Velonews: What I’ll Be Watching During €the Program’


Jan 3, 2005
<figure ><img title="ProgramLance" src=""/><p>Ben Foster portrays Lance Armstrong in the new biopic, "The Program."</p></figure><p>There were dozens of instances during the Lance Armstrong era when I thought that the entire saga would make for a wonderful — albeit completely farfetched — Hollywood movie. I envisioned some young writer pitching his Lance screenplay to a frowning producer, who would subsequently crumple up the draft and offer a scathing critique:</p>
<p><em>A bike racer <a href=""target="_blank">parties with strippers</a> and boldly ignores stop signs?</em><br /><em> He defends himself on Larry King <a href="" target="_blank">like that</a>?</em><br /><em> The Mennonite guy <a href="" target="_blank">always wears</a> aviators and a backwards baseball hat?</em><br /><em> Everyone he beats is on drugs, and people still think he’s clean?</em><br /><em> NOBODY WILL BELIEVE THIS.</em></p>
<p>As we now know, the truth about Lance was, indeed, weirder than fiction. And at some point, at least one producer thought that the Lance story would make a decent film. The biopic “The Program” debuted at the Toronto Film Festival last month, and at the London Film Festival this week.</p>
<p>We’re going to have to wait a bit longer to see the film here in the states. No U.S. release date has been announced. It will, however, premiere at the Austin Film Festival on November 5.</p>
<p>I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to see this film, even though the reviews have been, at best, <a href=""target="_blank">mixed</a>. That’s because the <a href="" target="_blank">two</a> <a href="" target="_blank">trailers</a> are jam-packed with so much ridiculous imagery. There’s the tracksuit-clad Dr. Ferarri wearing his **** shades inside. Brooding Floyd is played by Todd from “Breaking Bad.” And Chris O’Dowd — best known for his portrayal of priests and creepy, hairy dudes — gets to do his best David Walsh impersonation.</p>
<p>I assume that this film takes a very serious look at the Armstrong saga, which is fine. But before sitting down to watch “The Program,” I have a checklist of more humorous moments that I’ll be watching for.</p>
<p><strong>Will the cycling suck?</strong></p>
<p>Hollywood’s attempts to capture pro cycling are usually hilarious in their awful depiction of actual bicycle riding/racing.</p>
<p>Need some examples? Who can forget Dennis Christopher’s bad “<a href=""target="_blank">Oh” face</a> as he races a semi truck in “Breaking Away?” In his depiction of Graeme Obree in the “The Flying Scotsman,” Jonny Lee Miller <a href="" target="_blank">wobbles around on his track bike</a> while pedaling at 20 rpm. And in “American Flyers,” poor David Marshall Grant looks like he’s <a href="" target="_blank">having a seizure on the bike</a>.</p>
<p>Will “The Program’s” Ben Foster be any better? Foster earned headlines when he announced that, in his quest to recreate Lance, he took undisclosed PEDs.</p>
<p>That’s a nice touch, but did Foster learn how to not look like a stooge on a bike? If he flails his way across the screen while pushing a monster gear, then we’ll know Foster spent more time doping than actually riding.</p>
<p><strong>How will the film discuss bike racing?</strong></p>
<p>If you’ve ever attempted to explain the Tour de France to your mom, then you know how alien cycling’s gamesmanship is to an outsider. Drafting. Domestiques. General classification. Saddle sores. Cycling would be so much easier to discuss if they just kicked a damned ball.</p>
<p>Filmmakers are often tripped up by the sport’s nuance. The recent ESPN film “Slaying the Badger,” for example, was so packed with explanation and context, that — in my opinion — it had to rush the interesting stuff about Bernard Hainault being a jerk.</p>
<p>Will director Stephen Frears discover a quick, efficient way to explain cycling to a general audience? I hope so, because I need a handy YouTube clip to send to my mom. I have my doubts. Frears recently <a href=""target="_blank">said he knew nothing about cycling</a>, Lance Armstrong, or even saddle sores before working on the project.</p>
<p><strong>Will we see Lance rub salt on Vaughters’s wasp sting?</strong></p>
<p>So the real reason we’re all tuning into “The Program” is to see how Frears and Foster portray Lance. Will he be a nice guy or a scumbag? Lord knows there are plenty of anecdotes from the past 20 years to uphold both versions.</p>
<p>If they decide to go down the Lance-is-a-**** path, then I hope they include perhaps the meanest scene from the Lance era: the Vaughters wasp sting.</p>
<p>If you don’t know about the sting, read <a href=""target="_blank">Vaughters’ affidavit</a> from USADA’s Reasoned Decision. As the story goes, Vaughters, no longer on Postal, was stung by a wasp during Stage 14 of the 2001 Tour, and was forbidden from taking Cortisone by the UCI to treat the wound. <a href="" target="_blank">He looked like Quasimodo</a>, and Lance took notice.</p>
<p>“If you raced on this team, we could take care of the problem,” Lance apparently gloated to Vaughters, who abandoned the race.</p>
<p>I don’t see anybody playing Vaughters on the film’s <a href=""target="_blank">IMDB page</a>, so we may never get to see a rendition of the scene, which is too bad. The makeup artistry, alone, would be worth the watch.</p>
<p><strong>Will we see the other entertaining moments?</strong></p>
<p>There are so many scenes from the last two decades that should be included in this film. I can only hope that we get to see:</p>
<p>– Floyd signing to Kid Rock in the shower.<br />– Lance <a href=""target="_blank">giving journalist Sam Abt</a> “the stare” after talking about finishing poles.<br />– Tyler <a href="" target="_blank">peeing black</a> after visiting Dr. Fuentes.<br />– Lance turning <a href="" target="_blank">Texas’s best swimmin’ hole</a> into a mud pit.<br />– Floyd getting the “<a href="" target="_blank">scoreboard</a>” treatment from Lance on Brasstown Bald.<br />– Christian Vande Velde <a href="" target="_blank">delivering a fake cortisone pill</a> to Lance during a Vuelta stage.</p>
<p>And, of course, who could forget “<a href="" target="_blank">I called you crazy, I called you a ***** … but I never called you fat!</a>”</p>
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