Armstrong makes low key return to Tour for charity

Thu Jul 16, 2015 10:21am EDT
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By Anthony Paone

VENERQUE, France (Reuters) - Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong made a low key return to the Tour de France on Thursday when the American cancer survivor set off on a charity ride that follows the route of this year's race.

Dozens of journalists were in attendance at a supermarket car park in southern France ahead of the 43-year-old's ride to Rodez, but no fans were there to greet the Texan.

Armstrong, who was stripped of the seven Tour titles he won from 1999-2005 after admitting to doping following years of denials, is taking part in Geoff Thomas's 'One Day Ahead' charity event.

The American joins former England footballer Thomas and a team of amateurs, who are aiming to raise one million pounds ($1.56 million) for Cure Leukaemia by cycling the route of two stages a day before the official peloton passes through.

Asked what kind of reception he was expecting from French fans, Armstrong said: "I don't know... all I know is this is a frenzy. But if I compare this experience to going to dinner in Toulouse last night with local people, it's very different.

"People are always very nice, I respect it and I appreciate that and I enjoy being here."

While Armstrong is riding to Rodez, the Tour de France peloton will embark on a punishing mountain stage that culminates with a climb up to the Plateau de Beille.

Briton Chris Froome leads after 11 of the 21 stages, the 2013 winner almost three minutes clear of nearest challenger Tejay van Garderen of the United States.   Continued...

Cyclist Lance Armstrong of the U.S. (C) cycles with a team of riders as he takes part in Geoff Thomas's 'One Day Ahead' charity event during a stage of the 102nd Tour de France cycling race from Muret to Rodez, France, July 16, 2015. REUTERS/Fred Lancelot