One is not like the other

Superstar as sore thumb

Ken Conley is getting ready for the 2009 Tour of California (and yes, I’m bursting with jealousy), and posted a couple of shots in preparation. Above is a beautiful shot of the Astana team training along the coast. It’s a cycling photography staple, but one thing immediately caught my eye: There’s one guy who, visually, doesn’t belong.

I’m talking, of course, about 7-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who is riding here in his Livestrong kit (possibly on his Livestrong Madone), while everybody else flies the Astana flag of the team sponsor.

Now obviously, once the Tour of California starts, Armstrong’s going to be wearing the cornflower blue, corn yellow, and white of his team. And maybe there’s another reason Armstrong came on this ride in his Livestrong livery – a photo shoot or an event. But looking around the web, it looks like this may be a planned marketing direction, with Armstrong promoting his Livestrong Foundation rather than the team’s ostensible sponsors.

For me, that feels a little weird. When we’re trying to explain bike racing to newbies, we always begin and end with, “One guy takes home the trophy, but this is a TEAM sport. Everybody’s got a part, and good things happen when everybody does their part.” It seems like it sends the wrong message to have one guy who is out of uniform and so clearly has goals outside of the team’s. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when we get down to racing.



15 Comments

Although I agree that it seems a little odd to have a rider not training in the team kit, you have to remember that Armstrong is not taking a salary from Astana.  I think his teammates understand that his “goals outside the team” of raising money and awareness to fight cancer are a worthy cause. Lance has his own personal photographer so every day is a photo shoot for him.

@Brent

I think you’re right and he’s face is on the TOC website. They want him to stand out. What is good here is that sophisticated marketing is being applied to our sport and we all know we need that.

I think I understand, and support, where Armstrong is coming from personally. And if his goal is to essentially ride a farewell tour, using his celebrity to promote cancer awareness, I can’t see where there would be any problems.

On the other hand, if he’s seriously going to ride for the big trophies, this is maybe not the way to go. The US Postal/Discovery teams were built around Armstrong, with riders who would bury their own ambitions to help him take the Tour every year.

This team has 4 guys with Tour podium finishes, and 2 winners, with Leipheimer and Klöden presumably seeing time running out and Contador right at what should be his peak as a GT rider. From a rider dynamics standpoint, it’s more like Ullrich’s all-star T-Mobile squad than those Disco teams. And I don’t think I have to tell anyone (especially Byron) how those T-Mobile squads worked out.

To make him easy to spot for the crowds, cool, he should race in that kit. In fact, the TOC should have a **7-time Tour winners jersey** and it’s awarded every day to any rider who has won 7 Tours de France

What about national championship jerseys on riders within a team?  How about TT championship jersey that can’t be worn on road stages, and road championship jerseys that can’t be worn on TT stages? *That’s* confusing.

There have been plenty of teams that came failed their goals because constituent egos were too big, with or without matching jerseys.  Team Italia made it an annual event every WC until Cipollini won in 2003, and they had same blue team kit on every rider.  I wouldn’t put too much significance on the jersey

And anyways, what about Mario Cipollini’s jerseys and skinsuits?  To this day, no one has been able to adequately explain those phenomena…

@Mark V: THE GOGGLES! THEY DO NOTHING! MY EYES!

With regards to the national champion’s jersey, remember that for the sponsors that can be a benefit. For example, Columbia/Highroad was pretty straightforward during its team presentation this year that “we have more national champions on our team than you”. People who still believe in a little national pride often root for a team just because the national champion rides for that team.

Those jerseys can be big money for a sponsor or team, especially if you start offering replicas for the general public, doubly so if the rider has a large fan base. Think how many replica Discovery/USPS kits you saw on the Burke-Gilman each time Lance won.

Honestly, if Astana has any savvy, they’ll make a Livestrong-themed version of their kit with all of the sponsors on it with color scheme matched logos, and let Lance wear it all the time (no baby blue and gold for him). Just like how sponsors love breakaways and stage wins for brand exposure, I don’t see how they could lose with the amount of pictures that Lance inevitably attracts. Same for Trek- if they know what’s good for them, there’ll be a 2009 Project One replica scheme in Livestrong yellow.

And as for confusing jerseys, the only ones that get to me are the German/Belgian/Luxembourgish champions! How can you tell which is which?

ive been pissing about this for weeks…personally i think its weak(much like his “comeback”). i guess im just old school in my thinking that a team is a team….not a team and the other guy thats “better” than everyone else…. i understand hes doing it to promote his foundation, although i think his logic of coming back solely topromote the foundation and bring it to a worldwide level is total BS….livestrong’s kinda been that way since day one last time i checked!!!!!

my hope is that all of astana doesnt get stuck riding for this guy if he ISNT the strongest guy, itd be a waste of an entire season for the team and the sponsor. poor levi, poor alberto. all for an ego. no different than jordan or ali not knowing when to bow out…...


end rant.

There is a fine associated with changing the team kit.  Remember Saeco and the “Legalize my Cannondale” promotion?  I’m sure the team paid dearly for that little stunt, but it was great publicity.  Seeing Astana pull out the stops and kit up their full team in LiveStrong kit might be worth it for them.

I remember Save Spinaci’s!

for what it’s worth, i saw him respond to that topic on twitter a while ago.  boiled down to he was “allowed” to wear the livestrong kit in training but will race in standard Astana gear.

I still have my pair of Spinaci’s!

I think its great the Lance is training in his Live Strong kit.
He is a total inspiration for people who have dealt with cancer. Bringing more awareness/money to the fight is worth not wearing the jersey on his training ride.

My sister in law who is currently fighting colon cancer has a framed pic of lance on her night stand.

-Joe

@Joe,

Agreed—the post, comments, and wondering about it is like *inside baseball* from roadies and racers. We’re like, “huh, so how does that play out with the team.” Cycling, like any man sport, has big egos and pumping testosterone and what’s said in press conferences and to reporters plays out differently on the road and in races. I think it’s good and makes it easy for his fans to spot him. From my perspective having Lance back is good for everyone.

I also want to disclose that one of our partners in the Mobile Social SXSW is Mellow Johnny’s. That’s Lance’s bike shop in Austin, Texas.

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