The Miracle Man: Lance Armstrong Nearly Nabs the Yellow Jersey

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IJuly 7, 2009

LA GRANDE MOTTE, FRANCE - JULY 06:  Lance Armstrong of USA and team Astana cycles amid the peloton during stage three of the 2009 Tour de France from Marseille to La Grande Motte on July 6, 2009 in La Grande-Motte, France. The stage was won by Mark Cavendish of Great Britain and Team Columbia.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Much too often these days we tend to use other worldly superlatives to explain the things we see in the crucible of sport: the “miracle catch,” the “miracle hit,” the “miracle shot.”

In essence, these things we witness are often a combination of skill and luck, often times more of the latter, as with the “immaculate reception,” or “the catch,” the product of a bouncing ball, an out-of-position defense, and a fortuitous recipient who happened to be in the right place at the right time.

Only the truly great make us redefine our own jargon.

We don’t call a Tiger Woods clinching 18th hole putt a “miracle shot” because we know that God didn’t have to intervene. We know that it was the man himself exerting his own will upon the moment.

This is greatness, this is the promise of humanity extended to its full potential, and in many ways this is more exhilarating than any lucky catch, pitch or kick, because of its inevitable nature.

And it is in this manner that I find myself in complete awe of Lance Armstrong... once again.

How many “miracles” does this man have packed into his 155-pound frame?

For any other mortal man, just surviving cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs would be characterized as a miracle.

For any mortal athlete, to come back and win the Tour de France would be another unbelievable miracle.

For any mortal elite athlete, to then win the Tour a record seven consecutive years is beyond any endowment of miracles that any man rightly deserves.

But Lance Armstrong keeps on churning them out.

Four years removed from his last stand on the podium and logging in at a geriatric 38 years of age, the gritty Texan apparently walked across the Atlantic Ocean mere months removed from a broken collar bone which left questions about his ability to compete at the elite level necessary for Tour contention.

Beyond this, there was much speculation that it is Alberto Contador, not Armstrong, who was the true leader of Team Astana, and many viewed Armstrong’s unwillingness to cede his place at the front as the selfish antics of a prima donna past his prime.

In answer to this Armstrong was quoted as saying, “I’ve won the Tour seven times. I think I deserve some respect.”

Well Lance, how about a little awe? Respect seems to be a rather insubstantial word to describe what you’re doing right now.

Coming into the fourth stage of the Tour in third place overall riding 40 seconds off the lead, Armstrong and his very astute Team Astana, put on an incredible showing of speed, effectively taking all that time back.

Though Armstrong had thought that such a comeback would be “impossible,” the ride nearly had the seven-time winner wearing the yellow jersey once again, something that even the most ardent believers would admit to be a long shot.

Though he’s not technically wearing the jersey, as mere tenths of a second separate him from the race leader Fabian Cancellara, he now sits zero seconds off the lead as partial seconds are only used to determine jersey possession, not overall time.

Armstrong is once more riding on the lead of the Tour de France.

And though it’s still awfully early in the show, and though the race sets up nicely for Cancellara in the next couple of stages, and though it may very well be that age and injury and layoff may one day catch up with Armstrong, who am I to not believe in the Miracle Man?

He’s shown me an other worldly ability to do things that were not thought possible.

And then do them again.

And if you believe in the power of premonition then here’s a sign you might want to put some stock in. 

When his name was announced at the beginning of Monday’s race, Armstrong was met not by mocking “doper” signs, or a smattering of boos, but to thunderous cheers and applause. Yes, it seems that the French are finally behind Lance Armstrong.

Talk about a miracle.