Chris Froome (Team Sky) has dismissed Lance Armstrong’s presence in France to ride stages of the Tour de France a day before the race as a “non-event”, with his teammate Geraint Thomas even more critical, suggesting that the riders in the current peloton are paying the price for the damage Armstrong did to the sport in the past.
Armstrong will team up with cancer survivor and British professional soccer player Geoff Thomas on Thursday and Friday to ride stages 13 and 14 of the Tour de France with other volunteers. The ride will be the closest Armstrong has come to the Tour de France since his seven Tour de France victories were eradicated from the record books after the detailed USADA doping investigation exposed years of doping.
Thomas is convinced Armstrong has a right to return to France during the Tour de France and can play a role in raising funds to help fight cancer. His critics, including UCI president Brian Cookson, are not convinced.
“It is undesirable,” Cookson said. "I think it is disrespectful. I think there are plenty of ways of raising money for charity that Lance could do."
Armstrong is hoping for forgiveness and warm welcome in France, but Froome and Thomas made their thoughts on his return to France very clear.
“He’s not back at the Tour," Froome pointed out. "He’s not on the start line of the Tour de France or anything like that."
“What he's actually doing is helping Geoff Thomas' cause to raise money for blood cancer research. As I’ve said, I support his (Geoff Thomas’) cause. It’s a cause very close to my heart. I wish Geoff Thomas and the guys all the best in raising as much money as they can. As with Lance, as I said, he’s not on the start line with us. It’s a non-event for us.”
Geraint Thomas is always often more open and direct than his team leader and insisted he couldn’t care about Armstrong.
“I couldn’t care less what he’s doing,” the Welshman said as he warmed down on the rollers after helping Froome defend the yellow jersey during stage 11 to Cauterets.
“He’s done enough harm. We’re playing the price for the damage he’s done. Whatever. We’re just in our own little world having a laugh here at the Tour, doing what we’re doing. Lance and all them, they can do whatever they want.”