Best Actors in a Supporting Role

Lance Armstrong is basking in the limelight, but what about the riders who made his victory possible?

Outside

Outside    

Within the week that followed the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong's post-race media victory lap included the following: three phone calls from President Clinton (Lance was too busy to take the first two), appearances on Today and Letterman, a movie deal, a book deal, and a rumored $4 million in new endorsements. During the same period, Frankie Andreu, a fellow rider on the U.S. Postal Service Team who controlled the pace of the peloton to safeguard Lance's position, wound up with a case of Jif peanut butter (after wistfully revealing on the Internet that he missed the stuff). "It's hard not to be overshadowed by a story like Lance's," sighs Dan Osipow, the team's operations director."But these guys will get their chance."

Indeed. Amid the acclaim washing over the second American cyclist and the first American team ever to win the Tour de France, one important fact was obscured: No cyclist ever wins a major stage race alone; victory is purchased at the cost of a Kabuki-like orchestration of attacks, feints, and spectacular self-immolations on the part of team members supporting their captain. Thus it is appropriate to note—and commend—the extraordinary accomplishments of a nine-rider group that Osipow praises, with self-interest but also with reasonable accuracy, as "the deepest, most talented U.S. cycling team in history." (It was also the most richly remunerated team of the tour, netting $475,000 in prize money.)

Sponsored as part of an incongruous campaign to create greater "brand awareness"for the U.S. Postal Service's exciting line of padded envelopes and cardboard boxes, the team includes sprinter George Hincapie, who led Armstrong on the flats; climbers Tyler Hamilton (who finished 13th) and Kevin Livingston, who pulled him up the mountains; and Christian Vande Velde, Pascal Deramé, and Andreu, who chased down breakaway riders and kept anyone from threatening Armstrong's lead. (Teammates Jonathan Vaughters crashed out and Peter Meinert withdrew because of knee problems.)

Also somewhat lost in the hoopla was the fact that while Armstrong is busy sorting through offers with his publicist, schmoozing with talk-show hosts, and basking in immensely well-deserved glory, the rest of his team is furiously pedaling through several more European road races this fall. Back in America's heartland, however, only one name reverberates. Even at the Bikesport shop in Andreu's hometown of Dearborn, Michigan, manager Ken O'Day says he'll give his longtime friend a big, congratulatory clap on the back when he returns. "Then I'm going to ask if he'll get Lance to sign a team poster for me."

 

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