The day that Lance came to the shop… (part 1)
For anyone who’s curious as to how it came to be that Lance Armstrong came to our shop to film a clip on changing a flat tire, here’s the story:
We have good friends that work at Outside Magazine, located here in Santa Fe, and for several years now we have had the good fortune of being Outside’s go to bike shop. Each year Outside Magazine reviews fifty to sixty (mostly top shelf) bikes for their Buyers Guide. Almost all of these bikes go through our shop for assembly before testing and then breakdown and packaging on the flip side. Yes we give the magazine a great deal for our services but in return we get to play with the latest tech and best of all, this all happens mostly during the winter when our business slows down.
In mid March out of the blue one of our friends from Outside called to ask if the shop was booked about ten days later on a Wednesday. My somewhat sarcastic response was “no we weren’t booked but we were planning on being opened”. After a bit more prodding on my part, he told me how they had concocted a scheme to film Lance giving a “how to change a flat” lesson and they wanted to use our shop as the venue. After some hesitation and contemplation I agreed and the date was set.
As that date approached we got more details as to how it was going to go. Outside was bringing Lance to Santa Fe to make the video and it was important to them that word did not get out about it before they were ready to release the clip. Initially they asked if we would close the shop from 2-5 in the afternoon, which I was not thrilled about so we decided we’d partition off the service area but try to remain open for business. The concern was that someone, like a customer of ours, might leak something to twitter or Facebook and kill the surprise. After filming, Outside would need a few weeks to produce and polish up the video and then a few days before launching their video they’d want us to release some sort of teaser through our social media showing Lance working in a bike shop but with no connection to Outside Magazine.
From our perspective this all seemed a bit far-fetched and potentially controversial. Was Lance really going to be changing flat tires at our shop? And if so would he be cool or would he be a complete jerk? Additionally would associating with Lance reflect badly on our shop? This got me thinking about how I really feel about the guy and his doping past. Having been a fan of cycling since the Greg Lemond days in the late 1980’s, I watched and cheered with great pleasure while Lance won his unprecedented seven consecutive Tours de France. And as I watched, I knew as many did that doping was huge in professional cycling and that there was a real good chance that Lance was doping too. Yes, this notion detracted slightly from the allure of the whole circus of pro cycling but I was still a fan and I still watched with great interest whenever I could. Furthermore, I was working in the bike industry during Lance’s reign and I saw first hand how his accomplishments helped propel the sport in the U.S., road bike sales were soaring and more and more people were getting on bikes.
Move forward to a year ago and Lance’s fall from grace, widely regarded as the biggest sports meltdown in history. Lance was suddenly villianized, dumped by all his long-term sponsors and issued a lifetime ban from competing in any sanctioned sporting event. Yes, Lance was a cheater and he destroyed the careers and lives of at least a few people along the way but in my mind his punishment might be overly harsh. It seems to me that many people must have know of and perhaps even aided in his doping practices, or at least strongly suspected it and all the while profited by riding his coattails. And all these people and companies left him hung out to dry when the truth came out. So yes, by all indications, Lance did some horrible things during his career but in my mind, he still earned those victories through years of hard work and sacrifice and I am in no position to pass judgment on the man. Moreover, I’ll bet that half the major politicians in America have done worse than Lance to get to where they are and most of us would welcome them to our dinner table with open arms. So from that point of view: Heck Ya I’ll welcome Lance Armstrong into our bike shop. Sure they’ll be some haters out there but at the end of the day we are in business and in business, any attention is good attention… sort of… I think… you know what I mean.
So as the date approached we went about the daily bike shop routine and didn’t hear a peep from the folks at Outside. I started to think the whole thing probably would not come to fruition but a few days out from the set date I put a call into the Outside folks and they confirmed that all was still set to go. They told me that Lance was to arrive in Santa Fe around noon and that they would be bringing him to the shop around 2 and they were hoping to get him out on a bike ride afterwards, which they invited me to join. Furthermore, they asked me to have some greasy bike mechanic cloths on hand that Lance could wear. This was late March and the shop was not quite into the busy season yet. We made sure not to schedule any service work for the big day and eagerly waited not sure of what we were getting ourselves into.
That Wednesday started like any other and we spent the morning cleaning up and helping the few customers that trickled through. Before long, Outside’s film crew showed up and we surrendered the service area to them so they could set up their lighting and create the scene. We hung up bed sheets to give the crew some privacy and hopefully prevent the rouge instagram post from leaking out. Additionally I prepped the staff for what was expected from us. Let’s be courteous and professional with Lance and his entourage and try not to let customers in on what’s going on. And if necessary, we’ll lock the doors during filming and operate from the parking lot as best we can…