Lance Armstrong may be banned from pretty much everything on earth at this point, but believe it or not, the shamed former champion is going to be riding stages 13 and 14 of the Tour de France this year.
He won’t be part of the actual event of course – the world would probably have exploded by now if that was about to happen – but he will be joining a charity ride set to take on each stage of the TdF course just one day before the professional peloton.
The ride was organised by ex-England footballer Geoff Thomas in aid of a blood cancer charity, but the news that the pantomime villain of road cycling is returning has not gone down well with the cycling community.
UCI president Brian Cookson branded the ride “completely inappropriate", saying: “I’m sure that Geoff Thomas means well, but frankly I think that’s completely inappropriate and disrespectful to the Tour, disrespectful to the current riders, and disrespectful to the UCI and the anti-doping community."
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford also condemned the decision, telling The Times that Lance had already “done enough damage" to cycling, a sport still trying to recover and distance itself from the drug scandal that exploded after the revelations about the seven-time Tour winner.
Geoff Thomas believes that Armstrong’s presence will be a big boost to the rest of the riders taking on the charitable cause though, telling the BBC: “We know Lance’s involvement has split opinion, so we’ve tried to be as respectful as possible.
“The stages Lance will be riding come towards the end of week two, when I know all the riders will need some support.
“I know his arrival will give them the encouragement they need to carry on with this gruelling challenge and in turn raise as much money as possible for blood cancer patients."
Indeed, the motives of the ride are wonderful, aiming to raise a cool £1,000,000 for Cure Leukaemia by cycling each stage of the Tour, no easy task.
The two hill stages Lance will ride come in the second week of the event, once it’s well under way and before the Tour hits the mountains. Stage 13 sees the group travel 198.5km between Muret and Rodez, while the following 178.5km stage spans from Rodez to Mende.
As is normally the case with these things, we imagine the ride will have a lot less of an impact on the Tour than many will make out beforehand, although the ‘EPO overlord’ will likely be in for at least a little bit of stick when he’s touring through the region.