you had been doing for the past six years. And you said you’d be done after that.
And now you’re doing the same thing, Lance. You’re coyly telling us maybe you’ll race or maybe you won’t. Your reason may be different, but if you show up on Oprah again, nobody will be on the edge of their seat about why.
You know, Lance, it’s not even so much that you’re coming out of retirement. It’s why. If you had said, "I thought about it and I love racing too much and I don’t want to quit after all," we would have understood. But racing for revenge? Lance, you’re not in high school anymore.
Think hard for a second, Lance. A magazine in a different country said it thinks you took EPO. So how will racing again prove them wrong? If you win, they’ll say you’re doping. If you lose, they’ll say you lost because you finally came clean. And meanwhile, you’ll have demonstrated that all anyone needs to do to get Lance to jump is write an accusatory article. That’s hardly a position of power, Lance.
You know what we think really bugs you about that article, Lance? It’s that the article isn’t about what you’re doing now. It’s about what you did — past tense, Lance — six years ago. That article made you realize that the only Lance they care about is the one who’s racing. That no matter what you do from now on, it won’t matter to most people as much as what you’ve already done.
I think that you’re not afraid articles like this one are going to continue to be published. You’re afraid articles like this are going to stop. And then, sometime after that, articles about you will stop altogether. And you know what? They probably will. This year, next year, whenever.
Unless you come up with that cure to cancer you keep talking about. I suspect you’d get a fair amount of publicity for that. Maybe you should focus on that for a while.
And there’s one more thing, Lance. You kind of wore out your welcome last year. It’s not like by the end of the Tour last year anyone was saying, "I wish we could see Lance do this one more time." (Al, now’s not the time. Sit down, Al.) Phil and Paul were exhausted from saying your name nonstop. Your teammates were exhausted from riding for you nonstop. The American public was just glad that the Tour was over and that now they could forget about cycling forever since no other Americans race bikes at a top professional level.
Oh, they do? My bad. What are their names?
Huh. Never heard of them. We’re getting off-track here anyway.
We threw you a retirement party, Lance. You see Jan standing over there by the lamp? He was there. See Phil and Paul by the window (cute of you to wear matching shirts, guys)? They were there. See George in those wacky Oakleys he wears? He was there. We were all there. We let you give a speech.
We gave you presents, Lance. It will be awkward if we have to ask for them back.
(Lance, my weight today is 163.8 lbs. Just thought you should know.)