BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (CBS4) – Racers in this week’s USA Pro Challenge in Colorado are getting closer to the finish line in Denver on Sunday, and they aren’t letting shocking news that has emerged in the cycling world slow them down.
Legendary cyclist Lance Armstrong announced his decision on Thursday to drop his challenge of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s case against him.
The USADA, which is headquartered in Colorado Springs, erased 14 years of Armstrong’s career on Friday, issuing a ban for life after concluding he used banned substances. They also stripped him of his seven Tour de France wins.
At the USA Pro Challenge Stage 5 start in Breckenridge Friday morning, CBS4 found the general response to questions about Armstrong’s decision was “No comment” for those in the professional racing community.
Shawn Hunter, the CEO of the Pro Challenge, told CBS4 in Breckenridge he talked with Armstrong recently but not about the scandal.
“If it were not for Lance and Gov. Bill Ritter we would not be here today, and there would not be a $100 million economic impact per year on the state of Colorado, so we thank them for their vision,” Hunter said. “I’m not sure what’s next on that story for our tour we’re already planning for 2013 and planning routes, what towns we want to showcase.”
Armstrong was indeed a major player in the formation of a new pro cycling stage in Colorado. He was riding in the mountains of Aspen near his home there a few years ago when he got the idea to pursue a new pro race in the Rockies. Meetings with Ritter, a cyclist himself, followed, and the USA Pro Challenge was born. (It’s original title was the Quizno’s Pro Challenge.)
Fans have mixed reaction to the scandal.
“A little disappointed about it but he’s done over 200 tests so I still have faith in him,” said Lance Armstrong fan Sean Miller. “Everybody believes in what he’s done and what he’s done for the sport. Especially the Bontrager Livestrong Team so I don’t think it will tarnish it in the cycling community.”
“I think we chose camps a long time ago on that but I think Lance Armstrong did win seven Tour de France,” said cycling announcer Dave Towle. “I’ll be honest. I’m a Lance Armstrong fan. I like what Lance has done out here on many, many levels and I remain a Lance Armstrong fan.”
George Hincapie was a former teammate of Armstrong’s and is riding in the Pro Challenge for the BMC Racing team. He said he might issue a statement about the situation later.
Garmin-Sharp team manager Johnathan Vaughters also is a former Armstrong teammate and said he wouldn’t comment on Friday. Vaughters wrote an op-ed article in the New York Times in which he admitted to doping while he raced and emphasized cleaning up the sport.
Many of the hardcore cycling fans who are watching the USA Pro Challenge this week told CBS4 they have been following the scandal over Armstrong’s alleged doping for years. One race official told CBS4 that many people have picked their camps — those who support Armstrong and those who doubt his persistent doping denials — a long time ago.
“I think it’s time we turn a page and it’s not just Lance, it’s the sport itself that needs to look at what happened. It’s not just last year or the last decade, it goes back to the beginning of time,” said Towle.