Lance Armstrong to join 10,000 other cyclists in mass participation event in Iowa
Man stripped of 7 Tour de France titles starts RAGBRAI the same day 100th edition of Tour finishes in Paris (not that he was invited)
Lance Armstrong is to ride in one of the world’s biggest mass participation cycling events, the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – commonly referred to by its acronym, RAGBRAI – and the disgraced cyclist has said he is fully prepared to deal with a hostile reception from fans.
The 41st – or XLI, if you're into the whole Roman numeral thing – edition of the week-long event takes place from 21-27 July and covers 406 miles.
Each year it attracts some 8,500 riders intent on lasting the duration, plus another 1,500 one-day entrants as well as others who have not registered.
Armstrong, last year stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005 and banned from competitive sport for life – as a non-sanctioned event, RAGBRAI is one of those he can participate in – first took part in it in 2006, the year after his first retirement from cycling.
His appearance will mark his most high-profile sporting appearance since confessing in January to Oprah Winfrey on live TV that he had doped his way to those Tour de France wins.
Quoted on USA Today, the 41-year-old said that he and members of staff from the Mellow Johnny’s bike shop he owns in Austin, Texas, would spent “three or four days” taking part in RAGBRAI XLI.
"I'm well aware my presence is not an easy topic, and so I encourage people if they want to give a high five, great," said Armstrong.
"If you want to shoot me the bird,” – give him the middle finger – “that's OK, too."
He added: "I'm a big boy, and so I made the bed, I get to sleep in it."
The event’s director, T.J. Juskiewicz, said he made no distinction between Armstrong and the other 10,000 participants.
"They have a great time here, and they want to return."
He added that Armstrong had not been paid an appearance fee in any of his participations in the event, although as a former Tour de France champion – annulment of those results notwithstanding – he does not have to pay an entrance fee.
Armstrong spoke briefly of the ongoing lawsuits he faces that could potentially result in him being liable to pay out millions of dollars to parties ranging from the US Department of Justice to UK newspaper, The Sunday Times.
"I'm committing to working through them, and whether it's settling cases or whether it's fighting some cases — because some have merit some don't,” he insisted.
“But I'm committed to the process and that's probably as much as I would and could say about it. That's a tricky area there.”
He added: "Unless you have $135 million you want to let me borrow, or have?"
Armstrong added: "To be honest it's not a statement, it's not an experiment, it's just me wanting to go ride my bike with what in the past has been a friendly group of people that share the same interests."
RAGBRAI XLI starts on Sunday 21 July, the same day that former Tour de France champions will parade in Paris on the final day of the 100th edition of cycling’s biggest race.
Armstrong, needless to say, has not been invited.