posted on Jul, 25 2004 @ 11:30 AM
i don't pretend to understand the sport but this is a great achievment in anyones book, could Lance Armstrong be the worlds greatest athelete?
Lance Armstrong wins record sixth Tour de France
By JOHN LEICESTER, Associated Press Writer
July 25, 2004
AP - Jul 25, 11:35 am EDT
PARIS (AP) -- Lance Armstrong rode into history Sunday by winning the Tour de France for a record sixth time, an achievement that confirmed him as one
of the greatest sportsmen of all time.
His sixth crown in six dominant years elevated Armstrong above four champions who won five times. And never in its 101-year-old history has the Tour
had a winner like Armstrong -- a Texan who just eight years ago was given less than a 50 percent chance of overcoming testicular cancer that spread to
his lungs and brain.
Armstrong's unbeaten streak since 1999 has helped reinvigorate the greatest race in cycling, steering it into the 21st century. And the Tour, as much
a part of French summers as languid meals over chilled rose, molded Armstrong into a sporting superstar.
No. 6. The record. The achievement was almost too much even for Armstrong to comprehend.
``It might take years. I don't know. It hasn't sunk in yet. But six, standing on the top step on the podium on the Champs-Elys?es is really special,''
For him, Sunday's final ride into Paris and its famous tree-lined boulevard was a lap of honor he savored with a glass of champagne in the saddle.
Even Jan Ullrich, his main adversary in previous years who had his worst finish this Tour, gulped down a glass offered by Armstrong's team manager
through his car window.
Belgian rider Tom Boonen won the final sprint on the Champs-Elys?es, with Armstrong cruising safely behind with the trailing pack to claim his crown.
Armstrong's winning margin over second-placed Andreas Kloden was 6 minutes, 19 seconds, with Italian Ivan Basso in third at 6:40. Ullrich finished
Armstrong opened a new page for the Tour in 1999 just one year after the race faced its worst doping scandal, ejecting the Festina team after police
caught one of its employees with a stash of drugs.
Armstrong's victories and his inspiring comeback from cancer have drawn new fans to the race. His professionalism, attention to detail, grueling
training methods and tactics have raised the bar for other riders hoping to win the three-week cycling marathon.
Eye-catching in the bright yellow race leader's jersey he works so hard for, Armstrong donned a golden cycling helmet for Sunday's relaxed roll past
sun-baked fields of wheat and applauding spectators into Paris from Montereau in the southeast.
He joked and chatted with teammates who wore special blue jerseys with yellow stripes. They stretched in a line across the road with their leader for
motorcycle-riding photographers to record the moment. The team was the muscle behind Armstrong's win, leading him up grueling mountain climbs,
shielding him from crashes and wind, and keeping him stoked with drinks and food.
With five solo stage wins and a team time-trial victory with his U.S. Postal Service squad, this was Armstrong's best Tour. He built his lead from Day
1, placing second in the third-fastest debut time trial in Tour history.
That performance silenced doubts that Armstrong, at 32, was past his prime. Even more so than in other Tours that he dominated, Armstrong finished off
rivals in the mountains -- with three victories in the Alps, including a time trial on the legendary climb to L'Alpe d'Huez, and another in the
Pyrenees. He also took the final time trial on Saturday, even though he his overall lead was so big he didn't need the win.
``We never had a sense of crisis, only the stress of the rain and the crashes in the first week,'' Armstrong said. ``I was surprised that some of the
rivals were not better. Some of them just completely disappeared.''
Basque rider Iban Mayo peaked too early when he beat Armstrong in the warm-up Dauphine Libere race three weeks before the Tour. Mayo crashed in the
Tour's rain-soaked, nervous first week, racing toward a treacherous stretch of cobblestones that Armstrong crossed safely. Mayo finally abandoned the
race after the Pyrenees, his morale shot after two disappointing rides in the mountains where he'd hoped to win in front of Basque fans.
AP - Jul 25, 11:29 am EDT
Former Armstrong teammates Roberto Heras, left trailing in the mountains, and American Tyler Hamilton, badly bruised in a crash, also went home.
``The little guys, the pure climbers -- Mayo, Tyler -- the first week is very hard on them, always fighting for position, the wind. A lot of
acceleration through villages at the finish. This becomes a problem for them after 10 days,'' Armstrong said. ``That's the beauty of the Tour. If the
race was 10 or 12 days long, they'd be much better. You have to do it all.''
Ullrich, the 1997 champion and a five-time runner-up, never recovered from seeing Armstrong zoom into the distance for two straight days in the
The only rider to stay with Armstrong there was Basso, a 26-year-old with the makings of a future winner. He came out of the Alps, where Armstrong for
the first time in his career won three consecutive stages, in second place overall.
But Kloden, the German champion and Ullrich's teammate, outdid the soft-spoken Basso in the final time trial, placing third behind Armstrong and
Ullrich. That ride propelled Kloden, who did not complete last year's Tour, into second spot on the podium, pushing Basso back to third.
``I never would have predicted Kloden before the Tour. But you could see he was really strong and skinny in the first week,'' Armstrong said