What's Cool In Road Cycling

Lance Overexposed? Readers Respond…

This week’s MailBag runneth over with passionate responses to Jeff Cross’ Editorial “Lance: Endorsement Overexposure“. Lance is a passionate guy who, it seems, inspires passionate opinions from all sides… no matter what he does.

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I’m sure that my opinion is nothing new, but Lance’s image whoring is itself an American institution. As American as apple pie, cowboys, and Coca-Cola. No disrespect intended to mine and your country, but capitalization is not only encouraged, but is expected of you when the opportunity presents itself.

It is also true that taking advantage of your image, especially when you are an “American Hero,” devalues your integrity, but integrity is a commodity as well. Lance’s intent may very well be to use his image as a Cancer survivor to inspire others through his exposure in such ads. A noble thought indeed if it is truly his. Maybe. But a sellout none-the-less. Another book before his career is even over is testament to that.

So he may very well be cashing in his chips of integrity for some cash while he is still marketable, but his seemingly selfish exposure suits our needs as a sporting minority. More exposure of Lance means more recognition and credibility to what is in America, an infant sport. Respect for cyclists on the road is greatly aided by those who can understand that bicycles aren’t just for the sidewalk. Not just for kids either. I would personally sell my integrity, be considered a sell-out if it consequently made our country recognize this beautiful and amazing sport. If it made motorists aware of our presence, more people participate, more people watch. There is more real drama in a stage race than a pre-fabricated ‘reality’ television show.

I salute Lance for his image whoring. If it improves and validates the image of our beloved sport, then I for one, and I know others will as well, forgive him.
Any more than this, and he’s gone too far.

Gavin Camp

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You are wrong about a couple of very key things.  Much like the argument that the Tour is boring because of one rider’s dominance you are failing to see that a much bigger story is taking place.  Like the men who’ve won five who were vilified in their day for their command of the very thing that makes the sport great, a mastery in the face of so many variables, Armstrong is coming to represent the sport of cycling itself, and by extension, a square look into the face of suffering and coming out on top. 

That is what the words “Lance Armstrong” mean to the general public.  So with regard to your caveat about overexposure, why shouldn’t this story be told?  And how can that not be good for the sport of cycling?  Is there a danger in diminshing the impact of his acheivements, of course, but honestly how many people know Mr. Armstrong’s story?  Many do.  More don’t.  And it’s my understanding that endorsements are the primary source of income for many athletes, lucky enough to have them.  It is well known that Armstrong’s Tour winnings all go back to his teammates.  And have you seen the current ads that Armstrong is featured in?  It’s not like he’s walking around with buckets of chicken under his arm.

Now with respect to your comments about the possibilty of a film, studios have been talking about getting the rights to his story since his first Tour victory and I would guess that one of the main reasons it’s not yet been made is because the story is still continuing.  I have to say that yes, a true inside look at Armstrong’s story and the peloton in documentary form would be thrilling, very possibly moreso than a narrative feature. But how many people see documentaries?  Wouldn’t more children, for example, see the “movie” and therefore hear the story?  From his youth on up?  His life on and off the bike, pre and post cancer? 

And I can tell you this, I will be among those first in line to portray Mr. Armstrong if such an oppurtunity does come to pass.

Lastly, I’d like to address what I consider to be the most glaring example of your small-mindedness on this subject.  What could possibly make you think that surviving cancer is not heroic?  Anyone with a malignant diagnosis would immediately have to question whether or not this is death sentence.  Getting through that, on any level is heroic.  Surviving anything difficult is heroic.  Hard work is heroic.  Maybe you should look at your definition of hero and ask why you’re placing these paramters on your perception of who Lance Armstrong is.  Why can’t a man with a job be a hero?

This a big story.  People should hear it.  Because one day in some little corner of some country some guy, some woman, some kid might hear that name, those two words, and have an easier time gritting through their day.

Thank you,
Neal Huff

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I am responding to the article written by Jeffrey Cross regarding Lance Armstrong’s over exposure. I absolutely agree. When he starts promoting things like cars, which are completely unrelated to his craft, then I know that he’s hit bottom.

In my opinion, Lance should spend less of his time on press/celebrity endevours and start racing a more complete schedule. As far as I am concerned, he is only a part-time pro cyclist. He only races the spring classics to train (except maybe Amstel Gold) and not to win. He only races to win in June/July and then wraps up his season sometime in August.

I’ve noticed that people are already calling Lance one of the greatest cyclists ever. I must say that I am a big fan of Lance, but when he retires his legacy may be incomplete compared to the all-time greats of the sport. Skipping world championships and world cup races, and not competing in other grand tours will not be forgotten by the cycling historians in the years/decades to come. Even if he wins six tours it will not put him in the realm of cyclists with ‘complete’ palmares like Hinault, Merckx, Anquetil. Perhaps he could be compared to Indurain but even Indurain competed at and won other tours. Not to mention regular participation in the world’s and successful hour record attempts.

Aside from his cancer foundation work, I’m assuming that one of the main reasons Lance races part-time is so that he can cash in on corporate sponsorship bucks, appearance fees, promotions and other such endeavours.

Lance, you have enough money. Spend more time completing your palmares and rounding out your cycling legacy!!!!

Barrie M (selfish fan)
Hartford, CT

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The thought that Lance’s endorsments may change what he is to those that call him “hero” rather than those that are simply casual fans, may be a stretch. The Fact that we might consider him “Over Exposed” is a stretch.

Probably the first consideration should be that we are seeing him from the eyes and ears of focused cycling fans. If I looked at the number of commercials I see Lance in, not including OLN or other cycling broadcasts, I would think him under exposed given his story and success.

Tiger Woods is a great comparrison, as are Shaquil O’niel and his Laker counterpart Kobe. A classic example of an endorsment taken by an athlete that has nothing to do with a product being Radio Shack’s latest multimillion dollar “Shaqccesories” campaign. That’s not to say that Shaq isn’t overexposed, or that because Lance may have a peer group where exposure is the measure that two wrongs make it right, but Athlete’s are pitch men and always will be. Lance’s management, In comparison to most top flight Celebrities, hasn’t crossed the line yet. Again back to Tiger, would it be bad if the exposure creates a film on Lance’s life (two for Tiger so far) and would it be bad if Lance does for Cycling what Tiger is doing for Golf?

Thinking that Cancer survivors, cyclists and Armstrong fans see a lot of him may mis the mark. As an average cycling Fan, I am happy any time Lance gets cycling more publicity.

Weather Lance makes people (in the US at least) feel Patriotic or emotional due to his Cancer or simply as a super Athlete, Seeing him on his bike set’s a super positive image of Cylists and reinforces the fact that a good guy is out on the road. No other cyclist has had the opportunity to creat cycling awareness like Lance. That being the case, I am not sure that “over exposure” at this point is possible.

Charles Manantan

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