Despite his continued status as the pariah of cycling, and receiving the admonishment of cycling’s hierarchy, Lance Armstrong is optimistic that he will be well received at next month’s charity ride in France.
Indeed, Armstrong expects a welcoming reception when he returns to France for a charity bike event, along side its organizer, British ex-soccer player and fellow cancer survivor, Geoff Thomas.
The event, which is called “One Day Ahead”, will follow each stage of this year’s Tour de France, one day ahead of the actual race.
Among others, Armstrong has received hostility from the likes of UCI president Brian Cookson, Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford, for participating in the event.
“I could be wrong — I’ve been wrong plenty in my life — but I’ve been to France since all this happened and if you walk into a cafe or a restaurant or walk down the street, that’s not the reaction I get,” Armstrong told the press.
“People think I have this bitter relationship with the country, with its people. I like going there. I love France. The people are what they are. It’s like any place. Some people are cool, some people aren’t cool.
“I don’t know Brian Cookson. I’ve never met him, never really had a conversation with him, don’t know what his vision is for the sport. I don’t know if he is even able to form a vision. I don’t know anything about the man.
“But I do know that me and Geoff riding in France for this cause is the least of his problems.”
He added: “I absolutely don’t think cycling is in a better place. You guys (the media) can decide if he’s done a good job, if he’s been tough on Astana, whether he’s stuck with his mission statement.
“Plenty of people would argue he’s laid down on a lot of things. If he is making public comments, he needs to be talking about other things because this sport is not in a good place for a variety of reasons.
“A lot of it has to do — perhaps some would say — with me. But he doesn’t need to worry about this.”
Armstrong spoke to a group of journalists at his home in Aspen, Colorado, after inviting Thomas and a group of his charity riders to join him for a training weekend.
He says that the cycling community has nothing to fear from his involvement in Thomas’s project and that he has no desire to become involved in professional cycling again.
However, Armstrong feels that his participation with the newly created Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), who recently published an in-depth report on “doping”, was a missed opportunity to draw a line in the sand.
“The thing comes out and it gets panned,” he said. “It’s almost dismissed. I know you don’t think about the CIRC report unless someone brings it up, but we haven’t had that adult conversation, I don’t think.”
Additionally, Armstrong continues to feel aggrieved that the sport as a whole, has chosen to write him out of the record books, when other riders still have their names on the lists of winners despite positive drug tests.
“Who’s that character in Harry Potter they can’t talk about? Voldemort? It’s like that on every level,” Armstrong said.
“If you watch the Tour on American TV, if you read about it, it’s just as if you can’t mention him. And that will not be the case forever, because it can’t be the case forever. That won’t work. People aren’t stupid.
“When you look at the history books, everybody at this table knows what went on in the 1990s and 2000s, but if you see the results and you still see there’s no winners, there’s a bunch of seconds, thirds, fourths, fifths, that all just doesn’t make any sense. Ten years from now, people aren’t going to accept that.”
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