Key Aspen witness weighs in on Lance Armstrong scandal
“It was all of two minutes,” is how Thomas Van Allen describes a conversation he had the night of Dec. 28.
It was that evening, after 10, that Van Allen called Aspen police to report a hit-and-run on two vehicles parked in front of his West Francis Avenue home.
After Van Allen placed the call, Anna Hansen, the girlfriend of Lance Armstrong, came to his home to apologize for the damaged vehicles and offer payment, Van Allen said. Hansen also said she was Armstrong’s wife, according to police records.
“It was a very brief encounter,” he said.
It was brief enough that Hansen was gone by the time police arrived.
The vehicles, a Jeep Wrangler and Toyota 4Runner, were being rented by Van Allen’s visiting brother- and sister-in-laws. Van Allen said the Police Department’s account of the incident appears accurate.
“The insurance companies all got together and we’re all taken care of,” Van Allen said Friday. “It’s now all up to the Armstrong family. We’re fine.”
Both Hansen and Armstrong initially agreed that she would tell authorities she had been driving, according to police reports.
“No, that was a joint decision and, um, you know, we’ve had our family name smeared over every paper in the world in the last couple of years and honestly, I’ve got teenagers, I just wanted to protect my family because I thought, ‘Gosh, Anna Hansen hit some cars, it’s not going to show up in the papers, but Lance Armstrong hit some cars, it’s going to be a national story,’” police quoted Hansen as telling them.
Police said that Hansen, who shares an Aspen home with Armstrong in the West End, originally told authorities she was driving the vehicle, but later conceded Armstrong was behind the wheel. The two had spent that night on the town, including a stint at a benefit for the Aspen Art Museum. Armstrong is an honorary trustee on the museum’s board.
The story unraveled after police began to probe further and interviewed a valet from the St. Regis Aspen Resort, where the art museum function was held. The valet told police he saw Armstrong drive away. The valet, in response to an officer’s question if Armstrong appeared intoxicated, said he “was not stumbling,” the police report says. The valet also said he didn’t get close enough to Armstrong to formulate an opinion on his level of intoxication.
On Jan. 12, police served the embattled bicyclist’s Denver attorney, Pamela Mackey, with a summons for his failure to report the accident and exceeding safe speed conditions.
Van Allen, a full-time Aspen resident, said he had no influence on the Aspen Police Department’s decision to cite Armstrong.
“It’s really up to the city of Aspen and the Police Department to do what they need to do,” he said.
Yet publicity surrounding the story has snowballed in the days since it broke, and Van Allen plays a key role in it all.
“It’s a pretty simple deal and everybody’s making a big deal out of it,” he said. “He slid around the corner and bumped into two cars. And that’s it. But it’s really a controversy with his reputation, I guess.”
Neither Armstrong, 43, nor his attorney Mackey have responded to media requests for interviews about the incident. But after the story broke Tuesday, Armstrong retweeted a story from Deadspin.com about winter driving. Its title: “How To Drive In The Snow, In A Regular-Ass Car, Without Freaking Out.”
And Jan. 12, the day that Armstrong’s attorney was served with summons, Hansen tweeted a photograph of the cyclist with two of his children at the sledding hill by the Aspen Recreation Center.
The case is set for Pitkin County Court on March 17.
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