The head of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition says Lance Armstrong will likely get a warm welcome on this year’s RAGBRAI.
Armstrong will participate in three or four days of the week-long bicycle ride across the state according to The Des Moines Register, the newspaper that hosts RAGBRAI. It’s the first public cycling event Armstrong has attended since admitting he cheated when he won seven Tour de France victories.
Mark Wyatt, the executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition, says it’s one way Armstrong may be trying to rehabilitate his image.
“I think Americans are prone to forgiveness, but I think there’s a lot of bridges to mend and I think he’s got some work to do,” Wyatt says.
Wyatt doesn’t think Iowans will be hostile to Armstrong, however.
“I think everybody’s got to make their own judgments, but I think we’re Iowans and I think we open our doors to everybody,” Wyatt says. “I think that’s the really neat thing about RAGBRAI is everybody’s just on a bike. Everybody’s just a bicyclist and everybody’s riding across the state.”
Wyatt, who’ll be riding in his 13th RAGBRAI this year, says there are all sorts of other bicycling events Armstrong could have picked, like the Gran Fondo in New York that attracts 7000 cyclists from around the world.
“Obviously we’ve made an impression on Lance Armstrong as Iowa being one of the greatest places in the world to ride a bicycle and this is a cyclist who’s ridden all over the world, but keeps returning to our state to enjoy this big event and to enjoy the hospitality that Iowans have to offer,” Wyatt says.
This past January, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Armstrong admitted he engaged in what’s called blood “doping” when he was competing in the world’s most famous bicycle race.
The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa rolls out of Council Bluffs on July 21 and ends 406 miles later in Fort Madison on July 27. An expo will be held in Council Bluffs on July 20 — the day before RAGBRAI starts — and Armstrong told The Register he plans to attend that.
Armstrong faces legal woes after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs during competitions. The U.S. Justice Department is suing, seeking repayment of the 17-million the U.S. Postal Service paid to sponsor Armstrong’s cycling team. Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from competitive sports.