Tour de France: Armstrong wins 19th stage

25th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

24 July , BESANCON - Lance Armstrong all but clinched his unprecedented sixth consecutive Tour de France championship Saturday when he overwhelmed his rivals in the race's 19th stage, an individual time trial.

24 July

BESANCON - Lance Armstrong all but clinched his unprecedented sixth consecutive Tour de France championship Saturday when he overwhelmed his rivals in the race's 19th stage, an individual time trial.

Armstrong covered the 55-km course in and around the city of Besancon in 1:06.49 hrs, an astonishing average speed of 49.39 kph. The victory was the fifth stage win for the American in this year's Tour and the 21st of his career.

The man who placed second, Jan Ullrich of Germany, finished 1:01 mins behind Armstrong.

Armstrong must now simply make it to the finish line on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday less than 6:38 mins behind Andreas Kloeden of Germany to take the title and become the first rider to win six Tour championships.

After the stage, Armstrong was still unwilling to claim victory, saying, "We have another day to go, and anything can happen. I have to be careful."

Sunday's final Tour stage, 163 km from Montereau to Paris, is customarily little more than victory parade for the champion and a photo opportunity for spectators and tourists.

Pressed to say how it feels to win six Tour titles, the 32-year- old American replied, "I could die now and go away happy. But to win six Tours de France is hard to put into words. I don't really know how I feel. Ask me again in a week."

He noted that the victory was a group effort. "It's the team also, it's not only me." As an illustration of the strength of his US Postal team, three of Armstrong's teammates finished in the top 10 of Saturday's stage with him.

A weary-looking Armstrong admitted that he was happy that the Tour was nearing its end.

"I'm tired in my head, in my legs, I'm tired everywhere," he said.

Saturday's stage was a success also for Andreas Kloeden of Germany, who was able to pass Italian Ivan Basso in the overall standings, and will almost certainly be runner-up to Armstrong in the Tour.

DPA

Subject: German news

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