STURGIS | Perhaps, the comeback starts in Sturgis.
Lance Armstrong, who has been stripped of seven Tour De France titles and received a lifetime ban from competitive cycling for doping, was named Monday as the grand marshal of the 12th Annual Mayor's Ride at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
City officials defended the decision by saying that everyone deserves a second chance, even if in this case it is an individual who fell out of favor with adoring fans around the world and lost of millions of dollars of sponsorships in the process.
"We understand the controversy that surrounds Lance, but we are willing to meet it head on. The city of Sturgis is about second chances," said Brenda Vasknetz, Sturgis motorcycle rally director.
Mayor Mark Carstensen, who will be the leader of the pack with Armstrong on the Monday, Aug. 4, ride, said city officials discussed Armstrong's tattered reputation before reaching out to him.
"That is not something that stopped us from inviting him to the mayor's ride and even building a further relationship," Carstensen said. "Just having a person like Lance Armstrong involved with the Mayor's Ride is an honor."
At least one council member, however, wanted to steer clear of the 42-year-old Armstrong, who after being confronted with considerable evidence admitted in 2013 that he used performance-enhancing drugs for years while dominating the international cycling world.
"I'm not too sure that he is an appropriate person," council member Mike Bachand said. "There is a stigma that goes with being stripped of your titles. I'm not sure that is a precedent we want to set in Sturgis."
Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said that Armstrong, who also is a cancer survivor, is an excellent choice for the honor despite that fact that his public persona has gone downhill since 2012.
"It's inherent that everyone has made mistakes in their lives. No one is perfect. We need to look for the good in individuals," he said. "Lance is a tremendous athlete who has done good things for good causes."
The annual mayor's ride is a fundraiser for the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department. In past years, the governor, state legislators, industry professionals and a cross-section of motorcycle enthusiasts have participated in the ride.
Vasknetz believes that Armstrong has the potential to draw a whole new crowd of cyclists to Sturgis.
“There is a large crossover of cyclists that ride both motorcycles and bicycles. Teaming up with Lance was a natural fit, as he is also an avid motorcyclist.” she said.
While in Sturgis, Armstrong will make a number of guest appearances at locations that include Boz Bros Lot at Exit 32, Sturgis Coffee, Easyriders Saloon, The Knuckle, Loud American Roadhouse, and Mid-States Campers.