This is a great story.
When the actor Josh Brolin was asked why he would take on the role as George W. Bush in the Oliver Stone feature W, he explained that the former President, widely regarded as the worst in the history of the country, considered too unintelligent for the job and therefore ridiculed by just about all of the media, and, to top it off, an alcoholic turned Christian, was, Brolin said, a man everybody wanted to have a beer with.
Lance Armstrong is one of the most successful, intelligent men who ever rode a racing bike professionally. He is also considered to be the biggest jerk ever to ride the same two wheels for a living.
But when you listen to the latest recorded interview, the Dan Patrick Show of July 7, 2014, Armstrong sounds like a person you’d want to have a beer with. For 30 minutes, he comes across as both thoughtful and reflective. He has, it seems, plenty of insights into his own shortcomings and even shows remorse and regret in how his Former Self used to perform in public on and especially, especially, off the bike.
If Armstrong was known for always wanting to control the narrative, and with this New Self being the latest story, it might just be the strangest turnaround of personality we’ve ever witnessed. How do you decide to go from being an – allegedly – complete asshole, to a reflective, supposedly warm and caring person? If this guy models himself after circumstances, well, then he is a class-A sociopath, and I don’t believe he is.
The reason is obvious. Lance Armstrong has five children with two intelligent women. And no intelligent woman will voluntarily marry and carry the babies of that sort of a character. I mean, right?
“So call him up,” says the Editor.
“How do you call up Lance Armstrong without getting sued?”
“Tell him you’re buying.”
“You are a genius.”
“Clinical psychology evening classes. I’m there for two years now,” the Editor says.
“What? Trouble at home?”
“Don’t… I’ll book your tickets. Oh. And Morten. One more thing.”
“What? Bring back tea?”
“Bring back tea.”
(This is a written transcript of the sound of a beer being opened and if you would like a transcript of the transcript of a beer being opened, you should really think about getting a life.)
I’m stalling. Lance is in the garage. He has just completed a two-hour ride with BMC local Tejay van Garderen. The young American then disappeared for another 40-kilometre loop, before scooter training with the older icon in about an hour. There is time for coffee.
Sitting on a kid’s chair, removing his cycling shoes, Lance complains about how he hates riding his road bike for more than 20 minutes: “You goddam dudes are making me do this shit!”
In front of him, spread out on the garage floor between toys in shapes and sizes of all sorts, lies a collection of small patches formed as stars – the Lone Star, you’d assume.
“Yeah.” He picks one up, studying it closely. “I had all this Nike shit, and so when that relationship ended, I didn’t want to throw it all away. So I made these patches to cover up their logo. That way I could keep the stuff!”
Fifteen minutes later, we are in an oversized kitchen where the help has recently been fired. Must have been. Dirty cups, plates and pans are everywhere. Cutlery fills the sink, the trash can looks as if it has been waterboarded with coffee grains, you kick a kid’s toys for every metre on the beautiful (what else?) wooden flooring that continues into the dining area, then into the cozy living room where a perfect fireplace lights up the back of a tremendous room.
Lance has the house to himself. And he is fucking it up. One could argue that he is a man with things on his mind. Or. That he was a millionaire at the age of 20 and as an adult has never dishwashed or picked up anything in his life. Or. That he is lazy by nature. But no. Some hours later he confesses over the phone to Anna, who has returned briefly to Austin with the kids, that the place indeed is a fucking pigsty, but the maids are coming to their rescue on Wednesday.
Maids, not maid.
“We are here to put Lance Armstrong back on the map. Pass the sugar, please.”
The mansion is worth $10m. Lance is being sued for more than one hundred million. Or so it reads in reports circulating. It’ll be a long kiss goodnight for this sort of living if the wolves, entitled or not, get their way with our man here. But right now, he shows no sign of trouble. Re-entering the room, he half orders us to make our own coffee, then stands across the kitchen table, arms folded and looks straight into my face.
“So. Is this going to be a shitty piece or..?”
“It’ll be a fantastic piece.”
“Fantastic for you and shitty for me?”
“You’ll be fine. We are here to put Lance Armstrong back on the map. Pass the sugar, please.”
Jakob Kristian moves in from the side: “Yes. We don’t have many haters among our readers.” This makes Armstrong look puzzled or unevenly surprised. “And we’d like some of yours. Anyhow. Would it be interesting for you to do a shitty piece?”
“I guess not,” Lance answers, “but the media also wants a new story now. It has to reinvent itself. Sure, they’ll always be all the haters, but it has been establised a long time ago that I’m the biggest…”
“Jerk?” I offer.
“No. Asshole is the word!”
“Right. You’re an asshole.”
From Rouleur issue 51. Part two to follow.