Visit our Bookstore
Home | Fiction | Nonfiction | Novels | |
Innisfree Poetry | Enskyment Journal | International | FACEBOOK | Poetry Scams | Stars & Squadrons | Newsletter


Can Armstrong Be Stopped

A Satire

By Jack R. Noel

Jack R. Noel - Author Biography - Click here


Click here to send comments

Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques



Copyright Jack R. Noel 2001


Can Armstrong Be Stopped?

That was the question posed by some sports writer covering the Tour de

France last month. Having followed Lance Armstrong's amazing career

since he won the 1999 Tour, this question naturally caused me to

ponder. Some questions have multiple answers, and this seemed to be one

of those. But let's get the root question out of the way first.

Heh-heh, of course he can be stopped. If the Tour were held in America,

a rifle bullet would probably do the trick. What's that NRA motto? Oh

yeah, "A nation of riflemen." ( But not a nation of deep thinkers,



Seriously, I think it was Tour rider Johnny Vaughters (a Brit) who said

that "He won't lose it (the T de F) unless he crashes, gets a sore

throat (?) or a flat tyre."


So according to Vaughters, the first peril for Armstrong is crashing,

but presumably not burning, since we cyclists use little petrol in our

riding. Now if they raced the Tour in SUVs, I bet we'd see some fiery

crashes. But then they'd have to rename the race. I'd say something

like, "Grand Prix de Idiots," sounds about right.


But what was that about a sore throat? Did Vaughters think biological

warfare would break out? That threat was averted, since they decided

not to drop Armstrong and 160 other riders from the Tour. The main

group, or Peleton, had fallen so far behind the leaders of the first

mountain stage that rules made it possible they could have been

disqualified. Tour officials made the determination that conditions (it

was raining, they were zinging down twisting mountain roads at a

zillion kilometers per hour) permitted the lagging riders to remain. If

they had been dropped, the home countries of 7 major teams would have

declared war on France. It would have been World War I all over again,

and mustard gas has plenty of potential to induce sore throats. But

Vaughters was taking every possibility into account.


That left the hazard of a flat tire to stop Lance. Getting a flat or

"flatting" as we say, is a very common occurrence for cyclists. I would

place it first, not last, in the list of hazards confronting America's

greatest cyclist. (A note: The Brits would say, "flatting a tyre" but

they are a nation of wordy [prolix] people. Also, they have an

eccentric way with the spelling and pronunciation of ordinary words.

This may explain why no Brits have done well in the T de F for a few

decades. They're too busy talking, or trying to, during those high

altitude climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees. "I say, wheeze, too bad that

rotter Armstrong, wheeze, hasn't flatted his tyre, wheeze, by now,

wheeze, I shall have to attack..wheeze!!")


And, I can certainly vouch for all of that -- I've lots of experience

with flat tyres and the vagaries of spelling and pronunciation. I almost

had a flat yesterday; my rear tyre had a cut right to the cords. I had

to replace that tyre, of course. So I went down to the bike shop as

soon as I could. I went right to the tyre racks in back and began

looking for the exact kind I've favored for a few years now, the

Continental Sport 1000. When a Repair Guy saw me craning my neck to

look up at the Conties (what thyre called) whych were actually about 18

feet from the floor (let's see, that's how high in kilometers?), he

asked, "What are you looking for?"


I replied, "A tyre."


He asked, "A what?"


I said, "A tyre, I have to replace my rear tyre, it's got a cut right to

the cord."


He asked, "A rear what?"


I asked, "Have you been watching the Tour de France?"


He said, "Oh yeah, man, those guys are amazing, eh?"


I said, "Have you noticed the tyres they're using on all those Treks,

Looks and Lemonds?"


He said, "Yeah, those real narrow skins, they run those at about 160



I said, "You mean 1,100 Kilopascals, don't you?"


He said, "I guess so. But Pascal quit last week."


I said, "Well, I don't want that kind of tyre, I want a Conti Sport

1000. I heard that even Lance Armstrong could be stopped by a flat



He said, "Yeah,we got a bunch of them right up there," pointing at the

top rack, 53.782384 kilometers above.


He moved closer and pulled a step ladder from hiding. Bracing the ladder

for his ascent he asked, "What size?"


He'd already slung a set of air tanks over his back and donned the the

oxygen mask by the time I said,"I don't remember."


To help, I added, "I've got this Ross Grand Tour, it takes the most

common size tyre for that kind of bike."


He climbed quite a way up before he asking, "Would that be a 23, or a



I replied, "Are you sure? That sounds too small."


He was already halfway up then, his outline began to take on a bright

purplish halo from unscreened ultraviolet. Then, sounding like a jet

fighter pilot behind his mask, he called back, "Maybe you need a 27 x



I asked, "What? You mean a 32 x 630? I think that's right."


He stopped climbing, at least I think so, he'd become a tiny dot high

above -- backed by the blackness of space. Even so, I thought I sensed

annoyance in his gaze. Now there was also a time lag between the time

he spoke and the time I heard him over the distance, I judged it to be

around 22.3 seconds. Finally, I heard him say, "What size again?"

Now I knew he was annoyed, but assumed it was because he wasn't wearing

a pressure suit, his blood was probably beginning to boil and that

makes anyone cranky. I have a very good visual memory, I'd distinctly

flashed on "32 x 630" on the image of a tyre sidewall. So I loudly

repeated, "Thirty-two by six-thirty... millimeters."


After another lag I heard, "...What?" Then, "You want thirty-two by

six-thirty? Hell, man, I don't even have one, now. I forgot to order

them when I placed our supply order with Continental."


I saw no point in replying to that, so I just stood looking up as he

descended to Base Camp. Soon he was joined by his hardy, loyal sherpas

-- who'd apparently climbed by another route to bring him supplies. I

had time to wonder if the supplies the sherpas carried included a

firearm and ammunition. But I decided it was safe to wait because I

doubted the sherpas carried more than the bare essentials to that

altitude. There're limits to hardiness... and loyalty, even among



So when he finally landed, I was feeling sorry for all the bother I'd

put him through. I said, "I still need a tyre." I thought a sale might

console him.


Through trembling blue lips he said, "A what?"


"One like that," I said, pointing to tyres in a rack which stood at

about chest height and within his easy reach.


"Got plenty of those, and in a size you can use, too," he said. He

reached and pulled out two tyres from the lowest rack. One had

substantial tread while the other was nearly bald, save for a few

crudely indented "stipes."


I took both tyres from him to examine them and check the prices on their

labels. Both brand labels identified them as being made by Asian

aborigines with the assistance of native oran-u-tans in rain forest

slave shops near Singapore. And, they were made from the handy,

plentiful "gum rubber" and prime-grade chicle which have made that

region famous, too. And both were priced at $9.99 -- American dollars.

No fuss with exchange rates!


I asked, "Which is faster?"


He said, "The one with hardly any tread, but it won't last as long."

"I'm a member of Ann Arbor Bicycle Touring Society, we all want to go

faster whether we actually can or not," I said, "So I'll take it."

No longer cyanotic, the Repair Guy let me take the tyre to the counter

at the front. Once a clerk arrived, I handed over the tyre for scanning

and pulled out my wallet. While the clerk scanned the label, I held out

my AABTS member's card and asked, "Do you still give discounts for AABTS



My question involved no metric conversions or English-English to

American-English translations, which is probably why the clerk

responded, "Sure do!" I handed over $8.54 and he rang up the sale.

I arrived home and soon had my road bike turned bottom-bracket-up on the

living room carpet. I turned on the TV to listen to national news while

I removed the damaged rear tyre and put the new, faster one on the rim.

I paused, moved by the thought that my bike, turned upside down,

reminded me of a dog wanting to have it's belly scratched. That's when I

heard the well-known news anchor's voice announcing the lead story,

"Hearthstone / Runestone Tire Company is fighting the government over

having to recall 40 million of it's Forest-Ripper tires, made for SUVs."

Part of the story dealt with the hitech tire making process and the

retail cost of each heavy-cleated rubberoid behemoth tire. Each SUV tire

costs the equivalent of my monthly rent. They showed clips of the

testing done on them; a tire spun at blurring speed on a heavy steel

spindle and suddenly, it destructed, hurling dog-sized chunks of rubber

off like blackened shell fragments and causing the massive test machine

to shudder.


They also showed a broken and sinking cargo ship, spilling it's entire

load of eight SUV tires into the waves -- where they wiped out an

entire pod of rare, 100 foot long, blue whales.


This caused me to think of those small but wiry and industrious jungle

people, with their amiable, orange-haired simian assistants, deftly

working plentiful gum rubber and grade AAA chicle into the gossamer

carcass of a bike tyre on a bamboo mandrel. They work, I think, for

about 3 yim-yams per day in salary -- or the equivalent in coconut

husks. Then I thought of the great steel ships, loaded with 100,000,000

of these tyres, delivering them to our foam-rimmed shores. From point

of importation, they're wafted safely across mountain and valley, across

fruited plains, to our local bike shops where even such a poor man as I

can come in and say, "I want to buy a tyre."


Shortly, I was outside, mounted on my bike and road testing the new

tyre. As I rode through evening-slanted shafts of sunlight, I thought,

"Ya know, I don't remember ever hearing of a bicycle tyre recall."

So, yeah, Lance could be stopped. But he'll never lose.


Widget is loading comments...