Thursday, January 14, 2010

33 Tour Down Under Or Tour Down Armstrong?

Like most cycling fans, this is the time of the year in which I have pull out of the winter slumber and get into the "zone". You know what I'm talking about. Drum-roll. the international pro calender is starting next week with the TDU and there are some big names on the starting list.

So I'm all excited and I go alright, cool so where can I watch the TDU in the U.S?

I wish I hadn't found out the answer. For learning that this sweet little race is going to be man-handled by VERSUS yet again instilled a reaction likable to an excited male organ turning droopy in sexual indifference.

Some of you out there may be pretty disappointed to learn that the "voices of cycling" trio Liggett, Sherwin & Roll could be planning on unleashing the same love triangle with Armstrong that they had all throughout last year.

"Oh Armstrong did this...I'm so happy."

"Oh Armstrong did that...I'm even happier."

"Oh Armstrong did something in between this and that you may want to know..."

"And...there we have Armstrong, he's looking great, look at his shining bottom..."

Someone save us all.

If this is going to be an all-out orgy between professional commentators and the controversial "face of cycling" like last year, expect yourselves not to learn a word about the brighter side of the Aussie pro scene, about all those younger upcoming talents who are the pillars of this sport tomorrow.

More disappointment comes in the following quote from the Cycling Fans website :

"In its second year of Tour Down Under coverage, VERSUS will air daily 30-minute stage re-caps from Jan. 19-23 at 6 p.m. ET as well as a one-hour show at 6 p.m. ET on Jan. 24 for the final stage.....VERSUS' daily coverage of the Tour Down Under will be supplemented with a half-hour special on Jan. 23 at 5:30 p.m. ET titled Lance Armstrong: The Next Chapter. This must-see special will feature Paul Sherwen's exclusive one-on-one interview with the cycling legend in which Armstrong reveals his thoughts of his performance in 2009 and what fans can expect from him in 2010. The special will re-air on Jan. 24 at 3:30 p.m. ET."

I think the idea is preposterous. Is Lance Armstrong the "next chapter" of cycling? What is there to talk more about his next chapters when we already know so much about this hot bag of air from his multiple movies, his TV show appearances, his Youtube videos, his multiple books, his multiple interviews, his thousands of twitterings and from his multitude of yes-men who are probably collecting a good sum themselves publicizing his name?

I mean, this man's PR scheme is on steroids with a capital S and it is just the same old, cheap stuff overwhelming cycling wherever it goes. Nothing is going to change I guess.

Like many, my only hope here is that he at least gives his "Global Cancer Awareness" propaganda some more priority instead of taking the stage to yap about himself. What has the Global Cancer Awareness done so far in the Globe? Are people more aware now of cancer than before? Give the public some concrete numbers for a change. Yes, everyone wants to know.

Armstrong publicized in a grand press conference in 2008 that for two years prior to his comeback, he had "sat and studied a global cancer awareness strategy" because he was so overcome with the epidemic, and the motivation to get back on the bike would have been specifically to implement it. "That would be the number one goal," he had said.

In that same press conference, he admitted he would talk with the Prime Minister of Italy during the Giro to initiate an anti-cancer program over there. He said he would organize a Global Summit at Paris. He said he would organize this initiative and that initiative for the respective communities in the countries he raced in. Did those really happen? Not sure.

And then he went on about his comprehensive anti-doping program with Don Catlin, which we all now know, doesn't exist anymore. So what about the rest of the story? Is he sticking to cancer awareness or did that come apart too? Sadly in 2009, we heard more about his media antics with rival, a composed Contador, than we did about the specifics of "Global Cancer Awareness".

One should really think about what motivations Armstrong has with the TDU, especially when he embarked on racing here in 2009. Give this one a critical thought for a moment.

In grand manner, Armstrong had remarked in 2008 prior to his comeback that he would essentially race for free. During the infamous interview with Vanity Fair, he spun to Douglas Brinkley the following :

"Everybody in cycling has a team and takes a team salary. I am essentially racing for free. No salary. No bonus. Nothing on the line.… This one’s on the house. And you know what? At the end of the day, I don’t need money.… Not only will I be fine, my kids will be fine, my grand kids will be fine.”

To Joe Public reading that snippet from this interview, it might have appeared that Armstrong was being humble and truthful for a change and was not interested in making profits off this whole "comeback 2.0" affair. Was Joe Public right? Not if he really understood Armstrong's dictionary.

So the reality?

For 7 days of being sheltered in the peloton at the TDU in 2009, it was reported by Crikey that Armstrong pocketed a cool sum of upto AU$3 million (US$2.7 million) in taxpayer money. Of that, he was immediately paid US$500,000 by the South Australian government after his announcing while the rest came later after the race. What is certain is that he received AU$1 million (US$925,000) just to stand somewhere and talk in general about cancer.

The SA Tourism office covered up the money trail in public by saying that disclosure of his income was not possible as they considered it "commercial in confidence". What does that mean? It means you don't have to reveal what you don't have to reveal. Simple. Besides, Rann's control over information is so overwhelming that Bob Gosferd noted on Crikey "...even senior Ministers in his government don’t know how much the Texan is being paid."

You would think he would have donated a little bit of those profits to his charity foundation. In fact, that's what he had told Premier Rann Press who eventually gave the same story to the media at TDU. But apparently, that wasn't the case as he ended up pocketing it all for himself.

Later, knowing that anger and concern were being raised in Australia over this sum of money he had earned, Armstrong quit dodging questions and finally deflected his initial admission to Vanity Fair that he was going to race free since he had enough money and all that rubbish. He told the NY Times :

"I'm not donating the fee to my foundation but treating it as income."

Just like that. Keep in mind such earning excesses came at a time when wages of the peloton itself had decreased by 40% in recent years. And the excesses were earned for what exactly? For doing some minimal discussions about the cancer epidemic and then finishing 64th at the race, in the back somewhere.

And 3 million is just one piece of the pie. For the Giro, the Italian Tuttosport reported that Armstrong was getting paid 2 million Euros (US$2.87 million) to show up. What he made for the Tour of California and the Tour of Ireland are shrouded in secrecy. Its anyone's guess, but don't cut yourself short. Start counting in six figures.

Considering Armstrong's long revisionist history and attitude of outright lying, one would have to study him with critical thought and gut instincts instead of simply drinking the Kool-aid he spills out in PR campaigns.

It would not hurt if cycling fans and other members of the Australian public thought critically about what Armstrong's real agenda was at the Tour Down Under last year. How much does he and the people who publicize him stand to make this year by shuttling around his ego, much less the whole anti-cancer propaganda? And then the big question is, is that your money and is it being well spent?

For the rest of us, let's hope VERSUS provides a balanced coverage of professional cycling from now on, instead of bootlicking Lance Armstrong.


Valverde, the “Texan”, TDU2010 And What The Australian Didn’t Tell You…

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  1. Anonymous7:15 AM

    Well done. Saying it like it is man!

  2. Global Lance Armstrong awareness is going smooth under the guise of cancer. The epidemic isn't cancer, its the amount of $$$ that fattens his bank account. Chick chick ching! I wonder what his dirty tricks are going to be this year when he's out to make the corporate Radioshack bosses happy.

  3. Lol Ron, will your American audience like articles like this? They surely won't read this on Velonews though.

  4. Anonymous8:31 AM

    How much extra money was brought into Australia (Adelaide in particular) due to Armstrong's presence? I would think that the number of spectators and indirect cashflow from advertising, etc would have been a lot less had he not turned up.

    Sometimes you gotta spend $$ to make $$

  5. Anonymous8:38 AM

    "Why Do Hate Groups Toward Cyclists Exist?" - Ron on Monday, January 11, 2010

    - Ryan

  6. Rann probably made a good deal of money from promoting Armstrong. The two <a href=">are now in wedlock</a> promoting each other.

  7. I disagree with Ryan. A step in constructive criticism is always passed off as a hategroup when it comes to Armstrong and that happens when people can't challenge what's said. I didn't see anything written about advocating violence against Armstrong. Plenty of people are disgusted with Armstrong for right reasons.

  8. Anonymous9:19 AM

    Well said. Armstrong has to be the best conman of all time. Anyone with an enquiring mind knows that he cheated the system for years, so all his earnings from cycling are illicit. Yet he can still face the public without shame.
    That done he realises that he can do the same thing with earnings from cancer. And still nobody can bring him down.
    He is propped up by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, e.g. some journos, presenters, the establishment etc. The sooner they pass on the better it will be for cycling.

  9. As usual, a pointy argument :)

    I have absolutely no problem with athletes/celebrities making the big $.

    I do have a problem when people lie about it. LA hardly needs more money, it would have been GREAT if he disclosed "I got $xxx (maybe add four more x's to that) from doing a given race - since I'm riding for free (as stated at the beginning of the year), it's all going to the LA Foundation for Cancer Research". Or don't say anything, say "Appearance fees are normal in cycling, since high profile racers raise the interest of the public"

    But not dealing with both hands. LA really is getting his chops as a politician :S

  10. Trackasaurus2:27 PM

    "Welcome to Tour Down Armstrong, where're we'll start on on self promotion square, climb the steep secrecy mountain and just about when it hits the peak, we descent into marketing street for more anti-cancer cobbles. There's a sharp right turn bend where we'll push into brainwashing cave and sorry, we can't take cameras in there for everything will be just too dark."

    Stay tuned. This is an exciting race!"

  11. LA has been in the sport for over 2 decades and I should think it is just selfish for him and others to continue to warrant and provide over the top media attention, often for things as silly as a "Tweet". Look I'm all for someone making a few bucks to buy dough through this job but why can't younger athletes on the circuit get to do that with atleast 30% of the air coverage he gets? Its clear to us that the VERSUS corporation cares only about Armstrong because of his commercial value.

  12. Anonymous4:17 PM

    Agreed with Scienceguy. This whole legend-ship thing needs a slap in the face when it crosses the line. As of right now, it has sleepwalked LA into a commercial demi-god and a lot of others who worship him are essentially blind.

  13. In the TDF 09, he announced that all proceeds raised by the sale of Livestrong bands during the race would go towards cancer organizations in France. Did anyone see anywhere if that really happened, or how much they received? Not a word about this.

  14. Did anyone wonder why LAF "pledged" money sitting for cancer efforts to Haiti and then issued a big press release afterward? This is cheaper than I thought. Misappropriation of funds on one hand, and then being all ostentatious about it on the other. This didn't come out of Lance's personal account either. Others have been donating money that is their own, not kept aside for a particular cause.

  15. Anonymous8:16 PM

    Has Armstrong ever done anything positive in his life? Held a door for someone? Gave someone the time of day when they asked? Fed the donkeys sugar cubes at the zoo? Just call him the Devil and be done with it. Good grief.


  16. Hey Ron,

    Regarding the pledging of money towards Haiti (which by all means is good) you may find this comment on interesting :


    Lance should be the one to give the money for relief efforts NOT that of his Livestrong organization. That money NEEDS to go towards that of CANCER causes. Lance has PLENTY of money to give to this effort and needs to do such! All of us who gave to Livestrong through the years should feel just a little cheated, as I was really hoping my contributions would solely support that of CANCER research. The money DOES need to go to Haitian relief, however, and again, LANCE should be giving this money himself. He does this through his organization so that it will be used as a rather large tax deduction..very business-like. I am glad the money is going there, I just think it needs to be coming from a different place. GOD BLESS THE SOULS OF HAITI..and GOD BLESS THOSE AFFECTED BY CANCER! GOD BLESS you the readers.


  17. Rob : Donation is good but misappropriated. From comments on LAF's own website, I don't think some people are 100% pleased that money is being channeled without their knowledge to causes outside the charity's root mission. Alright, forget it I digressed I want this discussion to be focus on the topic of the post. Let LAF do whatever it wants, we'll pretend it never happened.

  18. Anonymous10:22 PM

    I am anything but an LA fanboy, but you're being a little naive & trying to have it both ways here.

    Cycling (in America) has had >100 years to go mainstream & not until LA did it garner TV ratings above cow-chip throwing. Like it or not LA made cycling "ligit", and the peripheral rewards ($$$) to the sport/industry.

    I'd like to see the TV ratings in '05-'07...I'd bet..about the same as Golf in '10 (without TW).

    Sure he's a self-aggrandizing prick..but IF the goal is raising
    cycling's profile..he's "the" man, so start talking like businessmen..he sure does.

  19. Another great post Ron!!

    In fact, I was asked another day if I was going to Adelaide this year. Having answered with a "probably not", the second question was fired with a tone of disbelief:

    - Are you going to miss out on Lance's last race in Australia?

    I tried to name a few other riders in the 2010 race but the conversation changed back to a work related topic...

    Armstrong in Australia? I don't give a s..t but it is good for the sport (here). The money? If there are people prepared to make him rich, so be it. He can have it, he is doing more than most.

    Is he not?

    This is the Adelaide Race in 2009, with no sponsors...

    Safe riding!!


  20. sansen10:50 PM

    Hmm, I wonder if Germany would be tempted to classify this Church of Lance (especially after viewing some Versus High Priests spreading awareness through Lancegasms) like they do Scientology: something sinister to raise money honey.

  21. Aon @ 10:22 :

    Raising cycling's profile? It wasn't raised enough? How much raise does he want to raise it up further?

    The often seen quote "Armstrong is good for cycling" stems from the fact that he contributed to the profits of Versus by making them the fastest growing sports cable network in recent years.

    Whether cycling is mainstream in the U.S is moot. Just do a % comparison with other European and/or third world countries. Its nowhere mainstream. Certainly Armstrong is doing little himself towards cycling advocacy. He's more interested self-centered show biz and if he doesn't get it, he'll try and get it through encouraging character assassinations of other prominent riders better than him.

  22. Last year saw some horrible cycling journalism. Those cartoon/animation bits from Versus portraying lance like some sort of superhero and over here Eursopsort's completely daft planet Armstrong. Horrible. And the worst part is that it's back this year. More five miunte clips that consists of twitteranda and crap animations..

  23. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Bike_Boy @11:27

    Here are some stats re: LA

    Name recognition(men 12-64)/Fav. athlete

    LA 87%/33%
    Tiger 90/40
    Jordon 92/4

    Trek road bike sales since '99..+48%

    USA Cycling membeship +30% since '99

    OLN viewership of tour 1.6 million daily

    Yes...cycling IS mainstream..

    If you think those are "moot" points, alot of people's livihoods are moot.

    While I personally liked cycling pre-Lance better; it is undeniable that HE has had a MAJOR impact that MOST will agree is positive.

    Its a little disingenuous to throw ad hominums at the guy (me included) when most people involved in the sport/industry have profitted because of him.

    By what definition isn't he a cycling advocate? Should he lead the fight for more bike lanes too?

  24. Anon above,

    I think your figures (where are u pulling it from btw?) ties well into BB's statement that all this is about money, and just bringing more viewers into the television doesn't necessarily mean more people are biking out on the streets. Cycling is not mainstream in the U.S, period. It is growing and may get there but not mainstream. Someone claiming that Armstrong is the number 1 advocate of cycling as transportation means in the U.S is insulting a lot of men and women who have worked their ass off to do something for the movement in the country. Many people, especially in the middle ages and above, have been cycling way before Armstrong won the Tours. People don't need to bike chiefly because one Armstrong is doing it. Ludicrous.

    By your logic, maybe in 2010, we can all sit an aruge that Alberto Contador was the #1 advocate of cycling and TV viewership of the sport rose because of him and his rivalry with Armstrong as well. Saying the viewership numbers are just because of Armstrong is unselfishly attributing the real causes of that rise to one man. Its is isolation of cause to one person. Perhaps we don't need a peloton to begin with, maybe VERSUS can just show Armstrong biking around his house in the afternoon heat and then declare TV Viewership has risen. That seems valid.

    Again, the statistics aren't comprehensive and things will always be uncertain as to what caused viewership to rise in 2009-2010. I don't accept the idea that it is Armstrong alone.

  25. Interesting stuff Ron, but could you sort out the mismash of currencies? It's a minor thing but it made the numbers slightly confusing for me with the section switching from AUS Dollar to USD to Euro. Can you give them all in USD or state local and give USD equivalent in brackets? It would make it a bit clearer. Thanks.

  26. Alex,

    I made the change. Thanks for letting me know. 3 million AU$ is over USS$2.7 million according to a currency calculator online.

  27. Anonymous8:39 AM

    Bike_Boy @11:27

    If you think OLN's viewership #s are for ANY other reason than LA...YOU ARE DELUSIONAL. Forgive my Capt. obvious... Americans are nothing if not jingoistic & lovers of "winners". LA satisfied these characteristics BIGTIME. He beat "them Euro-peons" at their America is #1. Rah..Rah..Rah

    No they wouldn't just watch him "riding around his house"..but they DID watch to see him...BEAT..those NON-Americans!!

    I never said he was "bicycling's #1advocate" ...just his impact on the general public was profound...which in-turn has had a FAR greater positive effect on the public than ALL of the people "who worked their asses off".

    Doubt it.. ask anyone who has promoted a road race in the US in the last 10 years, if during the discussions with a city counsel if Armstrong's name was mentioned.

    How else would you explain Trek's 48% gain in road bike sales in a flat market?

    I think some of you are letting your personal animus toward LA blind you to the REALITY of his impact on the general public.

  28. I am in Adelaide and there are some fantastic Aussie talents racing the will be awesome not to mention that the current WORLD CHAMPION is racing. My theory is that Armstrongs only strength in beating Contador on the TDF this year is getting into his head and so this is part of the whole process.....seriously I think Armstrong will be the next President of the US.....

  29. Buttsy,

    Thanks for the report. Oh yeah, I have to absolutely agree with you, there are some really big talents out there in Australia.

    We're keeping our fingers crossed. When it comes to televised broadcasts of American cycling, VERSUS has to ensure they annoy the heck out of viewers by bootlicking the demigod of cycling. I wish they wouldn't pay their homages by destroying a balanced coverage.

  30. There are so many things here I don't even know where to start, but I will pick one. The topic of Lance being good for bike business and talking in business terms.

    Fine - companies do a thing called "key man" insurance. If one person controls the fate of a company they take out insurance on said person. Think Steve Jobs at Apple. Usually, though, this is for small companies, cause big companies will get torn apart by the banks for letting all the power fall into one person. Think Steve Jobs getting cancer and Apple still thriving in the six months he was out.

    Bike Racing and its' growth is attributed to LA, no doubt there. But, what is versus and USA cycling to do when the guy steps down? What are they to do if he is caught doping? What plan B s there? So if Trek sells less, who cares, there are other bikes. If versus doesn't cover races, then we all go to the internet. If USA cycling membership falls then we lose some of the Johnny comes lately. Who cares? Personally, I miss the day of smaller group rides when people were into the sport, not the man.

    How's that for biz talk?

  31. Well said, Velo. That's biz talk with some reality in it.

  32. "seriously I think Armstrong will be the next President of the US....."

    Help us All...
    But I'd love to see him make a run for it, because I doubt he'd survive the intense scrutiny into his sporting past.

    It's one thing to keep a lid on some dark secrets within the sporting arena, but open the scrutiny up to a broader more voracious media, leaks will develop faster than he would be able to control or stop.
    I suspect he's well aware of that, thus would never take that chance.

    Although, ego can be controlling to the point of delusion, and he has a Texas sized ego...

    Maybe that is what it will take to get the truth out...
    It's a little late for a run in '12, so lets set his sights on '16.
    LA in 2016!
    Run Lance Run!

    (although Lance has paid some lip service to a Political career, I suspect it is just to stroke his ego... I think his talk about a political career is the same as his talk about going after the Hour Record years ago... bullshit)

  33. Anonymous2:53 PM

    Lance Armstrong is my favorite. He is such an incredible person to have gone through what he has and still continue winning.

    I heard he once had to Compare Car Insurance and he did it in under 2 minutes. This guy is fast. Faster than anything I've ever seen.


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