The first night in Timble we had the honor and delight of having dinner with Bob Roll. (Photo: Bob Roll with Sandy Shepherd at the Timble Inn) If you do not watch cycling you will not know this former pro cyclist and one-of-a-kind color commentator for NBC Sports (cycling only). He is best known for his series “Ask Bobke.” We had the evening to ask our own questions and listen to his excellent stories.
Within our group of 12 plus 3 guides we probably have 15 different opinions about Lance Armstrong. Bob was honest that he owes his career to Lance. He was on the verge of being let go by NBC because another former cyclist offered to work for free. Lance had already won a couple of Tours and he called the network and said that if they did not keep Bob on the payroll then NBC would never get another interview from him. Bob’s got a call from the Network offering him a contract. He is also personal friends with Lance. His comment was that he has been trying to encourage Lance. Bob feels he is looking for vindication when he ought to be seeking reconciliation.
I have been mulling this over. The main difference between those concepts is in our motivation or stake. Someone needing vindication is coming from a place of ego and reconciliation is someone who is looking at the larger good. This is Lance’s challenge now. His huge ego helped him dominate the sport and win 7 titles. (Yes they have been stripped, and with so many other people suspected of using drugs during those years it is complicated.) Now he needs to check his ego and put the good of the sport and his foundation ahead of his own needs. Reconciliation requires that a person really soften their heart to understand how they have hurt another and seek to make it right without concern for “being right”.
Lance still needs to be justified. And as long as he clings to that he will be seen as a pariah in the sport. He is capable of doing the work and growing past this; we all are.
It struck me as interesting that Greg Lemond has also had an uneasy relationship with the ASO and Tour de France. Meeting him on the evening of the Presentation of Teams has got me thinking about the similarities between Greg and Lance. Greg was the first American to succeed phenomenally in European pro cycling. He was shot by a family member while hunting turkeys (Dick Cheney style) and fought back to ride and win 2 more titles for 3 Tour de France wins. By all accounts he is a nice guy and yet he never has been able to cash in on his achievements in the same way Lance and later American riders did. He also maintains that he never used le juice.
On the other hand Lance managed his public narrative carefully. He apparently never got on with Greg Lemond, probably because Lance liked it when people thought he was the first really great US pro rider and that his comeback from cancer was unique. It might have felt to Greg like his own narrative was appropriated. Things got ugly when Lemond started questioning Lance’s drug use while he was riding his victory laps. Lance tried to bully him and Greg came off as bitter.
In my leadership tribe there are people who are more comfortable with competitive people whose ego drives them to achieve than me. Because of personal experience with hurting people or being hurt by narcissistic people, I would rather forfeit and err on the side of over care than crush someone in competition.
Lance Armstrong’s raw power and willingness to win at any cost made me uncomfortable from early days. Some people believe it is necessary to achieve great things. This is a question I am wrestling with in my work. CTI Leadership posited that collaboration was more effective than competition and I have embraced that philosophy. A small group of us on the Trek Travel team had a good conversation about this and I did not convince all of them that it is just as effective. Again it depends whether you are measuring by individual accomplishment or as a team or organization.
These are the things I am thinking about as I watch the Tour de France “Survivor Stage” (5) on the television in my room.