Lance Armstrong is today undertaking the second of the two stages of the route of this year’s Tour de France with former England footballer Geoff Thomas – the ride has raised more than £600,000 for charity, but the disgraced cyclist’s presence is continuing to cause controversy.
The 43-year-old yesterday rode the route of Stage 13 from Muret to Rodez, which the peloton will tackle today, as part of Thomas’s One Day Ahead charity ride, which aims to raise £1 million for the charity Cure Leukaemia.
The former Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton Wanderers player, whose ride has so far raised more than £600,000 on Just Giving, credits Armstrong’s recovery from cancer as helping inspire him to win his own battle with leukaemia.
Yesterday, after completing the 198.5km stage, Armstrong tweeted: “Incredible first day w/ the @TdF1DayAhead crew. Hot & hilly but gr8 time. And a big thanks/merci to the French people for the warm welcome.”
— Liz Kreutz (@LizKreutz) July 17, 2015
But not everyone has welcomed him with open arms, with UCI president Brian Cookson repeating his view that the Texan should not be anywhere near the race he won seven times, only to be stripped of those titles in 2012.
In a statement emailed to The New York Times, Cookson said: “I know that Geoff Thomas is very genuine in his charitable work. But I continue to believe that Lance Armstrong’s involvement in this ride is inappropriate.”
Armstrong, who was joined by 11 other riders yesterday, told AFP: “Brian Cookson needs to worry about other things.
“It’s one thing if I said, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to the race and I want to stand around at the start.’ I’m not asking that, you know,” he insisted.
“I understand there is sensitivity around that, but here helping a group of people in a great cause, I’m going to do that forever.”
Tour de France leader Chris Froome said that Armstrong taking part on Thomas’s ride was a “non-event” as far as the riders taking part in the 102nd edition of the race are concerned.
“He’s not on the start line with us or anything like that,” reflected the Team Sky rider prior to the beginning of yesterday’s Stage 12 in Lannemezan, 60 or so miles away.
“You’ve got to look at what he’s doing, which is Geoff Thomas’s cause to raise money for blood cancer research.
“As I’ve said earlier I support his cause, it’s a cause that’s very close to my heart. I wish Geoff Thomas and the guys all the best in raising as much money as they can.
“But about Lance he’s not on the line with us, we’re not going to see him, it’s a non-event for us.”
However Froome’s team mate Geraint Thomas was rather more forthright in his opinion, saying that today’s riders are “paying the price” for Armstrong’s doping – the Texan himself has acknowledged that his own actions in cheating his way to seven Tour de France victories play a large part in the questions about doping that are invariably fired in Froome’s direction.
Thomas said: “I couldn’t care less what he’s doing to be honest. He has done enough harm.
“But whatever, we are just in our own little world here having a laugh and doing what we’re doing and Lance and all them can do what they want.”
— TdFOneDayAhead (@TdF1DayAhead) July 17, 2015
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.