Saturday, July 23, 2005

The King in Yellow

Well, he's just about done it again. There's not much else to say.

The story of his recovery from cancer hsa been told almost ad nauseam, but I don't think it's possible to over-emphasize the magnitude of his achievement.

Coming back to good health from testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain would have been a pretty inspiring story all by itself. He didn't have more than a 50-50 shot at sucking air a year after his diagnosis, much less walking or even riding.

But that wasn't enough. Not only did he recover, but he returned to his former job as a professional athlete.

But that wasn't enough. He entered the Tour de France in 1999, arguably the world's most punishing athletic event, and won. Not three years after being damn near dead, he won. And kept on winning, for an utterly unprecedented six straight years, soon to be seven. I seriously doubt that we'll see his like again in our lifetimes.

But, at the close of his incredible career, I find myself looking forward in anticipation.

For the past several years, the outcome has been something of a foregone conclusion. No one was hard enough, tough enough, or strong enough to beat Lance for twenty-four racing days in July. He's so far ahead of his competitors that no one can touch him. He's been known to pass other riders in time trials where they start two minutes apart! Think on that -- he can start two minutes behind, and beat the next guy to the finish line. That's dominance, folks.

But netx year, it's wide open.

For the last seven years, we've been watching the field fight like mad for the only two podium spots realistically open to them. But next year, the top spot is up for grabs. Will Jan Ullrich sack up and prove to be the natural bookends to the Lance Armstrong era? Or will Ivan Basso, who has come up second two years straight, take command? (That's the way I'd bet.) Or will someone we haven't heard of yet come from nowhere and surprise us?

It's going to be a righteous scrum next year. The King has had an incredible, legendary seven-year run, but tomorrow, the crown will be laid at the finish line. We'll have to wait twelve months to find out who the next King will be.

1 comment:

kala474jerrica said...
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