Lance Armstrong joined a group of around 700 cyclists in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Tuesday who were still reeling from the tragic deaths of five recreational riders who were part of the local 'Chain Gang' cycling club. Four others were injured when an erratic driver plowed into their group as they were heading out for their evening club ride on June 7.
Charles Pickett Jr. was charged with second degree murder in the incident that has sent shockwaves through the global cycling community.
Armstrong showed up to honour the victims and to encourage the surviving cyclists not to be discouraged from riding.
"We've all had that moment where you get that brush, where it's just a little too close and it scares you," Armstrong said before the ride. "We all know that. But none of us knew this.
"We had this idea that we would not let this tragedy stop us and not let this tragedy stop y'all," he said. "We'll finish the ride for those fallen and we'll finish the ride for those still in the hospital who can't be here."
Brian Williams, who took part in the ride, wrote a letter to Cyclingnews describing the event.
"It was honestly one of the most profound and deeply moving experiences of my life," Williams said. "Over the course of the roughly 30 miles, a group of hundreds and hundreds of cyclists from all walks of life rode together, under police escort, to show compassion, support, and solidarity. Regardless of skill level, age, race, gender, discipline; the massive group rode TOGETHER as one body, one family, one identity: cyclists. Supporters, families, friends, and fellow cyclists lined the entirety of the route; many holding signs and cheering us on, some giving high fives as the riders passed, and many silently but openly weeping."
The presence of Armstrong, he said, took nothing away from the spirit of the event.
"I adored Lance for a decade, defended him to any and all detractors, and saw him as my inspiration, both on the bike and off. Developments in recent years have somewhat tarnished this feeling, for me and many others. Say or think whatever you want to about him, but there is no doubt that he understands the power of cycling," he wrote.
"He was not there as Lance Armstrong, he was there purely as a cyclist. He was there for something much bigger than himself, much bigger than any one of us. This was not some publicity campaign. He was there, like we were there, to mourn the tragedy and show support. That night, we didn't ride with Lance. Lance rode with us."
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