Updated 10/22/2012 09:11 PM
To local cycling community, Armstrong's legacy is forever complicated
Throughout history there have been a handful of athletes who transcend their sport. Lance Armstrong is one such competitor whose celebrity stretches far beyond the world of cycling. As YNN’s Matt Hunter reports, on Monday the seven time Tour de France winner and cancer survivor's legacy may have taken an irreparable hit.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- At his peak, there was no one bigger in the world of cycling. Ever.
After a gruesome battle and recovery from cancer, Lance Armstrong seemed to defy the longest of odds by winning his sport's biggest prize, the Tour de France, seven consecutive times.
"It was really an underground sport until he started winning the Tour de France,” said Ben Serotta, President and Founder of Serotta Bicycles, an internationally recognized manufacturer based in Saratoga Springs. “America loves a hero, the world loves a hero, but it made a particular difference in the U.S."
"I think he got people back on the bike,” said Jeff Cook, owner of Olde Saratoga Bike and Boards. “I think after he won the first Tour de France, he got people looking forward to the tour."
Armstrong's seven tour titles were an unprecedented feat; an accomplishment so impressive many believed it was too good to be true. Allegations of performance enhancing drug use followed him for years, culminating Monday when cycling's governing body, the UCI, banned him from the sport for life following recent admissions from teammates that they doped with Armstrong.
"It's a shame that it had to happen,” said Dieter Drake, Founder and Race Director of the Tour of the Battenkill, an annual pro-am cycling event in Washington County. “But it was the right thing, the right decision in my opinion that UCI made this morning."
"Sadly, I don't think anybody in the cycling community has been particularly surprised," said Serotta, who said his company manufactured a bike for Armstrong early in his career.
Armstrong was also stripped of all seven Tour de France titles.
For longtime participants and fans of cycling, his legacy remains complicated. While his accomplishments are forever tarnished, he attracted countless new people to the sport and inspired and helped many more with his work through his Livestrong Foundation.
"I agree with this, the things he has done for the cancer research is a completely separate issue and I would continue to support him in that regard," said Cook, also a competitive cyclist.
In the United States, cycling has mostly remained in the shadow of other sports. While local events like the Tour of the Battenkill aim to introduce it to new generations, most admit losing its brightest star creates an uphill climb.
"There's no question it's a blow to cycling,” Drake said. “The biggest icon in the sport has just fallen, but it's also an opportunity."
"It doesn't have to be dirty and I think it's going to take time,” Serotta said. “Whether it's two or three years or five or ten but it will get there."
To this day, Armstrong denies allegations he used performance enhancing drugs.