Armstrong cloud lingers over world championships

Mon Sep 28, 2015 3:34pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

RICHMOND, Virginia (Reuters) - International Cycling Union chief Brian Cookson would not say his name but Lance Armstrong and a rogues' gallery of disgraced cyclists remained on the lips of many at the cycling world championships.

Back on U.S. roads for the first time since 1986, the week-long event attracted nearly a half million flag-waving, cowbell clanging spectators and helped pour $128 million into the local economy by the time it ended on Sunday.

But despite the bright numbers, dark clouds from a decade of scandals still hang over the sport, particularly in the United States where Armstrong and fellow drug cheats and Americans Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie punctured cycling's popularity.

"Because of Lance we have been at the center of that negativity and now we have this amazing event we are pulling off very well," USA Cycling chief executive Derek Bouchard-Hall told Reuters. "In the global cycling community it is a very helpful event to have at this time to get back on a positive side.

"The sport remains immensely popular and that is because the fans have been tolerant.

"They are pissed off and they are upset but they are out there still watching, still participating they just

want to see it better.

"What is interesting is that no matter how much we have disappointed the fans they still come back. It is amazing it has endured even though it was derailed from that growth trajectory it had for awhile."   Continued...

Cyclist Lance Armstrong of the U.S. (C) signs autographs during a break 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