The beleaguered Lance Armstrong is back out on the Tour de France route today, his first appearance since being stripped of his seven titles.
Armstrong will be riding two stages of the Tour – from Muret to Rodez today, and from Rodez to Mende on Friday – a day ahead of the actual race, to raise money for charity.
The charity, which is organized by former British soccer player, Geoff Thomas, a cancer survivor himself, aims to raise “around $1.5 million” (1.4 million euros), through sponsorship which was garnered by the 10 amateur cyclists accompanying him.
According to the media, as of Tuesday, almost $1 million had already been raised.
Since announcing his participation, Armstrong has sparked a barrage of controversy, with even the president of cycling governing body, Brian Cookson, weighing in on the topic.
“Armstrong may not get quite the welcome he would like in France’, said Cookson.
“There are a lot of people already out on the course the day before the Tour and I am not so sure they would be delighted to see Lance Armstrong, so maybe he needs to bear that in mind.”
Just recently, Cookson renewed his call for Armstrong to give up the charity ride.
“It is undesirable, I think it is disrespectful. I think there are plenty of ways of raising money for charity that Lance could do.”
Armstrong himself dismissed any concerns about a return to the Tour de France – at least in an unofficial capacity.
“People think I have this bitter relationship with the country, with its people. I like going there. I love France,” he told a small group of journalists last month.
Furthermore, he also batted off Cookson’s comments.
“I don’t know Brian Cookson. I’ve never met him, never really had a conversation with him, don’t even know what his vision is for the sport,” Armstrong said.
“But I do know that me and Geoff (Thomas) riding in France for this cause is the least of his problems.”
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