Lance Armstrong was back on a bike for the first time since he kicked off 2013 by admitting in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he doped his way to cycling supremacy.
Armstrong, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from the sport, rode along with about 20,000 others on the second day of the Des Moines Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa. He knew going in that he’d be asked about doping and his athletic past along the route.
“It’s a polarizing topic where people are pulled strongly either way. I’m not ignorant when it comes to that,” Armstrong told the Register’s Bryce Miller. “I know a couple things. I know it was an unfortunate period in our sport — and when I say period, I mean 10, 15, 20 years. Unfortunately for me, I came right smack dab in the middle of that period and I participated like many others did.
“That reality that the world has seen now is uncomfortable for many people.”
That didn’t really sound like an apology or even an acceptance of personal responsibility. “It wasn’t a pretty time. I didn’t invent it, and I didn’t end it,” he said. “My bad for playing along.”
Armstrong admitted going into the race that people might cheer him — or “shoot me the bird.”
“I’ve been here before, and I know what the people of the state are like, and I know what the riders of RAGBRAI are like,” he said. “I didn’t expect a wave of hostility. People, in general, have been supportive. …
“At the end of the ride today, I had a long conversation with a guy. He said, ‘I just have to tell you, since all of this came out, I just feel a little differently about the story.’ That’s not quite a middle finger, but it’s an honest, direct answer and an honest, direct opinion.”