At this point, that's old news. Everyone who follows cycling (and pretty much everyone who doesn't, as well) has long since come to terms with the fact that the once-unbeatable Armstrong is, at this point, old. In his own words, he's “just not fast enough.” He has acknowledged that, “ Lance Armstrong is over in about four days,” joining the rest of the world in celebrating and mourning his last race.
So why does this matter? Cycling always was and always will be bigger than just one man, right? The Tour de France this year is coming down to the wire, with a mere 8 seconds separating the current leader, Alberto Contador, from the second-place rider, Andy Schleck. The next stage, taking place in the Pyrenees on Thursday, promises to be drama-filled.
Still, at least here in America, there's Armstrong. He of the superhero name. He of the gravity-defying odds. He of the Livestrong organization. Armstrong captivates our collective imagination because of his story, because of his proto-American attitude and, perhaps, most of all, because of the way he refused to quit.
There are more than a few people the world over who do not believe that Armstrong accomplished what he did by legal or fair means. The constant hunt for him in the French press has gotten plenty of attention in the past, and just this month Andrew Corsello wrote a damning piece for GQ (which doesn't appear to be online in any version other than PDF for the iPad) where he claimed that Armstrong has lied so vehemently and for so long, he has no choice but to continue the lie.
So why does it matter that Armstrong will not win the Tour de France? It matters precisely for the aforementioned responses: People the world over, not just in America, react viscerally to Armstrong as a person and as a symbol. His story sparks people's hopes and dreams and the accusations against him spark our fears and nightmares. Beyond the overt symbolism, though, he matters as a person, too: He is a seven-time winner of the Tour de France, a feat unmatched in history. He grabbed all of his victories in that race on successive trips. And he did all of this after being diagnosed with stage three testicular cancer. When he arrives on the Champs-Élysées, it will not be as a champion, almost against our expectations. And that's worth watching.