I still remember the day Lance Armstrong won his fourth Tour de France like it was yesterday. Although it might have been his fifth. It was late July or early August, and I was sitting at my computer at work, except this might have been the summer I was traveling. My friend Brian or Jason came up to me at my work desk or in the youth hostel, and said, “Dude, Chas, Lance just won again. He beat [the second place finisher] by [a certain amount of time that is either considered close or not close].”
“Wow, cool!” I said. “Awesome. He’s a beast.” Then I went back to working, or back to de-spidering my travel sack, certain that we’d have a party later because Lance had officially broken the Tour’s all-time record for number of high-fives. And he was only three shy of the record of kisses on the cheek by pretty French awards ceremony ladies.
When I got home from Peru or Downtown Chicago, I thought, you know, I’ll give this bike-riding thing a try. To sound like I know what I’m talking about, I’ll even start referring to it as cycling, or as the real pros call it, bi-wheeling. I went over to my neighbor’s apartment — this guy James — who I knew was big into cycling because he owned a jersey from Team Baguettes. I asked James for a good route, and he responded by handing me three homemade granola bars and asking what kind of horseless saddle-spinner I had.
“My bike’s really old,” I said. “I think it’s from like when I was a kid.”
“Then you should borrow mine,” James said. He went to the corner and brought back his aluminum legmobile. I lifted it up, and it weighed slightly more than half a cantaloupe. The pedals were more air than pedal, so James also gave me his all-black, Velcro clip shoes, suitable for ages 16-99, to borrow. He told me to ride North along the lake, drink plenty of fluids, and never, ever slow down for children. I agreed to his conditions, including the second one, and took off the next morning.
The clip shoes took a little bit of time to get used to — sort of like pretzel M and M’s or my mortality — and I nearly fell at a couple stop signs. But when I got to the lake, I turned left and started pedaling harder. I felt so free and alive, like I was watching a Jackie Chan movie. After 40 minutes, my legs were starting to get tired — the top-front-of-leg muscles especially. I turned around and got back on the bike path heading South; I went as fast as I could until I was back in my neighborhood, crushing brunch.
But now I’m confused. Was everything I experienced on that ride — the adrenaline; the joy for life and for sitting on a chair three inches wide; the girl who kind of smiled at me near Oak Street Beach — was it all a lie?
And how is it possible that Lance is only now being found guilty? He’s peed in so many cups. He’s peed in 500 cups. And scientists have put electrodes in that pee to see: is there a steroid in the pee? Is there an EPO in the pee? And if there are EPOs floating in the middle, is it a normal number? Or is it a freak number, that you can only get by injecting yourself with no-no juice?
Well I guess the electrodes weren’t shiny enough, because they couldn’t detect that there were all manner of illegal EPOs and chromosomes all over that pee. And now we have to face the sad fact: Lance Armstrong’s pee was dishonest, warm, and a little too bright yellow for my taste.
James is mad, and rightfully so. But instead of getting angry at some 50% d-bag 50% good guy who’s about to have his life ruined, maybe now James should just focus on how biking is fun, and good for you and the planet? But I don’t know. I don’t know anything about anything, and even less about something.
I haven’t gone on any long rides since that 15-mile one I did eight years ago, although when it’s nice out, sometimes I bike to work. Sometimes I even cycle to work.