Tour de France: Armstrong wins sixth title

25th July 2004, Comments 0 comments

25 July 2004, PARIS - American Lance Armstrong made sports history Sunday when he became the first ever cyclist to win the Tour de France six times.

25 July 2004

PARIS - American Lance Armstrong made sports history Sunday when he became the first ever cyclist to win the Tour de France six times.

The 32-year-old American clinched his sixth consecutive Tour championship when he crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysees just behind the main pack in the race's final stage, won by Tom Boonen of Belgium.

Before winning this title, Armstrong had been tied with four other cyclists with five Tour titles each - the Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx of Belgium and Spaniard Miguel Indurain. And only one other rider, Indurain, had won five on the trot.

For the record, the winner's time for Sunday's 163-km course from Montereau to Paris was 4:08.26 hours.

The final stage of the three-week Tour is customarily a victory parade for the champion and an opportunity for fans and tourists to snap photos of the riders.

Armstrong joked with other riders and drank champagne on the leisurely ride to the French capital. He and his US Postal team led the peloton, or pack of riders, into Paris and onto the Champs Elysees, where the stage ended in a frantic sprint to the finish.

In taking the final sprint, the 23-year-old Boonen racked up his second stage win of this year's Tour in his first participation in the race.

The stage also secured the Tour sprint championship for Australia's Robbie McEwen. Richard Virenque of France won the mountain title for the seventh time, also a record.

But the three-week race belonged to Armstrong, who never really seemed in danger of being deprived of his historic victory.

After the race, a beaming Armstrong said that he was top-fit for this year's race.

"On my good days, I was 100 percent," he said. And, as usual, he shared credit with his teammates.

"The team was perfectly trained, perfectly prepared and the tactics were also perfect," Armstrong said.

The gap between the champion and the riders who completed the trifecta - 6:19 minutes to second-placed Andreas Kloeden and 6:40 to Italy's Ivan Basso in third - was flattering to the also-rans.

Armstrong dominated every aspect of the three-week Tour, winning an unprecedented four mountain stages in a row, and taking two of three individual time trials by overwhelming margins. In addition, Armstrong's U.S. Postal team won the team time trial.

The American could easily have won seven stages individually, as he lost the prologue time trial by less than 2 seconds and allowed Basso to take the win on the first stage in the Pyrenees Mountains.

So dominating was Armstrong that French media observers were lamenting the lack of suspense in the race. This was due not only to his and his team's superiority but also to the fragility of the opposition.

Most of the riders who had been touted as his most dangerous rivals performed badly, with the Spaniards Iban Mayo and Roberto Heras both dropping out of the race after falling hopelessly behind.

In addition, fellow American Tyler Hamilton was forced to quit because of a back injury suffered in a crash. Jan Ullrich of Germany was suffering from the effects of a cold in the early mountain stages and, despite regaining form in the later stages, was never again a factor.

Kloeden and Basso's showings were pleasant surprises, and both are expected to be contenders in the 2005 Tour. But will Armstrong be there to defend his title?

Media reports suggest that he will sit out the Tour next year, to devote himself to other races.

Asked about his plans on Sunday, Armstrong said, "The Tour de France is the most beautiful race in the world and the most important race in the world for me, my team and my new sponsors. I can't imagine not riding in it."


Subject: German news

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