Shortly before the widely anticipated cycling race begins from Colorado Springs, Colorado Classic officials have severed their previously announced relationship with Lance Armstrong and the controversial cyclist's podcast.
Armstrong was expected to be in downtown Colorado Springs on Wednesday for the Thursday start of the four-day race, which he planned to follow to Breckenridge and Denver while broadcasting his new show, "Stages."
But in a Tuesday email to The Gazette, his manager, Mark Higgins, said the plan is now for Armstrong to set up each day at Infinite Monkey Theorem in Denver, the city holding the music festival complementing the race.
The move comes after Colorado Classic organizers learned their "media partnership" with Armstrong would violate his lifetime ban from the sport.
Armstrong's podcasts from sanctioned events, such as July's Tour de France, are not a problem, said a spokeswoman with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. "What would violate a ban under the world rules," she wrote in an email, "would be if anyone serving a suspension officially participated with the sanctioned event."
Colorado Classic organizers were interested in the potential exposure that "Stages" could lend to the inaugural race, which will showcase the country's premier female and male cyclists. The podcast's debut last month was met with 5 million-plus downloads and rose up iTunes' Top 10 charts.
"We're in the business of connecting with cycling fans," said Ben Davis, a race spokesman.
Said Ken Gart, the governor-appointed "bike czar" who helped coordinate the race: "A lot of people pay attention (to the podcast), and we feel like he's a voice. I'm not an expert on USADA. I don't know much about his suspension. But we don't want to get into any controversial waters."
The race initially was to help pay production and traveling expenses as Armstrong streamed live from a trailer doubling as a studio. That support would put at risk the Colorado Classic's prestigious sanctioning as part of the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour.
Rather than independently broadcast from each stop along the race, Higgins said, a Thursday-through-Sunday stay in Denver is logistically easier. He said Armstrong will wait each day for results and go live 30 minutes later.
The past continues to follow Armstrong, a cancer survivor who in 2013 admitted to doping in his pursuit of seven Tour de France titles. He's still due in court to face the federal government, which is seeking millions of dollars that he took in sponsorship money from the U.S. Postal Service.
In the midst of scandal, Armstrong seemingly has found a niche in podcasting. He continues the show called "Forward," with his recent interview subjects including football star Troy Aikman, a gas and oil tycoon, an author, an actress and a folk band.
A known music fan, perhaps it's no coincidence that Armstrong finds himself in Denver this week to produce new episodes of "Stages." Higgins lauded David Koff, CEO of RPM Events, saying the group is "onto something special with a mix of cycling and music." RPM Events is putting on the Velorama Festival, the street party built around the race's stages. High-profile bands set to perform include Wilco and Death Cab for Cutie.
In a news release earlier this month announcing the podcast from the race and festival, Koff said Armstrong's "unique perspective into cycling and music align well with our approach to Velorama. We welcome his non-traditional insights."
The USADA spokeswoman said the agency was not concerned with Armstrong broadcasting from the event: "Like all athletes who have been sanctioned, we wish him well and hope he gets to a good spot to do positive things for society."
A news conference at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Colorado Springs will kick off the race, which starts Thursday in town. Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to be among those gathered at USA Cycling's headquarters.