The No. 1 American rider at the Tour de France explains why he has no problem training with Lance Armstrong

Tejay van Garderen Lance Armstrong motorpacing training Tour de FranceBryn Lennon/Getty ImagesAmerica’s best shot to win the Tour de France, Tejay van Garderen, surprised some people when he trained with fallen icon Lance Armstrong.

The No. 1 American cyclist, Tejay van Garderen, said on Wednesday that he doesn’t think it sends “the wrong message” if he trains with Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned from cycling for life by the US Anti-Doping Agency in 2012.

“As far as what I think on the matter of ‘Does it send the right message?,’ I don’t think it sends the wrong message, because there’s plenty of people currently in the sport that have, you know, admitted pasts or dodgy pasts,” Van Garderen said.

“And I mean, if you want to take away every single person that’s ever done anything in the past, then you’re basically going getting rid of everyone, you know?”

Van Garderen was speaking on a press call from Nice, France, where is making final preparations for his fifth Tour de France. He has finished fifth in the race on two occasions and won the award for best young rider.

Last fall, Rouler, a UK cycling magazine, published a cover story featuring Armstrong. In it, there was a photo of Armstrong motorpacing Van Garderen on the roads around Aspen, Colorado, where both men have homes. Motorpacing is when one person rides a moped in front of a cyclist at speed, the idea being that it benefits training because the draft provided simulates race speed and intensity in a controlled fashion.

The revelation that the 26-year-old American was training with the disgraced sports icon surprised many.

The photographer who shot the feature, Jakob K. Sørensen, recently tweeted the below photo from last fall’s shoot. It shows Armstrong riding a moped and Van Garderen pedalling closely next to him:

Asked by Business Insider on Wednesday if he had done any kind of riding or training with Armstrong since motorpacing with him last fall, the Tacoma, Washington native said, “No, I have not really done any motorpacing or really seen him much since — and not because of any worry about what people might think.

“It’s just that he has kids and they go to school in Texas, so usually, most of the time throughout the year, he is at his other residence, in Austin, and then when he comes to Aspen I’m usually in Europe. We happen to run into each other every now and then when we’re both in town but it’s pretty rare.

“And as far as [motorpacing with Armstrong] it was basically, like, we were two top-level cyclists, former and current, and we live in a very small town, so when we’re there together it’s, like, it’s hard to avoid each other. So, I mean, to avoid an awkward situation we just kind of chat and we go for a ride every now and then.

“He offered to motorpace me when I needed it in my training, when my current motorpacer was out of town. And I didn’t see any harm in it. He told me there was going to be a camera crew coming and that I could duck out if I needed to. But I was more interested in my day of training than anything else, and I had two hours’ worth of motorpacing on my training schedule, and I was, like, no, let’s get it in. So that’s really all there was to it.”

He added:

“Vinokourov has a team. Lots of sports directors out there. George Hincapie has his grand fondo and he has his development team. Jonathan Vaughters runs a team. So to have that double standard I don’t think is very fair. So I didn’t think anything of it. Just because Lance was the most successful cyclist, I don’t mean that what he did was any more wrong than what any of those other guys did.”

The riders Van Garderen referred to all served suspensions for using PEDs during their racing careers. Each of them still works in cycling: Vinokourov as the director of the Astana team, Hincapie as the owner of a cycling-apparel company and mass-participation bike ride, and Vaughters as team director of American outfit Cannondale-Garmin.

Armstrong is facing a $US100 million lawsuit from former teammate Floyd Landis. If he loses, he could risk financial ruin.

Business Insider has asked Armstrong, through his publicist, Mark Higgins, for comments and an interview multiple times over the past several months, but he has declined.

After Armstrong was stripped of his Tour titles and Landis was stripped of his lone 2006 Tour title, there is again only one official American winner of the world’s greatest bicycle race, Greg LeMond.

After finishing a close second to 2013 Tour winner Chris Froome at a key warm-up race in mid-June, Van Garderen is looking to carry his good form to the Tour and step on the final podium in Paris.

The Tour de France is the world’s largest annual sporting event. This year’s race runs July 4-26.

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