• Sun July 29 2007
  • Posted Jul 29, 2007
JENNIFER JACOBS REGISTER STAFF WRITER July 25, 2007 Dumont, Ia. — Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards squeezed into a pair of Spandex bike shorts today and pedaled on the RAGBRAI route with champion cyclist Lance Armstrong. After riding from just north of Dumont to Kesley, Edwards wrapped his arms around a several riders from Team Killer Bees for a photo, but declined be held aloft in their traditional sideways pose. "You'd drop me, then I couldn't be president," he joked. Then he sat down in Kesley for a diet soda and a pork chop. "My second," he said. The candidate was sweaty after about a dozen miles, but there was no evidence of helmet hair. The Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, a weeklong bike ride across the state, runs today from Hampton to Cedar Falls. Edwards rode at an easy pace, about 10 to 12 mph, and chatted with riders about whatever issues they brought up — Darfur, taxes, Iowa farming. Several riders inquired about Elizabeth Edwards’ health — she was diagnosed this year with a recurrence of breast cancer — and wished her well. Armstrong said he invited all the presidential candidates to ride on RAGBRAI with him but so far Edwards was the only one who took him up on it. Democrat Joe Biden’s wife, Dr. Jill Biden, was also scheduled to ride today and Republican Mitt Romney's sons are riding Friday. Democrat Chris Dodd will have an event on the route in Dyersville on Friday. Three riders from Armstrong’s foundation surrounded Edwards and tried to shield him from the crush. The pack of riders around them hovered at about 50 deep. As the pack crammed together to let a car pass, Edwards wobbled a little and veered around a rider. “This is an accident waiting to happen,” he said, and laughed. A crowd of hundreds noticed the black Livestrong bus parked near Dumont and the TV cameras downtown and stood waiting and watching. "Here comes Sir Lancelot," a rider called out at 11:30 a.m. and the crowd swarmed into the road, cheering. On the road, more riders exclaimed over seeing Armstrong. Graduate student Allison Vos of Chapel Hill, N.C., told Edwards that people probably didn't realize he was in the group of cyclists hanging back from those encircling the cycling champion. "That's just fine with me," said Edwards, who had a chain grease "tattoo" on his right calf. Asked why he wanted a taste of RAGBRAI, he answered, "Lance has become a friend. Proud of what he's doing, particularly on the cancer issue. It's obviously very important to us personally. And I've heard about this race — err, race — this ride, ever since I'd been coming to Iowa so I wanted to see what it looked like." Edwards has only biked two or three times in the last 20 years, but he runs four to six miles a day and is serious about sticking to that exercise routine. Edwards said Armstrong told him an hour's worth of running is equivalent to about three hours of bicycling. To warm up for RAGBRAI, Edwards rode 22 miles on Sunday in the hills of his home state, North Carolina. "This is actually not hard, this is fun," Edwards said as he climbed a hill on County Road T16 on a black Trek road bike he borrowed for the day. "The biggest problem is my butt hurts. Is that normal?" "Do you want some Chamois Butt'r?" Peter Klein, of Beloit, Wisc., asked him. "What's that?" Edwards said, as a string of riders from Team Trousermouse cruised past. Klein, a 27-year-old with a beard and round John Lennon-style sunglasses, explained that it's a skin cream cyclists use to prevent chafing and soothe saddle sores. He handed the senator a travel-sized packet and said he hoped it helped. Armstrong, as he rode on County Road C51 just west of Kesley, said he doubts he'll endorse a candidate for president. "I represent an issue that's bipartisan and apolitical," said Armstrong, who promotes fundraising for cancer research. "I don't question the senator's commitment." Justin Lyle, 10, from Morgan Hill, Calif. rode next to Armstrong for about a mile. "I asked him, 'How you go pee on the Tour de France?'" Lyle said later. "He said it's pretty hard, sometimes you have to hold it." The boy rode with Armstrong on Tuesday, too, when the seven-time Tour de France winner was more incognito in a white sleeveless shirt, riding a mountain bike. Armstrong peeled off in Kesley and his entourage discouraged the crowd from following him. No one followed. "The highlight is just how people are really cool here," Armstrong said. "Everyone's just relaxed and says hey, what's up. Nobody tries to wear you out, which is great." Armstrong confirmed today he will leave the ride to support his team at the Tour de France, but he will stay until after Friday's RAGBRAI leg. He is expected to speak at 6 p.m. today at the UNI Dome in Cedar Falls. Edwards's youngest children, Emma Claire and Jack, and wife Elizabeth joined the route just south of Aredale for a mile or two, then hopped into a minivan as Edwards continued on with Armstrong. Asked how he would describe RAGBRAI to someone who'd never heard of it, Edwards said: "It's a huge statewide community event. Everybody moving together, talking, riding bikes, eating, probably a little drinking going on. Fun."

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