Making friends

July 6, 2018 § 6 Comments

I will cut to the chase scene. Nancy Linn of the PV Bike Chicks kicked in an incredibly generous $2,000 to support the infamous South Bay Cycling Awards in 2018, now in its sixth embarrassing year. The donation was made in the name of the Race for RP Fund. More about that later.

All of this started a few months ago with an email exchange, typical for me in that it was brief. My emails go like this:

Hi, Nancy

Would you have a few minutes to chat this week?



Of course this sounds like a solicitation for something, which it was. As Nancy told me later, “I thought you wanted money for the Wanky Awards.”

Instead, I’d had the idea of putting together a skills clinic with the PV Bike Chicks and working on some of the essential riding techniques whose importance I’d become keenly aware of as a result of riding with Yasuko, a new rider. I’d donate the time and they would buy me coffee. Nancy thought it would be fun and educational, so we began doing monthly sessions after I finished with the Thursday Flog Ride.

And you know, it was!

Cars and stuff

Occasionally Nancy would mention her husband and his interest in cars. Unfortunately, I am dead to the world of cars. Evens Stievenart, our local hammer, former professional race car driver, and car track racing instructor, has in the past talked to me a little about cars, but these are stillborn conversations because, cars.

Whereas other bike racers love to pick Evens’s brain about, you know, cars, I simply am not a car guy. And Nancy knew this the first time we ever met.

“I remember really well,” she said. “I was at the PV Bike Center and you drove up in some horrible old wreck, it was quite memorable.”

All I could think was, “Horrible old wreck? Doesn’t she know that was a CAMRY? Sure it might have had a couple hundred thousand miles on it, and it did make that funny clank when you put it in gear, and it smoked a bit, and vibrated a bit too much, and it tended to drip a bit of oil when you weren’t looking, and the windshield did have a few blind spots where you had to kind of look around the quarter-sized divots, and it did smell like beagle on the inside (especially on a rainy day), and there were some bits of rust peeking out from around the doors, but other than those flesh wounds that was a stand-up, respectable, take-it-to-the-Oscars ride.”

After that I started listening to Nancy a bit more carefully when she occasionally mentioned cars, and one day she was talking to one of the other Bike Chicks and I thought I heard her say her husband raced cars.

“Did you say your husband races cars?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

I thought about that for a while and wondered if racing cars was as expensive as racing bicycles. I mean, there are people out there with $15,000 bikes. “So, what kind of cars does he race?” I asked.

“He’s currently in a Ferrari,” she said.

I’d heard of those, and wondered if it had a lot of carbon in it. I figured it probably did. Then I went home and googled “How much does a Ferrari race car cost” and it turns out that they are more expensive than bicycles. Also, when they break or need a tune-up, you can’t drop them off at Boozy P.’s for half an hour, payable in beer.

Who knew?

Racing for a cause

It turns out that Nancy’s husband, Neil Langberg, does in fact race Ferraris (these are red cars made in Italy), but he and Nancy are also racing something else, and it’s got the awkward, hard to remember, doesn’t-really-roll-off-your-tongue name of “relapsing polychondritis.”

I could tell you what that is, but Nancy has done a much better job than I’ll ever do in this powerful documentary about an autoimmune disease that attacks the body’s cartilage. In addition to the relentless pain and damage to the body’s organs that the disease can cause, it is a low-to-zero priority for medical research funding due to its rarity. Less than six people per million are afflicted with it, and research dollars on the national level are devoted to diseases that affect more people.

Nancy, who spent years suffering from relapsing polychondritis without knowing the cause, as it is extremely challenging to diagnose, finally got a definitive diagnosis and decided to do something positive about it. Enter Race for RP Fund, a fund that solicits donations and makes the money available to research, awareness, and advocacy programs through the Community Foundation of Louisville, which itself administers over half a billion dollars in philanthropic funds.

Nancy’s husband Neil put his own twist on the fundraising by sponsoring a racing team whose mission is to promote awareness of relapsing polychondritis.

Relapsing polychondritis and bikes

All of this is another way of saying that Nancy, married as she is to a hard core car racer, has zero trouble understanding the delusions and ridiculousness of bike racers. More importantly, she recognized that what is happening this year with the South Bay Cycling Awards is something that matters.

In short, for 2018 the South Bay Cycling Awards, also known by any number of much more disparaging names, is being held in conjunction with the All Clubs BBQ, a massive barbecue cookoff and picnic being held on August 12 at El Dorado Park in Long Beach. The purpose? To bring together all of the cycling communities, get people off the bike and out of the clown suits, and begin the process of building stronger American communities at a time when the forces of evil are doing everything they can to tear us apart.

The challenge faced by people with relapsing polychondritis is great. The illness is not widely known, research interest is low, and no cures are on the horizon, even the distant one. But like the challenge faced by our diverse cycling communities as we try to get from point A to point B without being maimed or killed, it’s something that will require people working together to fix the problem.

And the best place to start with people is … with people.

Thank you Nancy and Neil.


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The coming confession

October 17, 2012 § 186 Comments

Lance is getting ready to confess. He’ll make the announcement in the next few days, or he’ll wait until the UCI strips him of his titles and announce it then.

I’m predicting the former.

Armstrong is the ultimate in realpolitik. He showed his hand when he walked away from the arbitration hearing, betting correctly that there was no way he would beat the testimony of his closest confidantes.

Like an expert chess player losing pieces as strategically as possible to slow in the inexorable march to checkmate, Lance first lost the cycling world, then the triathlon and running worlds, then the sponsored spokesman world, and finally the queen on his chessboard, the chairmanship of Livestrong.

When Nike announced that Lance had misled them for over a decade, and that it believed he cheated to win, the game unofficially ended. Trek, HoneyStinger, Anheuser-Busch, Radio Shack all bravely reversed course after defending him to the bitter end. The only pawn left to mop up is Oakley. They’ll walk when he confesses or when the UCI strips or when they’re the last sponsor standing, whichever comes first.

The text of his confession

What’s most predictable is the text of his confession. He will admit to breaking the rules. He will admit to using performance enhancing drugs. He will apologize for having misled fans.

However, like Leipheimer and Hincapie, drug addicts whose entire careers were built on cheating, he will never admit that his actions were morally reprehensible. He will insist that he had no other choice. He will justify it with the oldest line of all: “If you weren’t there, you’ll never really understand it.”

He will never apologize for tearing down those who opposed him or who rightly tagged him as a drug cheat. He will never say he’s sorry for the damage he did to Emma O’Reilly, Betsy Andreu, Paul Kimmage, David Walsh, Greg Lemond, Tyler, Floyd, or any of the others he tarred as disgruntled liars, media hacks, serial perjurers, prostitutes, and worst of all, as ugly fat people.

There will absolutely be mention of his family, and of the difficulty he had in speaking about it with them. And there will be a brash, unrepentant sortie into the guns of his accusers with a bold statement about his real life’s work–curing cancer and helping those affected by it–and how nothing will ever stand in his way of fighting to achieve these things until his dying breath.

He will thank those who stood by him, without naming names due to their upcoming arbitration hearings and/or possibility of criminal proceedings in their home countries.

He will mention the doping culture in which he developed as a racer, without calling it a drug-crazed free-for-all that, at his apogee, he directed and ruthlessly managed for extraordinary personal and professional gain.

He will, if he’s the Lance of old, possibly issue a call to arms to clean up the sport once and for all, and name himself leader in the fight.

And if the captain’s Tecate is plentiful enough, he may even ask that those who so strenuously oppose doping take a hard look at all professional sports, and see if it’s any different from cycling.

He will reflect proudly on his victories.

He will make reference to the fact that without the drugs he would have won anyway.

And then he will tell everyone to get out of his way so that he can go fight some more cancer.

The end game

Lance’s dilemma is unique, because being branded a doper exposes him to significant litigation and because it chokes off the revenue from his nonathletic endeavors, which are vastly more important than his sporting income.

He knows all of this, and by now he’s simply reviewing the numbers. Mark Fabiani and Tim Herman have told him point-blank that it’s over, that no one who matters believes him anymore, and that soon, the people who matter least of all–the cancer patients, hobby triathletes, and Livestrong Kool-Aid freaks–won’t believe him, either.

“How much is my exposure to SCA?”

“Potentially ten million, without punitive damages. But there’s no guarantee you’ll lose at arbitration, and most importantly, that exposure is there whether you confess or not.”

“Payback to sponsors for breach of contract, fraud?”

“They won’t want the bad publicity of having blindly supported a drug cheat. Minimal risk, but, as with SCA, that exposure exists whether or not you confess.”

“Race earnings?”

“Same. They’d have huge statute of limitations problems and would be open to equitable defenses like laches and unclean hands.”

“Livestrong earnings?”

“You’ll make less since you’re no longer the chairman. But you can still charge the foundation for appearances and the usual stuff. However, there’ll be less of it the longer you hold off on the confession. Nike’s statement that they’re dumping you but keeping Livestrong may be the way forward for a lot of people on the board, and you need to stop that before it starts. You do not want the organization to conclude that it doesn’t have to have Lance to thrive. The longer you deny, the more uncomfortable the foundation will become as people begin asking THE question: ‘What’s the board’s position on his drug use, and why is a career cheater sitting on the board?'”

“Bottom line: What’s my financial risk to confessing now versus confessing after the UCI strips me versus not confessing at all?”

“Confess now, earn a little goodwill, take the heat off your supporters who are having to defend you against popular opinion, facts, and common sense. Active damage control and repositioning can begin immediately. Levi and George are still getting love even within the cycling community and are being called ‘brave’ and ‘courageous.’ Confess after the UCI strips and you’ll look like a shotgun groom. Don’t confess at all and you’ll look like a sociopath. Your value will go to near-zero. You’ll be marginalized, then pushed off the board. And that last part may happen anyway.”

How can you be so sure, Wankmeister?

I’m sure because the only two alternatives don’t fit the facts or the history. The first alternative is that he will never admit the truth because he’s a sociopath in denial. This looks like a good fit at first until you understand that he’s trying to minimize damage. A sociopath such as Bruyneel or Ferrari would have fought the charges in arbitration.

The second alternative is that he’ll never confess because he’s principled. We saw how that played out when he copped to USADA’s claims by abandoning his right to arbitration.

Most importantly, doping in cycling at such an advanced level raises questions about other sports, and the involvement of Nike and the whispers regarding its having acted as the conduit to pay off the UCI’s cover-up of Lance’s positive test in the 1999 Tour mean that real journalists–the kind who rarely cover cycling–may take the same kind of vigorous approach to football, soccer, and track and field that Paul Kimmage took to Lance’s shenanigans.

In short, the most expedient thing for him to do is to stop the bleeding and reassure the world that this kind of stuff only happens in cycling.

And nowhere else.

You got that?


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