Whatever your opinion on Lance Armstrong, liking his podcast is not a sin | Barry Glendenning

Forgiveness for Lance Armstrong is still a long way off but the disgraced cyclists Tour de France podcast is demonstrating popular and he is well qualified to have an sentiment on the race

Opinions vary among cycling fans on just how good or bad this years Tour de France has been. With only two stages left we find ourselves in the welcome situation where the top step of the Paris podium is still up for grabs but many have felt short-changed by a route that has been heavily criticised , not to mention the more unforeseeable early exits of a clutch of the pelotons finest through injury or controversial disqualification.

What few who have heard it can contest, however, is that some of the most intelligent, insightful and amusing analysis of this years race has been offered from the back of a converted Winnebago generally parked up somewhere in Colorado. Theres simply one small or very big problem: the man delivering these forthright sentiments is Lance Armstrong.

Unique among riders in that he has won the Tour de France seven times while never actually winning it at all, Armstrong is the starring turn on Stages, a daily podcast he copresents with his friend JB Hager, a former host on the Austin Radio Network. In each episode, Armstrong reviews one Tour stage and previews the next, while Hager plays the bloke with a occur interest in the peloton, who prods and probes Armstrong for insights and anecdotes informed by virtually 20 years as a professional cyclist. Described in some quarters as this Tours guilty pleasure, one question above all others has been prompted by the success of Stages: is it finally OK to like Armstrong again?

For many who never had much hour for him in the first place, the answer is an unequivocal no. Its old ground but worth re-covering: in recent years, Armstrong was exposed as a liar, a bully and a defraud, was stripped of his titles and revealed to be perhaps one of the biggest hoax in the history of sport. In an often unforgiving world, his crimes have been deemed more unpardonable than most.

In an interview with the BBC in 2015, Armstrong described his behaviour over 15 years, especially his treatment of a dozen or so people whose characters, reputations and careers he attempted to destroy in a bid to save his own as totally regrettable and entirely inexcusable. Adding that he had apologies accepted by a few cases of those from whom he sought forgiveness, he conceded he couldnt maintain apologising forever: We all want to be forgiven. Theres a lot of actually, really bad people that want to be forgiven that will never be forgiven and I might be somewhat in that camp.

Armstrongs critics believe he is not sorry for his crimes, only for getting caught. They quote his not entirely unreasonable view that he was made a scapegoat for a generation of dopers in cycling as further proof of his lack of regret. They may well have a phase but in the past Armstrong has conceded that as the leader of the band for years, the buck stops with me. He has also said as tough as it is, as much headwind as there is sometimes, I only have to forge ahead, do my thing and fit in where I can. That or become a recluse.

Born out of a popular series of podcasts called the Forward, in which Armstrong interviews authors, musicians, movie stars and sportsmen, Stages is his latest attempt to forge ahead, do his thing and fit in wherever he can. Cynics may have a phase when they indicate it is little more than a transparent attempt to find personal redemption and curry public favor, with the $100 m lawsuit filed against him by the American government due to begin in November. Whatever Armstrongs motivation for his daily dispatches might be, his exuberance is abundant and they make for hugely entertaining and informative listening.

In the first one, Armstrong was recognized that he had fallen out of love with cycling and lost all interest in the athletic which stimulated him, in turn, an all-American hero and then a global pariah. I spent years doing anything but cycling; anything but riding a motorcycle, he said. An injury sustained while operating left him in need of an endurance outlet so he pulled on his cleats and hurled his leg back over the crossbar. It sounds corny but I fell back in love with the bike, he said. It was then he decided to bone up on the current peloton, get his hands on the present Tour book and record Stages. You may not always like what you hear on here, he told his audience. But its going to be well informed, it will be educated and it will come from experience. All three boxes are ticked on a daily basis.

From time to time, it is also very funny. Whatever your opinion on Armstrong as a shamed cyclist who attains no attempt to distance himself from his sordid and grubby past he is a rich seam of insights and amusing, often self-deprecating, anecdotes regarding the often shambolic workings of the Tour, from the curious revelation that participating teams are ordered where to remain each night to the excruciating minutium of what its like to ascend a mountain on a narrow road lined with liquored-up cycling fans in fancy dress.

There are those who will say, with some justification, that a shamed athlete who brought so much humiliation on his athletic should not be entitled to a platform from which to pontificate about it. They are entitled to their view but Armstrong is not the only dishonored cyclist to enjoy such a privilege, just the most high profile.

A man with no platform is a lost man, he said in a recent interview with CNN. People can choose not to listen but Im my own boss with this and nobody tells me what to do. While much of the feedback on Stages has been positive, plenty of detractors have told him in no uncertain terms what to do with his podcast. For all his defects, Lance can also choose not to listen.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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