Lance Armstrong: Saint or Sinner

A new art piece in an English café lets patrons use recycled Tour de France memorabilia to sound off on America’s most infamous cyclist.

Pages torn from Armstrong's autobiographies, now bearing the scribbled opinions of detractors and some supporters.     Photo: Courtesy of Andrew Straw/Saddle Skedaddle

Some of the pages exhibited at Saddle Skedaddle.

Some of the pages exhibited at Saddle Skedaddle.

Even as we try to let him fade from public attention, Lance Armstrong’s legacy goes on (and on and on and on).

Earlier this month, the disgraced Texan cyclist found himself the subject of both a new book, Wheelman, and a new movie, The Armstrong Lie. And earlier this week, filming began on a Hollywood-size biopic directed by Stephen Frears, with Armstrong portrayed by Chris O’Dowd, of the TV comedy The IT Crowd. And, only today, Ryder Hesjedal, winner of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, admitted to having doped in 2003, just beyond the statute of limitations, and just prior to joining Armstrong during his doping days at US Postal.

A quick glance through the comments of the latest Armstrong coverage shows an overarching ambivalence about him—with roughly half dissing him, the other half staunchly upholding his integrity.

In a stroke of brilliance, Andrew Straw, of the Newcastle, England-based bike-tour operator Saddle Skedaddle, tapped into the undercurrent of Armstrong equivocation when he noticed a few copies of the dethroned Tour champ’s autobiographies on sale in local second-hand shops. Straw determined there must be more Armstrong paraphernalia out there that people don't want or know what to do with. He put out the offer, and, to his surprise, the Armstrong biographies began pouring in. “I thought maybe we’d receive a few copies,” Straw says. “But within a week, we had hundreds.” He also received, among various mementos, an autographed jersey and a US Postal Trek bike frame.

Straw had to find something to do with all the booty. “I had two ideas. One was to make a throne-like piece of furniture, which could live in the Hub, and the public could sit on the pages,” he says. “Another was to cover the floor in pages of the book.”

He opted for the flooring alternative. After ripping pages from the donated books, Straw requested that café patrons write their thoughts about Lance Armstrong on loose sheets and use floor varnish to affix them to the floor. “Lance is a hero,” reads one. “Manipulator!” says another.

Letting clients express their views—good or bad—was exactly the point, according to Straw. “It works in two ways,” he says. “For people who still rate Lance, it is something that can be admired. And those now ‘anti-Lance,’ can stamp all over the lies written in the books."

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