You can say what you want about the hype of Lance returning to competitive cycling with his participation in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race, but when the gun went off and rubber hit the dirt, the Texas Tornado delivered. Let's be frank and honest. He didn't just deliver, he arrived, he stomped, he kicked butt. Pick your favorite metaphor for an incredible performance and that will probably still come up short when trying to describe Lance's phenomenal ride.
What makes Lance's performance even more incredible is not that he beat long-time friend Chris Carmichael to the finish line, it is that he hasn't raced a mountain bike since three or four forays in Colorado and the East Coast way back in 1999 after he won his first Tour de France. You can have a huge engine, but there are definite technical skills needed to master to go fast on a mountain bike lest you crash or break something and either limp home or have to drop out.
Lance's engine was an unknown factor. He hasn't raced a bike at this level since the Tour de France three years ago in 2005 and his hectic schedule clearly is prohibitive of long enduro rides. He told me last year that he loves doing the six-mile loop in New York's Central Park when he is living in Gotham City, but that is a far cry from 100 technical off-road miles.
Before the event, Lance seemed to have it all in proper perspective, noting in a pre-race press conference that his goal was to finish within an hour of David Wiens. Well, not only did Lance finish within an hour of Wiens, he finished within three minutes of Wiens. It doesn't take a mathmetician to figure out that if Wiens broke the course record by over 10 minutes, Lance was also under the old course mark. Whoa!
OK. If Lance can keep it in persective, we can do the same. This was an incredible ride by an incredible athlete, but it was really just a competitive guy finding a new way to race a bike and have fun. I think that was a smile on his face at the finish line.
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