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Number seven for Armstrong

After 2,157 miles of French roads, Lance rode into Paris a seven times winner of the hardest sporting event in the world. He most surely breathed a sigh of relief that the pressure of making it seven in a row didn’t get to him, but he scarcely had any serious threats to push him beyond his limits.

This was not his hardest victory of the Tour, nor was it his easiest. The expectation was huge though; this could have been a Tour too far, but after three weeks it emerged that he is still the strongest rider, by a measurable distance. He was 4.40 ahead of second placed Ivan Basso and 6.21 ahead of Jan Ullrich, to which he paid tribute to in a moving speech on the podium.

Armstrong knows he could take another Tour victory if he wanted, but as it is he’s bowing on a huge wave of support and admiration. ‘I have had an unbelievable career. I have been blessed to ride for 14 years as a professional. I’ve been blessed to win some big bike races before my illness and to win seven Tours after the illness…’

So next year’s peloton will be a strange place without Armstrong. We doubt another leader with his strength will appear that quickly, though the Discovery team could propel even an above-average rider to the podium. And will Ullrich continue to race? It does seem that he has been waiting for Armstrong to retire before taking the top spot, as he did in 1997. One things for sure, it could be the most exciting Tour of the decade.

Overall Classification:
1 Lance Armstrong – Discovery Channel 86.15.02
2 Ivan Basso Team – CSC 4.40
3 Jan Ullrich – T-Mobile Team 6.21
4 Francisco Mancebo – Illes Balears-Caisse d’Epargne 9.59
5 Alexandre Vinokourov – T-Mobile Team 11.01
6 Levi Leipheimer – Gerolsteiner 11.21

7 Michael Rasmussen – Rabobank 11.33
8 Cadel Evans – Davitamon-Lotto 11.55
9 Floyd Landis – Phonak Hearing Systems 12.44
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio – Phonak Hearing Systems 16.04

What did the papers say?

The Sun:
Rock ‘n’ Roll King: Lance is going on road with Sheryl. He hinted he would now be happy to string guitars and get the beers in while accompanying his rock star girlfriend Sheryl Crow around the world.

The Guardian:
Lance Armstrong, the cancer survivor whose yellow wristbands are worn around the world by some 40 million contributors to his Livestrong charity, rode off the Champs-Elysees and into sporting history last night after fulfilling his ambition to become the first man to win the Tour de France seven times.

The Times:
Armstrong relinquishes his brutal grip on Europe’s Tour
So the King is dead. The Tour has lost its most successful rider, its superstar, its most mystical character and you will not see many rock or film stars left hanging around now that he is gone.

The Telegraph:
Armstrong departs a true champion: Lance Armstrong dodged the slippery streets of Paris yesterday to claim his seventh victory in the Tour de France in seven straight years. He stepped off the winner’s podium and into retirement with no regrets at leaving the sport he often has referred to as “the greatest in the world”.

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