Armstrong to ride part of Tour route

Lance Armstrong will go ahead with controversial plans to ride part of the Tour de France route for charity.

The disgraced drugs cheat

will join ex-England footballer Geoff Thomas for the hilly stages on 16 and 17 July.

Cancer survivor Thomas and a team of amateurs are aiming to raise £1m for Cure Leukaemia by cycling each stage a day before the official peloton.

Lance Armstrong

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Lance Armstrong: In-depth interview

“We know Lance’s involvement has split opinion, so we’ve tried to be as respectful as possible,” said Thomas.

“The stages Lance will be riding come towards the end of week two, when I know all the riders will need some support.

“I know his arrival will give them the encouragement they will need to carry on with this gruelling challenge and in turn raise as much money as possible for blood cancer patients.”

Armstrong will ride the 198.5km 13th stage between Muret and Rodez on 16 July and the following day tackle the 198.5km 14th stage from Rodez to Mende.

The American

was stripped of his record seven Tour titles

and banned from most organised sport for life by the US Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) in 2012. He later admitted on US television that he had used performance-enhancing drugs during all of his Tour victories, and news of his controversial return to France has shocked many within the sport.

'No regrets' over Armstrong - Thomas

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No regrets over Armstrong – Thomas

In March the Texan was warned not to take part in the ride by International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson, who said it was “completely disrespectful” to the current riders, cycling authorities and the race.

“Lance would be well advised not to take part in that,” he said. “I’m sure Geoff Thomas means well, but frankly I think that’s completely inappropriate.”

Armstrong, who recovered from life-threatening cancer in 1996,

told the BBC in January

that his ban made it very hard to do the charity work he did throughout most of his post-cancer career.

Thomas was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2003, a year after he retired from a 20-year football career that saw him captain Crystal Palace in the FA Cup final and win nine England caps.

Geoff Thomas

Former footballer Geoff Thomas rode the Tour route in 2005 and 2007

Inspired by Armstrong’s story, he rode the 2005 and 2007 Tour de France routes ahead of the professionals, raising £250,000 to fund research nurses at the Birmingham hospital that treated his cancer.

Now 50, he is trying it again and persuaded Armstrong to join the team in a bid to raise money for the Cure Leukaemia charity.

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford told The Times Armstrong had “done enough damage” to cycling and the Tour already.

“For the sake of all clean riders in the peloton, who’ve already suffered enough from that era, leave them alone – enough’s enough,” Brailsford added.

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