Cycling enthusiasts across Iowa will be tuning in tonight as bike racing legend Lance Armstrong is interviewed by Oprah Winfrey. Leaked reports indicate Armstrong will be coming clean about the alleged doping that helped him win the Tour de France a record seven times.
He was stripped of all seven titles last year. Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says Armstrong can take some of the credit for inspiring Iowans to ride and race — and for helping Iowa become one of the nation’s most bicycle-friendly states.
“Lance has visited Iowa several times and has really enjoyed bicycling in Iowa,” Wyatt says. “I think he has done a lot to increase the popularity of the sport.” Armstrong, a cancer survivor, has taken part in a number of RAGBRAI rides across Iowa in recent summers, drawing throngs of followers, in addition to his work in promoting cancer research at the University of Iowa.
Wyatt says the hero’s fall from grace is very unfortunate, but it won’t have any negative impact on pedal power in Iowa. “It’s not good to see this sort of controversy happening but I don’t think it’s going to dampen,” Wyatt says.
“Bicycling is still a really fun activity and I think a lot of people have learned that and I think bicycling is going to be continuing to grow.” Iowa has some two-thousand miles of bike trails, with some of the longest continuous trail systems in the country.
One estimate says of the three-million Iowans, more than one-and-a-half million own bicycles.