In Europe people tend to get sceptical around famous people. Especially if they are a little too famous, which suggests that they are behaving like asses outside of what they actually do.
If you see a famous person in Europe, your instincts tell you to punch the person in the face. But here people love them. This is their confirmation that the American Dream is alive, and therefore still up for grabs. What’s important isn’t whether it is true or not. It is that they believe it.
For a full hour, noses are pressed against the small window of the classroom door. Then, down in the school cafeteria, local shops have set up. Buy this. Buy that. All for Delaney. Parents rush toward Lance, push their kids toward him, he is willingly signing autographs, he participates in selfies, a lot of selfies, because more and more people are turning up. A mother with her three children almost falls over one of the tables. She just wanna see Lance Armstrong!
“Yes, ma’am. And would you like to donate something by signing up for…”
An elderly man at the entrance looks tired already. He says that they’d appreciate if people would donate a little for Delaney also.
“How does this work?” I ask him.
“It’s not just the medical bills. It’s also the transportation back and forth from the hospital every two weeks. That’s money, too.”
And then it is over. Lance says goodbye. All wave, and some parents looks annoyed that they didn’t get their fingers out and jump the star when they had their chance. Damn you, Carol. For being well behaved, someone named Henry will sneer at his wife tonight.
Outside the school the mother grabs my arm. “I couldn’t ask for a better community to live in. The people around here really, truly care,” she says. “And Lance is such a star. He really made Delaney’s day coming here.”
She then hugs me for long time. Because I’m with Lance. Because I’m part of the entourage. Because I’m one of the good guys. I took time to come here, too. So thank you so much.
Like a rock’n’roll band, we leave the school playground. The local press – some lucky woman who apparently got the story to herself – are filming our backs as we disappear into Lance’s car.
“My god,” I say as we pull away from the curb. “Are you aware of what you mean to these people? The mother couldn’t stop talking about you.”
“And you only had your eyes on the news lady. Am I right, Jake? But yes. You see this a lot in the smaller town. It doesn’t happen like this in the big cities. But that kid has a big personality.”
“Is it easy for you doing this?”
Lance sighs. “Easier than before. A lot of times it was kind of staged. The media was ready, the whole foundation machinery lined up. But now I only do what I’m comfortable doing. I’m not getting outside of my box. Today was totally easy.”
“What about the selfies. You feel they take advantage of the situation?”
“There is always a little of that. But we’d do the same if Bruce Springsteen was coming to my house tonight, right? I mean. Act like it is small and then, oh my God, look who showed up!”
And then we start talking about something else. Lance figures he might beat the GPS set time going back. I shake my head. “Nah. The road is too…”
He almost jumps in his seat: “What?! Did you just doubt if we can beat the record? Did you? You are on the A-team, motherfucker! Listen. If somebody back in the day, you know, in a team meeting, would have said: ‘uh, we can’t win the Tour’, they would have had to go home, man. Out the door!”
“That’s right,” says Jakob Kristian from the back seat. “And this isn’t an Olympic sport, Lance. So go!”
“Now you’re talking!”
From Rouleur issue 52.