Prior. From the back seat Lance directs us. We are trying to find Hunter S. Thompson’s house, and we are going the right way now, he says.
“Another good friend is a writer, a very well-known writer, and he was close to Hunter. And he is a custodian of all of Hunter’s stuff. Originally Johnny Depp was going to try and buy his property. And turn it into a writers’ retreat. But then. Just keep going straight here. But then things got a little complicated with Hunter’s wife. Some kind of drama.
“See. You are starting to see how the trees are turning yellow. Look. There is one right there. And in a couple of weeks this whole valley, the whole Aspen Valley, will be yellow. Not the pine trees of couse, they’ll be green. But all the Aspen trees. Look. Another one.”
“I don’t know anything about trees.”
“Call Brian Cookson!” Lance snaps, referring to the UCI president and his former work in regeneration. We laugh hard at that. So he continues: “It’ll be like: Hey, Brian. This is the Blues Brothers. We are here with Lance. Quickly. Just one thing!”
“That’s just… stupid,” I say.
“Tell you one small and stupid thing I’d recommend for cycling to do. No helmets on uphill finishes. You want to see those faces, right? Their personalities. Their hair. Lack of hair. It’s like watching robots. Now, wait a minute. Did we just pass his house? There was nothing there, right?”
Lance is turning in his seat. “Holy crap. They’ve ’dozed his house. No. We’ll ask Joe.” He’s like a dog waiting to be let out of a car, so I slow down ready to pull over. “No, no,” he says, “keep going. I want to satisfy my sense of direction. But. That can’t be right? I wonder. Because they had it for sale.”
I say, “I thought his place would be a small monument. Something where you take pictures.”
“Hunter wasn’t… He was loved by all my friends. But a lot of people didn’t really get him. He was mean. Down at Woody Creek Tavern. Getting fucked up. He’d get into fights, you know. Bad. Sean Penn is another buddy of mine. Him and Hunter were super-tight. And they could party. I mean really. But now they have fucking bulldozed his house. The property is worth a lot, so maybe…”
I say, “We saw a house for sale for $16 million. That we might, erm, consider. Right. Jakob Kristian?”
Jakob Kristian says what.
“Sixteen?” says Lance. “That’s nothing. Try 50. The amount of wealth here is just. Listen. How many holes are you guys staying for?”
“How many are there?” asks Jakob Kristian. “Like two?”
“You stay for two. No more. So you won’t distract me. I’ll lose money. And I’ve lost enough already with all this shit. Do you always drive so slow?”
“You sue people,” I say. “What if something were to happen in this car? Now we have Lance with crutches on our asses. I’m guessing the insurance people at HQ wouldn’t want that.”
“Some of that was totally misreported. But yes. We did sue people. But not as many as Mr LeMond.”
“Every chance you get!”
“Why are you so mad at each other?”
“Nah. He was a great bike rider. You have to be comatose not to get inspired in 1989. Listen. Turn the car. They’ve ’dozed Hunter’s house. Let’s go back. It turns to dirt here.”
We go on in silence.
This is the third or fourth time Lance mentions Greg LeMond. And in no kindly manner. Of course, they hate each other. Countrymen, same sport, both succesful, it is only natural.
Perhaps LeMond is angry Lance won seven times, where he only has three titles. And perhaps Lance is angry LeMond won’t admit he also doped. If he did. Which he says he didn’t. You see the contrasts, you see the similarities between the two men.
And if Greg LeMond today holds a place in the business as your average overweight ex-rider – in other words, a total non-threat – Lance Armstrong is viewed as his extreme opposite, the ultimate enemy, very fit, very articulate, a clear and present danger to the establishment, all of the world’s anti-doping programme, hell, just anti-everything.
Which is why he had to pay such a dear price for an athlete. A lifetime ban. It is almost as if his punishment has secured his integrity as the ultimate sportsman forever.
From Rouleur issue 52.