Lance Armstrong, banned from competitive sport for life, will this week ride alongside three men who in 1999 helped him win the first of the seven Tour de France titles he was stripped of two years ago at the Gran Fondo Hincapie in South Carolina. In news likely to raise eyebrows, they will be joined by a number of current pros, including BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen.
Also riding in the event, according to Velonews, will be two other members of the US Postal Service team around which the investigation that led to Armstrong’s disgrace was based – Michael Barry and Tom Danielson, although David Zabriskie who was originally scheduled to race, will not now be taking part.
Two of van Garderen’s team mates, Brent Bookwalter and Larry Warbasse, as will Trek Factory Racing’s Matthew Busche and Alex Howes of Garmin-Sharp, will also be taking part in what will be the third annual edition of the event, which Amrstrong can ride because it is unsanctioned.
The 43-year-old, who confessed to doping in January last year told Velonews: “I’m going because George is a good friend and he asked me to come. He’s been awfully supportive of Anna and mine’s work with Wapiyapi [a small private fundraising dinner and ride], so I wanted to return the favour. Regarding the others, I’m ambivalent.”
The website also contacted other riders including Hincapie, who like Danielson, Vande Valde and Zabriskie, but not Livingston, testified against the Texan as part of the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation, each receiving a six-month suspension.
Hincapie said: “I know I’ve made mistakes along with some of the other riders in attendance, but I believe in, and hope for, second chances for everyone.
“I’m very fortunate to count many former and current professionals as friends, and will leave it to my peers to decide how they regard me, and the event.”
“I can see the curiosity of people, wondering why we would choose to associate ourselves,” admitted van Garderen, aged 26, who had Hincapie as his room-mate during the 2012 Tour de France, a race in which he won the best young rider’s white jersey.
“It was frustrating for me to learn about all the stuff that happened in the past, and I think I was right there, with a lot of people, being angry about the news that had come out. But after a while, after I had had some time to digest.
He added: “Lance lives down the block from me, in Aspen. We’ve gone on some rides together, he’s even motorpaced me behind his Vespa. I don’t feel like there’s any hidden agenda there.
“He still loves the sport, and wants to see it get better. I don’t think he is the evil guy he’s been depicted to be, in all these books and movies, but I suppose that is ultimately going to be left up for people to decide for themselves.”
While neither Bookwalter, Busche or Warbasse mentioned Armstrong by name, Howes, referring to the older riders including “that Lance guy” said that his own contemporaries had to undertake a “balancing act” in “learning how to be friends with them, help them kind of reintegrate into clean cycling and also kind of create our own identity … as a generation.
“It’s not easy, and I feel like we’re doing a relatively good job,” the 26-year-old added. “I’m pretty proud of where we are from a results standpoint. From an ethical standpoint … Where we stay in our little bubble, how we relate to the rest of population, I don’t know. It’s complicated. It’s absolutely not black and white.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.