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Who will Lance inspire?

The bad news for fans of Lance Armstrong is that his chances of winning this year's Tour de France are pretty slim. 

The young Spanish rider, Alberto Contador, has the overall lead and clearly is the strongest rider in the race. On the brutal climbs in the Alps Contador accelerated. He actually had a kick and went faster while everyone else was trying to hold tempo (and for the record, average cyclists like myself would be desperately trying not to roll backwards while on a mountain like that, assuming, that is, I could even get on my pedals to begin with). And Armstrong has said as much -- that Contador is the strongest rider in the field and his teammate and he will support him through to Paris.

Ah, but the good news for Lance Armstrong fans.

He's not finished just yet.

Armstrong told reporters on Tuesday that he was 100 percent sure he would return to the 2010 Tour.

And, as noted on his Twitter page, Armstrong also said that a big announcement would be coming on Thursday involving the announcement of a new American partner for next year's team.

If watching Contador doesn't inspire you during the final week of the Tour, Armstrong certainly does.

Which leaves me wondering: Who exactly is being inspired by Armstrong?

The other day, my mom called with a few Tour de France questions one of which was: "Do any women ride in the Tour?"

It's a question I wondered, too.

From what I can tell through online searches, there is no official "rule" that prohibits women from being a Tour de France rider. 

Then again, there is no such rule that bans women from playing in the NBA, NFL or NHL. We just haven't seen it happen.

There is women's professional cycling and many of the big name teams also have a women's version. And while they don't ride in a three-week long test of endurance, the women do have their own "Tour de France" of sorts, called the "Grande Boucle Feminine." British rider Emma Pooley won this year's race back in June.

But I can't help but wonder if some talented young girl is watching Lance Armstrong and the increased coverage and interest in cycling in the United States and is inspired to ride the Tour de France some day.

Yes, I know that there are arguments as to why women will never ride the Tour de France with the men and I concede that many of them make sense.

But that doesn't mean there isn't an exception out there. That somewhere, a little girl is inspired and talented and gifted and hard-working and will have preparation meet opportunity in order to ride the race one day with the boys.

I'm not saying she'll win anything at all. But she would finish the race which, if you're not privy to the cycling world, is no small feat.

And perhaps while the story of a woman who is strong enough to attempt that barrier will be classified as a news "oddity" it may just help spawn more sponsorship and opportunity for women's cycling.

Because when you put your story out there, you never know what you may inspire.
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