Look at the picture above. You feel something about the picture above, don’t you? It would be impossible not to.
“Why do you keep giving Armstrong oxygen? some people will comment below this article. “Stop being mean to Lance!” others will type. But every once in a while, the most disqualified Tour de France winner in the world pops up and it’s impossible to ignore.
The scene depicted in the photo is bizarre. The people in the picture know how weird it is. How it’s the cycling equivalent of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How it makes absolute sense and also no sense at the same time, perfectly encapsulating all things cycling.
Left to right: Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins, Jan Ullrich, Johan Bruyneel. Like playing FIFA Ultimate Team in lycra mode. Rise, Sir Wiggo and Cav. Take a seat at the round table, the last companions of Lance-sells-products-on-his-pod-a-lot.
Remember that Kim Kardashian magazine cover of her holding a corked bottle of champagne and the drink arching over her head and landing in a glass delicately balanced on her behind? Or Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie at the Oscars? It’s the peloton version of those who broke the little corner of cycling on the Internet.
To explain what’s going on in layman’s terms, this is a recording of Lance Armstrong’s “The Move” podcast, which you might remember from follies such as the imaginary partnership he had with the Tour from France this summer. They record from a bar-restaurant in Mallorca, where Armstrong is currently hosting the 2022 edition of “THEMOVE Mallorca”. Essentially, it’s a five-day cycling vacation with Lance Armstrong and his friends that will set you back over $30,000. A good deal. Cavendish and Wiggins have both taken rides with the crew and done the podcast, and it’s unclear if the couple are attending as guests (paid or unpaid) or if they happen to be. is on the Spanish island at the same time.
So what to do with it?
For starters, it would be weird to get too emotional about people hanging out with other people, especially those you don’t know very well. But the choice to appear on the podcast, a media product of Lance Armstrong, freely accessible to all and watched or listened to by tens of thousands of people, in addition to being voluntarily plastered on Armstrong’s social networks, is a something else. Regardless of your personal opinion of Lance Armstrong (and to a lesser extent Hincapie and Bruyneel), everyone sitting on the couch is a retired pro. Except, that is, for Mark Cavendish.
Once you leave the professional peloton, you have less skin in the game and are not held as accountable as those who still represent teams, countries and themselves on international stages. That’s why the inclusion of Mark Cavendish is odd. That sort of association doesn’t happen very often with cycling’s persona non grata and this is Cavendish’s second appearance after being a guest on the show during the Tour de France this summer.
The 45-minute episode itself begins with an interesting exchange between Armstrong and Cavendish.
“How many stage wins have you had so far?” the Texan asks the Briton.
“A lot,” replies Cavendish.
“Not you. In the Tour,” Armstrong clarifies.
“Me?!” Cavendish balks. “I thought you meant us.”
“Well, we could get to us,” Armstrong says.
“34, Lance,” Cavendish finally replies.
Indeed, how many Tour de France stage wins the entire cast holds between them is a question with varying answers, depending on who you ask.
Armstrong, his alpha masculinity still intact, makes an intriguing interviewer of Cavendish, who squirms when asked about his two least favorite topics: his number of Tour de France stage wins and whether he will return to the race.
“If you were to say,” Armstrong asks, “we are [sic] flip [to the Tour]?”
“I hope so,” Cavendish fidgets in his seat. While he could [and probably would] giving a regular member of the media a bollock or the silent treatment for asking these questions, it’s harder to treat Armstrong the same way on his own podcast, especially with the other guests next to him on the couch.
“If you go,” Armstrong continues, without slowing the pace. “Are you breaking the record?
“Well…I think so, yeah,” Cavendish huffs and huffs. “You kidding me?! Yeah!”
“If you had put him on the starting line this year, he would have broken it,” Wiggins interjects.
“The day I don’t think I can win, I quit, I don’t continue next year,” Cavendish concludes.
The only thing Armstrong isn’t pressing Cavendish on are his plans for next year, but it seems obvious the Manxman has a team lined up for the 2023 season.
Which begs the question, what does this team think of such a public association with the man stripped of seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life? Especially if Cavendish finds himself (as rumor has it) in the French structure of B&B Hotels, which should find a new title sponsor in the supermarket giant Carrefour (and a major injection of cash). This team also relies on a generic invitation to the Tour from organizers ASO, who once said that Armstrong had “embarrassed the Tour de France”.
Maybe it’s not that deep, maybe it’s just a cycling holiday and a podcast appearance. But mentions like these from popular cycling figures like Cavendish and Wiggins no doubt help Armstrong rehabilitate his image, which many will find hard to stomach.
All that aside, the podcast is as wild as expected.
Armstrong says he’s going to have Bradley Wiggins’ knighthood stripped after a night of debauched drinking the day before (Wiggins sure does look hungover) while Jan Ullrich offers some sage advice to new world champion Remco Evenepoel : “The first thing I would say is that there aren’t too many parties in the winter. It’s always been my thing.
Then there are times when Lance is just Lance. Discussing Evenepoel, Armstrong remarks “who hasn’t googled his girlfriend?” before adding definitively unreleasable allegations about Alexander Vinokourov and the 2012 Olympics road race, which produced grimaces from Wiggins and Cavendish and guffaws from Ullrich and Bruyneel.
“We could remove that as well,” Armstrong considers. “I do not know.”
We then hear a tidbit that Amazon is making a documentary about Ullrich, slated for release in late 2023, before a Hincapie anecdote follows.
“We had a great time,” he tells Cavendish. “My favorite was Milan-Sanremo 2009…”
“You pushed him into the Cipressa,” Wiggins interrupts.
“Go on!” groaned Cavendish.
Lance chimes in, “He was holding the car, he didn’t need to be pushed,” to which Cavendish bristles.
Finally, Hincapie ends his story: “He was putting self-tanner on his legs before Milan-Sanremo…”
“Sounded good, didn’t it,” Cavendish said.
Between endless product shillings and Armstrong’s relentless bravado, it’s quite watchable three-quarters of an hour. After warming up, Wiggins takes off, teasing Cavendish relentlessly, impersonating his mannerisms, telling stories of his former teammate wearing velvet loafers and drinking Bacardi “just for show,” stories you can’t know for sure if they’re true but are believable enough for Cavendish to squirm in embarrassment. Once Cavendish finally hung up the bike, the pair would form a dynamite media duo.
This is the enigma that is Lance Armstrong. With the approach of 10 years of his admission to Oprah Winfrey that he had doped throughout his career, it is still impossible to completely ignore the Texan. The plot lingers on and his willingness to pull together the cast he has in Mallorca on a sofa, which produced rare authentic glimpses from Cavendish and Wiggins, is compelling.
And don’t worry, if you missed the trip to Mallorca, there’s another one in November in Colombia with other special guests. Time to dig up that spare $30,000 you dumped on the back of the couch.