This morning’s press conference with Lance Armstrong, Don Catlin and Taylor Phinney took an unexpected turn when Greg Lemond, seated in the front row (two seats to my left) opened the question period with a hardball aimed straight at Lance. The tension broke over the room like a giant wave as all cameras swung in the direction of the three time and first American Tour winner.
Sitting so close I could reach out and touch him, I watched him breathing nervously as he attempted to articulate his long-held frustration into a question ostensibly directed at Don Catlin, who will head up Lance’s personal doping control program, but clearly it was targeted at Lance. To his credit it was Lance, and not some conference handler that recognized Lemond with the first question. Given their personal history the topic couldn’t have come as any surprise.
Lemond rambled a bit in the delivery but essentially he made the argument that physiological factors (oxygen uptake) were the true baseline and indicator of athletic performance (or performance enhancement). I was struck by his large hands, hands that look like they’ve done a lot of manual work; his big fingers fidgeted with his phone which seemed to be recording the exchange.
Catlin, who I spoke to briefly after the throng had dispersed, confirmed he hadn’t been able to follow Lemond’s argument. In any event, after letting Lemond speak for two or three minutes, Lance cut things off. “Greg, we’re not going to go negative here”
Lemond incredulously uttered something like a “huh” at the closure. I’ll give him his due, it took guts to ask the question. His face flushed, eyes turned down, he could do nothing but sit as Lance recognized the next question. It was not a follow up.
Update: A little later in the morning I discovered that Lance and his manager had been informed that Greg planned to attend and wanted to ask a question. It's a positive sign that Lance didn't attempt to duck the confrontation and politely recognized Greg Lemond. It's quite clear that the two winners of cycling's most pretigious race can't reach an understanding, and even if we'd sat there for weeks they couldn't have agreed. Ironically, Taylor Phinney who represents a bright future for American cycling sat watching the spectacle.