Some of the sport's biggest names lent a hand this morning to help make the holiday season a little brighter for kids in Austin, Texas. With the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team in Austin for its annual introductory training camp, team sports manager Johan Bruyneel was joined by riders Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, and seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong to support the "Bikes for Kids" program organized by local radio station MIX 94.7.
Set at Austin's Bicycle Sport Shop, this morning's fundraiser continued the ten-year-old Bikes for Kids program which provides bikes and equipment to underprivileged children in the Austin community. In its ten years, the program has raised more than $1 million and donated more than 10,000 brand new Trek bikes, locks, and helmets to kids in need. The program aims to donate 750 new bikes this year.
For his part, Armstrong has been a supporter of the program all ten years, and once again was on-hand with some of the Discovery Channel team's top names to sign autographs for hundreds of eager fans. Speaking of his involvement in the program, Armstrong said, "Well, of course Christmas is a very special time of year, and the gift of giving a kid a bike is more than just a toy. It’s a gift that literally allows you to get away; as soon as you turn a corner on a bike you’re in a special place. So my hat’s off to you guys for doing this so long and helping so many."
In addition to signing autographs for hundreds of eager fans, the fundraiser also offered an opportunity to hear from Bruyneel, Basso, and Leipheimer about their prospects for the year. According to Levi Leipheimer, "With Ivan and myself, our number one goal is to win the Tour de France for the Discovery Channel Pro Cycling Team. And I think we have the best team to do just that."
The desire and determination to win the Tour was a sentiment echoed by Ivan Basso. When asked whether the Giro d'Italia remains the first race in his heart compared to winning the Tour, Basso replied, "I am Italian, yes, and the Giro is a very nice race to me, but the Tour is the Tour and that is my first goal. Even if you were asking me this in Italy, everyone knows I love the Tour and while I won the Giro last year, which is very important to my countrymen, wining the Tour de France is my main goal."