Lance Armstrong returns to Iowa for a bike ride at RAGBRAI

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Since he skipped the Tour de France this year, Lance Armstrong must have been in fresh shape for his return to RAGBRAI on Tuesday.

This is the 7-time Tour winner's fourth visit to the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which is rolling across the state this week from Glenwood to Davenport.

In previous years, the Armstrong-mania got so crazy that it became a distraction. Many thought the cross-state bike tour could be renamed L.A.-GBRAI.

This year, the reaction was more manageable. Armstrong flew in from Paris to spend the day cycling with members of the Livestrong Army, above, as well as 10,000 other bicyclists making their way across the state.

According to the Des Moines Register, he talked about the need for funding for cancer research and other issues related to the Livestrong Foundation at Graham Park in Carroll before heading down the road to Boone, 70 miles away.

He also spoke about how he loves the cold beer, pie and people who participate in RAGBRAI, celebrating its 39th year in 2011.

“You have thousands come from all over the world and it isn’t
necessarily easy with the heat, wind and people camping out. It’s a
tough experience; you have to really want to do it.”

At least one cyclist who got to ride with Armstrong found it thrilling. He wrote at his RAGBRAI 2010 blog (same title as last year?) that he was able to keep up with the small group of Livestrong cyclists and then he pulled up alongside him:

“… he asked me about my family, my tie with cancer and Big 12 football. 
He was interested in my story.  We chatted for about 10 minutes before I
felt like I was being selfish of his time, so I said thanks for all he
has done with the foundation and he thanked me for my fundraising
efforts, called my kids by name and to tell them he said hi.

“Absolutely unbelieveable…

“So I rode in the group for an hour, and watched him do this with all
of us from the team.  One on one…made everyone feel special.  I felt
like a little kid, wanting to soak it all up so I wouldn’t forget it.  I
can’t describe how awesome that was.

“I rode with the group until it started to get dangerous.  People were
starting to figure out it was him and it became a rolling mob scene.  I
pulled out of the group….”

A blogger at Along for the Ride, also is a member of the Livestrong Army and had a brief meet-up with Armstrong:

“I was part of a group photo this morning that included seven time Tour de France winner and Cancer Survivor Lance Armstrong.

“It was a pretty cool experience being in such close proximity to
Lance. I admire him for multiple reasons but I am paticularly excited
about the impact he has had on the world of Cancer.”

Although the Register says Armstrong was just along for the ride for one day, some other bloggers had the impression he'd be there longer. In any case, he'll surely inspire a lot of bicyclists.

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