I think I wish him luck.
I keep thinking and thinking about this and I can only come up with a big "good for him."
Lancypoo has lots to lose here. If he flops in france next summer he looks like a moron at best. I am sure he realizes flopping starts at second place and only gets worse from there. If he wins he shows that he is still class of the field going on three years since his retirement, and he has as many TdF victories as that phelps guy has medals in Beijing. He can raise quadrillions for cancer research, clear his name of doping innuendo, cement his legacy as the greatest cyclist outside of Merckx, and launch his career as a politician - all in one very tiring 21 day stretch.
Go read the vanity fair article. Lots of interesting stuff in there and hinted at, but Lance is spot-on on one point: he is a tabloid joke. I can't remember the last time I picked up a tabloid and did not see a picture of him looking drunk and cross eyed with some blonde ten plus years his junior. Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey and ashley olsen.... Ashley Olsen? Olsen Twins Ashley Olsen? Seriously?
I can see his desire to focus a bit. I can see his desire to get back in the limelight for what he is good at. I can see his desire to try to clear his name a bit by winning a tour under the current antidoping microscope. I can see his desire to get his foundation flush for forever, instead of just for the next 10 years. I can see his desire to really put some serious cash into cancer research.
But still I am not sure what is really driving this, he has been and can continue doing a lot of good without throwing a leg over a bike again. Maybe it was the constant lingering suspicious and innuendo from him being the dominant racer in the doping era, but it might have been watching the TV and seeing Carlos Sastre win. The same guy he put 3 minutes in on the last TT in the 2005 tour.
All his major competitors from his glory days have been discredited. Who is left? Here are the top ten from 2003-4-5 tours, Lancypoo's last three wins. Striken Names are those who were busted for doping (Mancebo is a judgment call, lets call him a doper as he retired immediately on being associated with operation puerto, and came back only after it was obvious there was no teeth to it).
2005 tour top ten
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 86.15.02
3 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 6.21
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 9.59
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 11.01
2004 tour top ten
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal p/b Berry Floor 83.36.02
2 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile Team 6.19
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 8.50
8 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 19.51
9 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 20.12
10 Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 22.54
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal-Berry Floor 83.41.12
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Team Telekom 4.14
4 Tyler Hamilton (USA) Team CSC 6.17
7 Ivan Basso (Ita) Fassa Bortolo 10.12
9 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 18.49
What do we learn from this? No one who has not been caught doping has finished a tour within 6 minutes of Armstrong during his winning streak, for the three years shown, or all 7 tours if you go back to 99 and apply the same reasoning. The last two guys that finished in virtual second by this half assed retroactive reordering, Leipheimer in 2005 and Kloden in 2004, would be Lance's teammates should he return to the Astana team.
(Also notable is Oscar Pereiro, who really is not that bad a bike racer, that would be a virtual 7th, 4th and win in 2004-5-6.)
So really who is going to beat Lance if he shows up in any kind of shape?
Sastre? I think Lance out TT's him by minutes and minutes.
Cadel Evans? I don't think he can handle the stress.
Contador/Leipheimer? They will be well paid to shut up and ride for Lance.
The Shlecks? Only if they can make up for losing 15 minutes in the prologue.
I think the end story is that Lantz Y. Pantz wins decisively next july and he wins as clean as they can tell with the modern testing, which means he is as clean as everyone else who makes it to the finish, just like he was from 1999-2005. In his mind the TdF is one big low hanging fruit due to the lack of credible threats.
But still, the only possible way for him to look good here is to win. He looks really bad if he does not win and he could possibly be completely disgraced if he gets pipped for some sort of doping test. He has set the bar pretty high and I expect and demand that he follow through, completely transparent antidoping testing with publication of his results (something that has been promised but only sporadically delivered by many a CSC/Garmin/Highroad). I expect him to follow through on his promise to meet with antidoping crusaders/reporters David Walsh and Paul Kimmage. I expect him to really do some serious good in cancer research. I expect him to show that this is not a big exercise in ego and there is a greater good.
The excellent Boulder Report has his thoughts here, spinning some sort of political/sports management power thingy at the end that I do not quite get. Personally, I blame Tyler:
Tyler Hamilton is the current US Pro national champion.
Tyler, who is older than Lance by a few months and has had zero significant results since returning from his doping suspension, somehow outsmarted the entire clean young force of the future Garmin/Chipotle team and will be wearing some hideous stars and stripes rock and republic jersey next year. I bet Lance saw that and thought, shit, if he can win the US national champs at the age of 37 and clean, well I can beat the whole world. Just watch me.
And I think I will be right there by the TV rooting for him. I can't think of a reason why not. So: