Life after Lance

I’m not usually one for trading secrets with guys I want to beat in races, but here’s a confession.

Life after Lance

I spent eight hours riding my bike the last two days.

And to my astonishment, the first time I heard the name Lance Armstrong mentioned was yesterday about an hour from home, when one guy rocked up beside me and quizzed: “When was that Lance thing on again, was it last night?”

I thought he was joking.

“Did you not see it?” I challenged.

“Ah no, I was going to watch it but I knew if I did, I wouldn’t be able to train properly today.”

I was glad the guy in question was so in the dark on the interview. I, like all the others in the group with me, have had enough. So we talked about the pressing concerns. Our weight, our training and what races we want to do well in this year.

Lance, it appears, has left the building.

But how can the biggest story in the sport’s history be not dominate conversations of its disciples?

Richard Hooton, 24, with several Rásanna behind him and a promising career ahead of him, put it succinctly: “The Lance affair is a show, it’s a facade.

“We’ve lost belief in Lance a long time ago. There’s new heroes now.”

Rob Frawley, from Crosshaven, is a passionate cyclist and his wife Cara used to call him Robbie Armstrong. That was until, in 2009, when Lance rode the Tour of Ireland with a stage to finish in Cork. They rose early, pitched up on Patrick’s Hill.

For five hours Cara and Robbie, along with hundreds more, waited in abysmal weather to see only one man. That man abandoned the race just before ‘the monster’ he had come to tame — St Patrick’s Hill — yawned in front of him.

“Rough day on the bike. The ol’ back was not in a good way and St Patty’s Hill wasn’t looking too cozy,” the Texan shamelessly tweeted after.

Robbie Armstrong was apoplectic and said yesterday: “We all stood in torrential rain on Patrick’s Hill just to get a glimpse of him but he couldn’t be bothered.”

Robbie still rides the bike, swears by it actually, as do countless others. But Lance is so far detached from what happens in cycling now that people hardly even see him as a cyclist at all, a cheat who accumulated wealth on modest talent, drugs and lies.

Patsy Crowley’s brother Donal was one of Ireland’s best amateurs but was tragically killed out training 14 years ago.

On Saturday, Patsy was in Blarney at 11am, not listening to excuses that the road might be icy, signing cyclists up for the winter time-trial league he helped start. “That Lance is an awful bollocks, isn’t he? Are you riding today? Did you know Frank O’Sullivan has 56 Irish titles on grass tracks?”

Patsy’s passion for cycling knows no bounds and he’ll corner anyone who’ll listen — and plenty more who won’t — to impart his thoughts. But Lance is now a footnote, here and everywhere, I think.

Any pro rider who was asked about the subject over the weekend either lost the plot — Mark Cavendish told any journalist who asked a question about Lance to fuck off — or not-so-subtly avoided questions.

They’re not evasive, they’re right. Cycling has always been about baser instincts. Get up, train hard, ride faster. Climb the ladder.

Cycling to me is Timmy Barry getting up at 7am on Saturday and going to Kenmare to ride the Saturday stage of Rás Mumhan with his team two months before it. It’s Richard Hooton sending me an email Friday night with the planned route for Saturday.

‘HARD all the way to the top’ was the instruction. It’s Will Whelan from Galtee Wheelers spending a small fortune on an outrageous looking 56-tooth chain ring. It’s Barry Twohig and Bryan Long ignoring doctors’ advice by riding with a burst appendix and a broken wrist.

It’s Dave Kenneally confined to home by his kids but sitting on a turbo trainer in the driveway for five hours as the sleet pours down on him. It’s Simon Ryan selling his Mavic Ultimates for a “good price” on donedeal at €1,250 (he paid much more for them, I can tell you).

It’s back to basics, and long may it stay that way.

Train hard, ride faster, and forget about Lance.

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