Lance Armstrong rides with hundreds of cyclists in Auckland
Lance Armstrong can still pull a crowd, as evidenced by the hundreds of cyclists who woke early on a calm Auckland morning to ride alongside the world's most notorious drug cheat.
Older, stubbled and slightly grizzled, Armstrong put out the clarion call to his Twitter followers on Monday to join him for a ride in the City of Sails.
The disgraced seven-time Tour de France winner was in Auckland on business and, with bike in tow, was looking to re-live the glory days down Tamaki Drive.
So groups of mostly middle-aged men in lycra (MAMILs) flocked to Mechanics Bay for a quiet pedal with the Texan.
At least 200 cyclists turned up, some with a GoPro strapped to their helmet, others gripping the handlebar with one hand and a smartphone with the other.
The day couldn't have gone any better for Armstrong, who arrived to a mass of flashes, selfies and pats on the back, no-one present especially concerned about the 45-year-old's fall from grace or the 2012 revocation of his Tours for doping. Nor were they concerned about his arrogance and shamelessness after announcing his guilt.
"The whole sport was riddled with it and he was just king of the kids," 64-year-old cyclist Ian Margan said.
"He was still an amazing rider in his time, and he still is, presumably."
Off the pack went, rolling along the still Auckland waterfront towards Mission Bay before turning back to the city.
Plenty dropped off along the way, exhausted, but a good chunk made it back to where they started 45 minutes earlier.
Armstrong was humbled by the showing, he said, before being summarily bundled away by security. The peloton, meanwhile, went back to their lives satisfied with a selfie snapped, an autograph signed or an anecdote earned, content to say they've ridden with Lance Armstrong.
"I saw the news articles, having a read, and thought I'd lend a little support," 36-year-old Edward Levy said.
"We all know the history."