He’s here to win. No, not Macca, Lance Armstrong. Like Chris McCormack, Armstrong makes no excuses for his competitive nature and drive to succeed. Whether it’s cycling, kicking cancers ass and now at triathlons, Armstrong is here to win.
He’s made a huge splash by FINALLY making it official about his plans to race Ironman Kona and followed that up by coming in second in his first 70.3 race as a pro triathlete. This after a couple of decades off from the sport as a pro. Not bad.
In all the hubbub, in some corners, triathletes and fans of the sport are questioning the positive or negative impact this will have on the sport of triathlon. No bones about it, Lance has brought A LOT of eyes, ears and TV cameras to the sport in just a week. What’s going to happen if he qualifies for Kona and races? Let’s look at some pros and cons for Armstrong in triathlon.
1. PLUS - He brings more notoriety to the sport. EVERYONE knows who Lance Armstrong is and every got that he was a pro cyclist. A smaller population knows what order you swim, bike and run in a triathlon, or even know what three events make up a triathlon. I bet after this weekend, a LOT more people know what a triathlon is.
2. PUSH - With notoriety comes money. Sponsors and TV deals are sure to follow. It’s good to have funding and more money to go around, but with money come higher stakes and more pressure and a breeding ground for corruption and cheating.
3. PLUS – Livestrong and Armstrong go hand in hand. He’s bringing a monster charity to a new playing field and building a bigger army. You cannot argue that more funds for cancer research is not a good thing.
5. MINUS – Controversy. Armstrong will never escape the skeptics about doping, regardless of how many times he defends his innocence. He’s also followed by that competitive stigma that he’s less than cordial with his competitors. It’s also documented that he may not be the best of “losers”, if you consider second overall a losing spot.
6. MINUS – Understanding of the sport. Triathletes are generally more friendly than the pro cycling circuits. From limited exposure to cycling, competitive nature appears to take over and spill out publicly with barbs and cutting comments, whereas Chris McCormack saying he wants to win was considered taboo. Armstrong may have not been aware that the Panama winner was looking for a congrats, and simply passed him by. Obviously as Armstrong races, this should improve. He’s raced triathlons before, it shouldn’t be completely new.
7. MINUS – Perception for those that race on the Big Island is that must pay some dues. Race a few times and gain some appreciation on what others have done to get to the top spot. If Armstrong races and wins the first time he tries, what’s the perception in the sport? Did he pay his dues? Does anyone care?
8. PUSH – Greater competition. Lance is on a whole different level. If you win 7 Tour De Frances, you’re doing something right. Most of us go to a day job and maybe sit at a desk or walk around all day, Armstrong’s job is to work out. He organizes bike tours for Livestrong and races for the organization to gain recognition. He’s “got nothing better to do” than to train and find new ways to get better. The down side is that if Lance is out taking top spots from experienced pros that depend on winnings to live, Armstrong is “taking food from their mouths”. Does he really need a couple thousand from placing compared to other pro triathletes?
9. PLUS – Remember those other well recognized pros like Chrissie Wellington and Chris McCormack? They decided to pursue other interests and left a void in the sport at the pro level. Bam, here’s Lance and suddenly, we have someone else to watch.
10. PLUS – He’s proven at the federal level he’s got nothing to do with doping in the Tour days. They dropped the investigation and he is once again out of the limelight. He wins on natural ability.
11. MINUS – A whole slew of pro cyclists have been found guilty of doping. Jan and Alberto are just the latest, but Armstrong has teammates and rivals dropping like flies. There’s always that scratch to be itched, are we 100% sure he didn’t dope when everyone around him keeps getting pinged for it? Sure, he’s never been found guilty, but he’s also got a lot of resources to refute the charges.
12. PUSH – Will they all be this easy? First event back and he gets second overall. Will it be a cruise to a Kona qualification? Will stronger runners continue to edge him out, or will he find that last link in the puzzle to put it all together? At least there’s some conversation to be had instead of Armstrong winning by 30 minutes in his first race back.
13. MINUS – Money is no object. He flies a chartered jet where a lot of pros fly commercial. They have the stress of packing bikes and gear and hoping everything comes through unscathed. Lance can just toss his ride in the passenger seat and head to the race. Money isn’t everything, but it alleviates a lot of race day stress. Ever stayed in a crappy motel to save money to race an Ironman? How did you sleep on that bed with hair still on it and a shower with mold in it? I doubt Armstrong has to worry about that.
Lance Armstrong coming back to triathlon can’t be a bad thing. Along with the pluses, he will bring some minuses. Everyone in the sport has drawbacks, but Armstrong’s are larger than life. Add some TV cameras and you magnify the negatives. No one can argue he will up the level of competition and set a new standard to which existing pros must race to. Hopefully he gets triathlon to a new pinnacle without turning it into a circus side show.
Ryan Falkenrath writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. Ryan has participated in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans. Ryan is also the Kansas City Endurance Sports Examiner and you can read more of his triathlon thoughts HERE and he collects race reviews at www.Triathlon-Reviews.blogspot.com. Contact Ryan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.