Lance Armstrong and 6,500 close and personal friends will bicycle anywhere from 7 to 100 miles Sunday morning on the roads east of Austin.
Cyclists have raised $7.3 million for this year's ride, compared to $5.6 million in 2004, reports the Austin American Statesman. The money goes to cancer research and survivorship groups supported by the foundation.
The Ride is a huge event in Austin, a town that has supported Armstrong in heart and spirit ever since the cyclist made it his home in the mid-'90s.
I lived in Austin during those first few years, and I bicycled in those first three rides. The first year's ride was preceded by an evening criterium bike race around the downtown, with a finishing straightaway on Sixth Street, a street renown for its bars. By the time the series culminated with Armstrong's event, it had become a boozy outdoor party.
Even the first mass ride — called “Race for the Roses” — drew more than a thousand cyclists. That was in 1997, a full two years before Armstrong became a household name with his first Tour de France win. Five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain and 3-time US Tour winner Greg LeMond bicycled in some of those early rides.
In all, I rode in three Roses rides and never once saw Armstrong. I also was probably the only cyclist in Austin who didn't have a story about meeting up with — or more likely, getting passed by — Armstrong out on the road. Two to three thouand miles a year in and around Austin; zero Armstrong encounters.
Joining Armstrong this year is teammate George Hincapie and comedian and actor Robin Williams.
A post-ride party also is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Travis County Exposition Center.