Muret (France): For the first time since he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong on Thursday rode a stage of the famous race for charity.
Lance Armstrong takes a break while riding a Tour de France stage for a leukaemia charity in southwest France yesterday. Pic/AFP
Armstrong was riding a 198-kilometre (123-mile) stage of the race a day ahead of the competing riders for a leukaemia charity but cycling officials have branded the exercise "disrespectful."
The 43-year-old American, who himself is a cancer survivor, stressed he was riding for a "great cause" and it was something he was committed to "regardless of what people think".
The charity, the brainchild of former England football international Geoff Thomas who beat leukaemia, aims to raise "around $1.5million mainly via sponsorship garnered by 10 other amateur cyclists riding the route.
No public welcome
Armstrong was surrounded by reporters but no members of the public were out on the course to welcome him as he set off.
The trip has sparked further controversy on a Tour de France that has been marred by a doping-related scandal surrounding the tainted Astana team, and questions over race leader Chris Froome. but Armstrong clarified: "It's one thing if I said, 'Oh, I'm going to go to the race and I want to stand around at the start.' No, but but here helping people in a great cause. I'll do that forever," he said.