Armstrong clinches historic sixth victory

25th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 25 (AFP) - American Lance Armstrong became the first six-time winner of the Tour de France after completing the final 20th stage of the race into Paris here Sunday.

PARIS, July 25 (AFP) - American Lance Armstrong became the first six-time winner of the Tour de France after completing the final 20th stage of the race into Paris here Sunday.

Belgian's Tom Boonen of the Quick Step team won the final stage, a 163km ride from Montereau to here.

Australian Robbie McEwen did enough at the final sprint to guarantee his second green jersey for the points competition having won it in 2002.

Frenchman Richard Virenque won a record seventh polka dot jersey for the race's best climber.

Armstrong, reflecting on his achievement, said: "The Tour de France is the most beautiful race in the world. For me, for cycling, for my team and for my new sponsor, Discovery Channel."

Asked whether he would return next year to try and make it a magnificent seven he shrugged: "I cannot imagine not being here. We'll see..."

The 32-year-old Texan won five stages on this year's race to take his total from 10 participations on the Tour de France to 21.

Armstrong equalled the record of five wins co-held by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain last year.

However this year the American was sublime as he held off his main pre-race rival Jan Ullrich of Germany, the 1997 winner and five-time runner-up, down the standings.

In second place overall behind Armstrong was Ullrich's T-Mobile team mate Andreas Kloden, whose performance in the final time trial of the race on Saturday assured the runner-up place at the expense of Italian Ivan Basso.

The 29-year-old German finished more than six minutes behind Armstrong. Basso, the 26-year-old who rides for the CSC team, finished third at around seven minutes to claim his first podium from the Tour de France having won the race's white jersey for the race's best rider aged under 25 in 2002.

Ullrich, who complained of having a cold in the first week of the race which started in the Belgian city of Liege, finished in sixth place overall at more than nine minutes, his lowest ever result on the Tour.

After some early attacks by Italian rider Filippo Simeoni, which were quickly brought to heel by Armstrong's US Postal team, the first real drama of the day unfolded at the first of two intermediate sprints at the 86km mark.

McEwen, who started the day with an 11-point lead over Thor Hushovd, boosted his tally further after coasting over the line ahead of the Norwegian champion whose Credit Agricole team had got their sums wrong in leading him out.

The 32-year-old Australian took six points to Hushovd's four for second place on the sprint, giving him an extra two points ahead of the next sprint, on the Champs Elysees.

By the time they'd reached the capital's famous boulevard, however, McEwen had to settle for second place.

The little Lotto rider may have been caught out by a sprint for the line by Sylvain Chavanel. Who the Frenchman was working for is unknown, but his burst prompted the Credit Agricole riders to pour forward, and on the line Hushovd grabbed the full six points ahead of McEwen, who took four, to bring the lead back to 11 points.

Their battle would not take place then until the finish line, after eight laps of the 6.1 km city circuit.

But their plans were temporarily put on ice when a ten-man group broke away from the peloton not long after the second of those laps to go on and build a lead of just over 30 seconds.

Eventually the group was caught and in the final home straight it was Boonen who emerged from the bunch to coast confidently over the line to claim his second stage of the race on his debut.

Boonen came over the line ahead of Frenchman Jean-Patrick Nazon, of AG2R, who won here last year. In third place was German Danilo Hondo, with McEwen claiming fourth place.

Hushovd missed the final sprint after a mistake at the final bend before the home straight.


Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article