One of the organisers of a ride yesterday evening in memory of the five people who lost their lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan, last week when the driver of a pick-up truck crashed into a group ride has defended Lance Armstrong’s presence there, saying he was “just another grieving cyclist" among the hundreds who attended the event.
They had gathered to complete the weekly evening ride that the five victims of last Tuesday’s tragedy were killed on when motorist Charles Pickett, Jr, ploughed into the group they had been riding with.
Besides the five who died, four others were seriously injured. Pickett has been charged with five counts of second degree murder, an offence that carries a maximum term of life imprisonment, and with four counts of reckless driving, with a preliminary hearing set for 29 June.
The ride began at the parking lot of the County Health and Community Services, where the group known as The Chain Gang meet for their weekly ride.
The Battle Creek Enquirer reports that before setting off on yesterday’s ride, Armstrong – sporting the group’s grey and red jersey – told the crowd: "We've all had cars come just a little too close and it scares you.
“We all know that, but none of us knew this. Over the years, there have been tragedies and incidents but nothing to this level.
“As I told Steve [Johnson from Johnson Cycle Works] and his group earlier, thank you for letting me come.
"I know that I'm not for everybody,” added Armstrong, banned from competitive sport for life in 2012 due to doping, “but this one touched home."
Earlier, Armstrong had visited one of the four injured cyclists, Paul Lewis Runnels, in hospital, where he is described as being in a “fair condition.”
Commenting on Armstrong’s presence, Meg Zapalowski, who helped organise the ride, said: "Lance is just another grieving cyclist.
"This ride is about our community coming together and it's really not about a big-name celebrity coming to support us. It's about us, as a community, grieving together and being able to heal together."
John Olbrot, vice president of Kalamazoo Bicycle Club, also spoke of the impact of last week’s events on a city that is home to some 75,000 people and is still reeling from a mass shooting in February this year that left six dead.
Referring to last Tuesday’s crash, he said: "A tragedy like that just shakes the whole community — cyclists and non-cyclists alike.
"But certainly, being cyclists and like-minded individuals, it just seems to take a special piece of our heart. I am glad for this ride and grateful that this ride was here and we were asked to participate and that we can help the healing process go on."
Here is some drone footage posted to Twitter of yesterday’s ride.
— Kyle Underwood (@wx8) June 15, 2016
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.