Lance Armstrong is getting back on his bike. The disgraced cycling champion will make his first major public appearance since his January doping admission at the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, or Ragbrai. Armstrong plans to ride for at least three or four days at the 41st annual event, according to the Des Moines Register. The 406-mile route runs from Council Bluffs to Fort Madison July 21-27.
“To be honest, it’s not a statement, it’s not an experiment,” said Armstrong, who will be making his fifth appearance at the event. “It’s just me wanting to go ride my bike with what in the past has been a friendly group of people that share the same interests.”
As the Des Moines Register pointed out, the Ragbrai crowd has embraced Armstrong in years past. That might change in light of his infamous interview with Oprah Winfrey, in which he admitted to doping during all seven of his Tour de France victories from 1999 to 2005. Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France and Olympic medals as a result of his doping program.
“I’m well aware my presence is not an easy topic, and so I encourage people if they want to give a high five, great,” Armstrong said. “If you want to shoot me the bird, that’s OK, too.”
Fretting over his reception at Ragbrai is the least of Armstrong’s worries right now. According to the Des Moines Register, he is currently facing as much as $135 million in liabilities from the various lawsuits being brought against him by the federal government, insurance companies and others he has publicly battled over the years.
“I’m committing to working through them,” Armstrong said. “Whether it’s settling cases or whether it’s fighting some cases -- because some have merit, some don’t. But I’m committed to the process and that’s probably as much as I would and could say about it. That’s a tricky area there. Unless you have $135 million you want to let me borrow, or have?”