Our story yesterday about how a 2004 Tour de France yellow jersey said to have been signed by Lance Armstrong fetched just £150 when auctioned at Sotheby’s (his reaction? “Might have fetched even less if it had actually been my signature”) got us thinking – just how many of them can there be out there? And how many can we track down?
- Lance Armstrong yellow jersey goes for a song at auction - but his reaction is priceless
First, we did the math. Between 1999 and 2005 he collected 83 podium jerseys. Then, taking away the days he got into yellow, there are 76 race jerseys (or time trial skin suits). That’s more than 150 to start with.
But then you have to add on the hundreds – perhaps thousands – that Armstrong would have signed at the end of each stage for the organisers to distribute to local dignitaries, or those he (or someone else) would have signed for team sponsors and the like - US Postal, Discovery Channel, Trek, Nike, Oakley, etc - plus for his Livestrong charity.
In short, there are a lot of them out there.
We’d really like to track down as many of these as we can, though. So if have one, or know of a bike shop, sports bar or similar that does, let us know in the comments where it is. And if you have a picture, even better.
Now, we assume that Armstrong still has the seven he was shown in that infamous picture taken in the mancave of his former home in Austin, Texas – one for each of his seven victories, which he was stripped of in 2012.
We’re not sure what happened to them, but we’re guessing Armstrong still has them … maybe they’ll turn up inside an abandoned lock-up in some future episode of Storage Wars?
It’s a bit difficult to pop round and see if Mellow Johnny’s, the bike shop he owns in Austin, still has their seven on the wall – but you can see them here in this still from their virtual tour.
We do know at least one bike shop in Australia still has one, because Anthony Foy sent us this picture of it via Facebook – rather unglamorously, they keep it in the dunny.
James Maloney, meanwhile, keeps his, Portrait of Dorian Gray like, in the attic.
He said on our Facebook page: “Had bought a framed signed USPS jersey quite a few years ago before everything came out. Paid £200 for it. Thought to myself 'this can only go up in value'. How wrong I was. It is stuck in the loft now. Shame to waste a decent frame.”
That’s picture frame, not bike frame, by the way. Threw us, too.
One may even have changed hands via our Facebook page yesterday.
Keith Dougal wrote: “I have a signed (definitely by him) Discovery Channel jersey if anyone wants to make me an offer? Do I hear $1 from the back of the room?”
To which George Smyth replied: “Keith Dougal, personal message me about an offer for the Lance Armstrong, jersey you have, $5 + postage and package.”
We don’t know if the offer was accepted.
But caveat emptor and all that … besides the doubt Armstrong cast over the authenticity of the signature on the one sold in London last week, one of these is unlikely to make you rich.
- Lance Armstrong auction: Damien Hirst 'Butterfly Bike' goes for $500,000
Let’s imagine that some punter turns up at a stately home somewhere in Britain where BBC is filming an episode of Antiques Roadshow, clutching a yellow jersey signed (or perhaps not) by Armstrong, and gets to sit down with the sports memorabilia expert.
Expert [unfolding jersey]: What do we have here. Now, this is a yellow jersey from the 2004 Tour de France, and I can tell you straight away from the sponsors’ logos that its one that would have been awarded to Lance Armstrong, who won the race seven times. Well, until, you know …
Pundit [interrupting, expectantly]: So there are only seven of them in existence?
Expert: Well, no. You see, the race lasts three weeks, and at the end of each stage, the rider with the lowest overall time, the race leader, goes to the podium to be presented with the yellow jersey. And over those seven years, Lance Armstrong went to that podium 83 times to get given a yellow jersey.
Punter [rather less expectantly]: So there are 83 of them?
Expert : Well, no. You see that the zip on this one is on the front? Well, the podium presentation jerseys have a full-length zip at the back, to make it easier to get them on. Now, if it had been one of those … but, there are another 76 or so yellow jerseys, including a handful of time trial skinsuits, that he would have worn while racing, so we’re up to a little over 150.
Punter [still hopeful, though less so than before]: So it’s still rather rare?
Expert [examining jersey closely]: This one, sadly, has never been raced. The Nike swing tag is a giveaway, I’m afraid. May I ask how you came by it?
Punter [crestfallen]: My next door neighbour was a Nike rep and said he had a few going spare, so popped one round.
Expert: I’m afraid it’s worth next to nothing. Now, if you had an actual jersey presented to the winner on the Champs-Elysees at the end of the race, that would be a real collectable and could fetch decent money. There are at most 90 only of those around since the yellow jersey was introduced in 1919.
Punter [rummaging in bag]: It’s funny you should mention that, because I do have this …
[Produces podium yellow jersey in presentation box with certificate of authenticity]
Expert [enthused]: That’s much more like it. Where did you find this?
Punter: Well, I’m in the loft conversion business and worked in Denmark for a while. And we were doing some prep work clearing out an attic for this ex-pro cyclist when we found it … he said ASO hadn’t been round to collect it yet, so we might as well keep it …
Expert: Was this chap called Bjarne Riis, by any chance?
Punter: Why, yes! And he joked that if I ever sold it on, I needed to give him 60 per cent of the proceeds ... I never did get that one.
- Riis: Stages Of Light And Dark by Bjarne Riis With Lars Steen Pedersen Translated by Ellis Bacon
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