CLOVIS, February 19 – Police on Wednesday said they have recovered a one-of-a-kind bicycle swiped from Tour de France legend Lance Armstrong at a northern California racing venue.
A person brought the purloined Trek training bicycle to a police station in the city of Sacramento, where it was stolen during the weekend.
The person’s name was not released by police, who said the investigation of the theft is ongoing. Police said they returned the bicycle to Armstrong, who competed Wednesday in the Tour of California.
The seven-time Tour de France champion had used the bicycle Saturday at a rain-pelted, wind-pounded opening of the 750-mile race that continues through the week.
Armstrong’s bicycle was one of several stolen from an Astana team truck parked behind a hotel in Sacramento. A lock on the truck was clipped to get inside, according to police.
Armstrong on Sunday sent out a rallying cry to the more than 128,000 Twitter members signed up to receive brief text messages he routinely fires off on the popular micro-blogging service.
A Facebook group called "1 Million Citizens Looking for Lance Armstrong’s Stolen Bike" had grown to 1,282 members by the time word of the Trek’s return hit the Internet on Wednesday.
While there was no obvious link between the bicycle’s return and internet forces rallying to Armstrong’s aid, online campaigns helped make life tough for the thief or thieves, said Sergeant Norm Leong of the Sacramento police force.
"All the technology involved really kept the story alive and moving," Leong said.
"It was clear that most of the people in the community were looking for this bike. It makes it hard to transport the thing; you can’t ride it or sell it…it is that hot of an item."
The man who delivered Armstrong’s bicycle is not considered a theft suspect and no arrests had been made as of late Wednesday, according to the sergeant. Two other bicycles stolen from Armstrong’s team were still missing.
"Score one for the good guys," a Twitter user using the screen name ‘kraftmstr’ wrote as news of the Trek’s return ricocheted about the website.
Attention on Twitter swiftly shifted back to Armstrong’s latest day in the saddle.
"Watching Lance Armstrong gently shove an idiot into the snow on the roadside in the tour of California," Twitter user Pete Watson said in a message about what he was doing at the moment. "Falling over laughing – excellent."
Cancer-survivor Armstrong, 37, retired in 2005 but has set out to make a comeback. The California race is his second on a comeback trail that started last month in Australia, where he finished 29th place in the Tour Down Under.
Armstrong intends to compete in this year’s Tour de France.