Lance Armstrong and controversy? Shocking. But hey, here we are.
A somewhat brief backstory: On April 22, in response to @firstoffthebike asking Armstrong about the possibility of him returning to Olympic distance triathlon, the seven-time Tour de France winner tweeted, "take out the wheel sucking and I'm in," referring to drafting (drafting is not legal in most triathlons, but is allowed on the ITU circuit, including the Olympics). Lance continued, adding that the Olympic or International distance -- 1.5 km swim, 40 km bike, 10 km run -- is "'a shampoo, blow dry, and 10k foot race.'" Yikes.
As you can imagine, those that do that distance weren't too pleased, most notably, Simon Whitfield, a two-time Olympic medalist in triathlon from Canada:
Disappointed 2read @lancearmstrong comments that those of us working so hard towards our Olympic Tri dreams are participating in 'a joke'.— simon whitfield (@simonwhitfield) April 25, 2012
And we were off!
@simonwhitfield excuse me? when did i say it was a joke? is a draft legal tri "the race of truth"? NO. i certainly never called it a joke.— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) April 25, 2012
@simonwhitfield ok, well, sorry you took it that way. not bagging you or your peers. just feel as if drafting ought NEVER be allowed.— Lance Armstrong (@lancearmstrong) April 25, 2012
Armstrong finally put a temporary end to it by Tweeting, "Dear @simonwhitfield. We're gonna have to 'agree to disagree' on this one which is cool by me. Oly dist races have changed over the years .. which i clearly missed and i haven't spent the time understanding the 'whys'. Will now."
But not before it made front page news in Canada on April 27.
And then this weekend, at the 2012 ITU World Triathlon Series in San Diego, the issue was reignited when Australian Chris McCormack, a two-time winner of the Ironman World Championship and no stranger to voicing his opinion, took a shot at Armstrong after Saturday's race (video):
"I'll tell you what -- to anyone who criticizes this draft-legal racing, they have got NO idea. Ya know, 'blow dry, shampoo and uh' ... come and do it, mate. You got no idea. They're swimming SO fast, and they ride very, very well, and they're going out in 4:30 per mile pace -- It's obscene."
While the idea of them settling this in an actual ITU draft-legal race sure is fun, I don't think it would ever happen. Mainly because Lance Armstrong does not like to be embarrassed, and if he went up against the ITU athletes, he would be embarrassed. He might be able to keep pace on the swim, and obviously he would hold his own on the bike, but when it got to the run, there is no way he could keep up with the 4:49 per mile pace (that's what the winner at San Diego did on Saturday).
McCormack, one of the best long-distance triathletes in the world, finished 30th, for what it's worth.