---- — DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Cyclist Lance Armstrong says fellow riders have been generally supportive of him this week during an annual bike ride across Iowa.
Armstrong is participating in part of the weeklong event known as RAGBRAI, a ride that starts at the Missouri River in western Iowa and ends at the Mississippi River. It’s the first extended public appearance on a bike since he ended years of denials in January and admitting he doped to win seven Tour de France titles that have since been stripped.
Armstrong told the Des Moines Register, which sponsors RAGBRAI, that riding in the event allows him to stay connected with the sport he loves. It’s his fifth RAGBRAI, and he said the support he’s received in years past played a role in his decision to return.
“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,” Armstrong told the newspaper. “I didn’t expect a wave of hostility.”
Part of the fallout from Armstrong’s admission was his resignation from the board of the cancer-fighting charity Livestrong Foundation, which he founded in 1997 after beating cancer himself. Armstrong defended Livestrong, calling it a “first-class organization.”
“I think the foundation does great work, regardless of what anybody says,” he said. “What Lance Armstrong did on a bike 15 years ago has nothing to do with the great work that organization is doing in 2013. If anybody questions that, I think it’s awfully unfortunate.”
Armstrong planned to ride through Tuesday, when the event stops in Des Moines, before returning home to his family and an uncertain future.