Let the summer of Lance Saturation commence | SkyHiNews.com

Let the summer of Lance Saturation commence

After more than five months of grueling preparation, global anticipation and hot speculation among fitness experts who think they know what happens to aging professional athletes, Lance Armstrong is finally set to launch his comeback Sunday with the start of Australia’s Tour Down Under.

The summertime race is part of the UCI ProTour, which means we should get a pretty nice idea right off the bat what kind of fitness the seven-time Tour de France champ – and soon-to-be dad, thanks to a minor medical miracle Armstrong announced last month ” is carrying.

According to the reports I’ve read in the past couple of days, he is in better shape than an Iditarod husky. One former teammate from Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service days, Patrick Jonker, said he hasn’t seen Armstrong this lean in years. “Ripped,” was how Jonker put it to the Melbourne Herald Sun.

Armstrong, meanwhile, has been treating the occasion with a healthy dose of caution mixed with a glimpse of what might be coming. His unbelievably immense pride won’t let him set public goals the way he has privately, I’m sure, which is why he described his expectations this way Down Under:

“I just don’t want to get clobbered too bad. That’s my main motivation for training hard. I don’t have any delusions of grandeur.”

Given how he described his fitness level in the same press conference, I would call that a smokescreen designed to cloud the pressure he feels to represent himself the way he always has.

“I’ve prepared much harder this series of months than I ever would have in the past,” he told reporters.

“The tests that we do on the bike, or on the road, or in the lab, indicate that my January fitness is much better than it ever was the years when I was winning the Tour.”

For anyone who enjoys cycling, this is only the beginning. We’ve got six months to go before the Tour rides into Paris. Lance Saturation should be in full swing by then. …

Taking stock of what has happened thus far in the NFL playoffs: In the NFC championship game, we have the No. 6 seed, Philadelphia, playing at No. 4 seed Arizona for a berth in the Super Bowl ” the first time a No. 4 seed has hosted a conference championship game in league history.

In the AFC, we’ve got sixth-seeded Baltimore playing at No. 2 seed Pittsburgh, a delicious collision of football’s two most physical teams.

The lesson? Underdogs get hot when the postseason arrives ” you can bet your pinky finger on it.

If this were college, however, none of the four remaining teams would’ve even had a chance to win it all when the playoffs began, because the top two seeds ” mistake-riddled Tennessee and suddenly feeble New York ” would have already advanced to the title game. …

If you need more of a rationale as to why the BCS stands for Bad College System, track down Rick Reilly’s latest column trumpeting Utah as the national champ on espn.com. …

So, yeah, the Broncos have decided to hand the keys to their Cadillac to Josh McDaniels, a 32-year-old former Division 3 college receiver who learned professional football under Bill Belichick.

McDaniels, a play-calling wizard by any measure, will reportedly have former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan handling his defense, which was a nice touch by Pat Bowlen aimed at easing the puppy into the dogfight.

But for those who question the new coach’s roots, take note: McDaniel is the second alumnus of John Carroll University (Ohio) to serve as head coach of an NFL team. The first? Don Shula. …

So much for North Carolina running away with the college basketball title. In losing their second straight ACC game to start the season Sunday at Wake Forest, the Tar Heels got an up-close view of Jeff Teague, the most exciting player I’ve seen this year ” above even Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin. …

I would love to know which 28 of the 539 Baseball Hall of Fame voters did not believe Rickey Henderson to be a worthy first-ballot Hall of Famer ” and hear them explain their reasoning. …

In parting, funniest thing I saw all week was Sunday night’s Channel 4 news reel of Bill Romanowski highlights, illustrating the update on Romo’s self-choreographed push to be the new Broncos coach.

For two or three minutes, we watched Romo spear, club and basically try to decapitate a host of opponents he faced in his career. It was vintage stuff, just the kind of behavior NFL owners love from their future head coaches, I’m sure.

” Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at devononeil@hotmail.com.

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