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NOVEMBER 2004

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Armstrong Wins His 6th

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“You’re awesome!”
President George Bush to fellow Texan Lance Armstrong via telephone at the finish line.

At the conclusion of the Tour, Armstrong managed to gain more than six minutes lead time over runner up, Andreas Kloden.

ARMSTRONG WINS HIS 6TH TOUR DE FRANCE
Not rain, nor heat, nor foe could keep the captain of the U.S. Postal Team from victory at the 2004 Tour de France.
by Stephanie Starr . photos by Phil O’Conner And then there were the usual hazards that swiftly thin any oggy and combative, the prologue starting in Liege, herd. The dangerous cobbled roads and wet conditions found Belgium gave preview of the hazardous weather in many of the stages caused havoc for the riders as many conditions to come for the 2004 Tour de France. Already were injured and forced to pull out. The decision to take such riders experienced injury thanks to slick roads and a large peloton across the narrow cobblestones found in Stage treacherous winds. Tracked via little yellow timers attached to three was a controversial one as many felt it would be a their bike chainstays, each rider did his best to struggle disaster. It was. Among the casualties, Brad McGee suffered through rough conditions. Despite the challenges, Fassa severe back pain and eventually packed up his things and left Bortolo’s Fabian Cancellara earned the top time and accepted to prepare for the Olympics. Likewise, several of Armstrong’s the yellow jersey to start the race in. A confident Lance expected rivals found themselves crushed. Iban Mayo lost so Armstrong, who had declined the offer of wearing the yellow much time to Armstrong on the Plateau de Beille it squelched jersey to start the prologue, flies in two seconds behind part his spirit. Then a crash injury chipped away the Cancellara and will start in the green. With the Tour now remainder. By the middle of the underway, each team has its own stratPyrenease Mayo was ready to concede egy in mind. This is a game not unlike defeat. Only the demands of his team a giant moving chessboard, but here it director kept him moving until the end of is speed, skill and strategy that win. the stage. But after that he pulled out. Similarly, former teammate Roberto Heras Rain jackets flapping, each team sends and challenger Tyler Hamilton both found domestiques up ahead to grab points, themselves destroyed. Heras lasted only a while keeping their big guns sheltered few days more than Mayo before leaving from the wind. Armstrong remained at the front of the peloton, surrounded by the Tour. And poor Hamilton not only his teammates and patiently pacing suffered a back injury, but also himself. His US Postal team made a emotional distress at the loss of his dog, Tugboat, to cancer. strong showing to take the Team Trial Lance Armstrong event in stage four where Armstrong Bones were snapped, bodies bruised and earned the right to wear the yellow spirits broken as they hit long stretches of jersey, but then they went right back to steep climbs and narrow roads. Wandering livestock, rabid keeping pace at the front of the group, shunning opportunities fans running naked in the street and other unusual events to pursue random attacks by lower-ranked riders. They appeared to pop out of nowhere. Before long the peloton appeared content to allow the Brioches la Boulangre team to looked like a parade of blood and bandages. police the peloton for the first half of the race, thwarting breaks and bringing back riders who would grab points. Their strategy was clear, and it has remained the same for the past However, US Postal plowed through all of this, carefully five years: Conserve explosive energy at all costs for when the veering Armstrong away from trouble. He spilled once during time is right. Now was not the time to defend the yellow the stage in Angers, but came out with only a bruised hip and jersey. They allowed the other cyclists to wear themselves arm. And by stage 12 when the Posties were ready to step thin, while Armstrong slowly gathered steam. By stage ten he things up even more, he did not even acknowledge the injury. was ready to rip the legs off his competition. US Postal took Armstrong came in second, only just barely beaten by CSC’s over at the front of the peloton, dominating it like the talented Ivan Basso. Yet he seemed undisturbed by the near destructive force it is known to be. miss, and even congratulated the Italian on his win. By the completion of Stage 15 Armstrong once again claimed the yellow jersey, this time from a wornout Thomas Voeckler, The Suffering Game who had been struggling with many of the climbs. It became Towing the peloton behind them, the Posties set a brutal pace evident at this point that the Tour would be a fight between during the second half of the Tour. Many riders found Armstrong, Basso, Ullrich and Kloden. themselves worn to a nub and falling off the back while the Postal train trucked on mercilessly in what truly appeared to Enter The Alpe: Roadside Spectacle be a test of just how much everyone could suffer to keep up. Always his strength, stage 16’s individual time trial revealed Some still managed to find the energy to attack for a sprint, Armstrong victorious yet again. The Texan ate up the road for but any long-term goal of winning the Tour was quickly an ultimate victory over the second place time of Jan Ullrich extinguished as they failed to sustain that energy over the who finished one minute and one second behind him. days to come.

S

“Sometimes in France they prefer the guy who gets second. But if that’s the choice, to be loved or to win, I’ll taking winning.”

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FINAL RESULTS
Final Overall Standings Armstrong had prepared well for this event, having ridden the Alpe 10 times for practice. However, riding to the finish line was not made easy, as hundreds of thousands of cycling fans packed the route, offering additional challenges as they ran along side the riders and even made the mistake of pushing them. Ullrich nearly Ivan Basso managed lost balance when a to snatch a stage 12 well-meaning fan gave him a win, with Armstrong taking second. push. The lack of barricades or security measures up until the final stretch was daunting. Armstrong’s girlfriend, singer Sheryl Crow, looked appropriately nervous as she watched from the team car. It took quite a lot of effort for the riders to get through the fans who were tapping, spitting at and sometimes out-right hitting the riders. Armstrong was a main target.
1. Lance Armstrong, United States, US Postal-Berry Floor, 83 hours, 36 minutes, 2 seconds. 2. Andreas Kloden, Germany, T-Mobile Team, 6 minutes, 19 seconds behind. 3. Ivan Basso, Italy, Team CSC, 6:40. 4. Jan Ullrich, Germany, T-Mobile Team, 8:50. 5. Jose Azevedo, Portugal, US Postal-Berry Floor, 14:30. 6. Francisco Mancebo, Spain, Illes Balears-B. Santander, 18:01. 7. Georg Totschnig, Austria, Gerolsteiner, 18:27. 8. Carlos Sastre, Spain, Team CSC, 19:51. 9. Levi Leipheimer, United States, Rabobank, 20:12. 10. Oscar Pereiro Sio, Spain, Phonak Hearing Systems, 22:54

Climber, Overall
1. Richard Virenque (F), Quick Step-Davitamon, 226 Pts. 2. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 172 Pts. 3. Mickael Rasmussen (Dk), Rabobank, 119 Pts. 4. Ivan Basso (I), CSC, 119 Pts. 5. Christophe Moreau (F), Crédit Agricole, 115 Pts. 6. Jan Ullrich (G), T-Mobile, 115 Pts. 7. Andréas KlÖden (G), T-Mobile, 112 Pts. 8. Francisco Mancebo (Sp), Illes Balears-Banesto, 77 Pts. 9. Jens Voigt (G), CSC, 71 Pts. 10. Axel Merckx (B), Lotto-Domo, 65 Pts. Sprinter, Overall 1. Robbie Mc Ewen (Aus), Lotto-Domo, 272 Pts. 2. Thor Hushovd (Nor), Crédit Agricole, 247 Pts. 3. Erik Zabel (G), T-Mobile, 245 Pts. 4. Stuart O'Grady (Aus), Cofidis, 234 Pts. 5. Danilo Hondo (G), Gerolsteiner, 227 Pts. 6. Tom Boonen (B), Quick Step-Davitamon, 163 Pts. 7. Nazon Jean-Patrick (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 146 Pts. 8. Lance Armstrong (USA), U.S. Postal Service, 143 Pts. 9. Laurent Brochard (F), Ag2R Prevoyance, 139 Pts. 10. Andréas KlÖden (G), T-Mobile, 131 Pts.

“I don’t think it was a good idea to have a time trial on the Alpe. It was scary. There were too many people who weren’t being too nice.”
Lance Armstrong
“I don’t think it was a good idea to have a time trial on the Alpe,” Armstrong told one French television reporter. “It was scary. There were too many people who weren't being too nice." With graffiti scribbled along the stretch of the road and colorful characters dressed in costume, comedian and Armstrong friend, Robbin Williams, jokingly called the convergence of fans upon the Alpe “bikestock.” But there was nothing funny about some of the behaviors they displayed as the riders struggled through their masses. Armstrong was visibly harassed. He had even received death threats the night before and needed to have his team car follow him closely. However, their reaction did not seem to phase the champion as he just shrugged his shoulders and smiled. "It's comforting for me to know that some of the greatest champions were booed,” Armstrong says. “So I'm in good company. Sometimes in France they prefer the guy who gets second. But if that's the choice, to be loved or to win, I'll take winning." Thankfully Armstrong survived the stage unscathed and went on to dominate stage 17, the last major mountain test of the Tour. A dynamic performance squelched rumors that he’d past his prime. The 32-year-

Young Rider, Overall
1. Vladimir Karpets (Rus), Illes Balears-Banesto, 84:01:13 2. Sandy Casar (F), FDJeux.com, 03:42 3. Thomas Voeckler (F), Brioches La Boulangere, 06:01 4. Michael Rogers (Aus), Quick Step-Davitamon, 16:28 5. Iker Camano (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi, 22:03 6. Pineau Jérôme (F), Brioches La Boulangere, 22:32 7. Sylvain Chavanel (F), Brioches La Boulangere, 29:32 8. Michele Scarponi (I), Domina Vacanze, 37:50 9. Mikel Astarloza (Sp), Ag2R Prevoyance, 1:29:53 10. Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Sp), U.S. Postal Service, 1:32:30

Team, Overall
1. T-Mobile, 248:58:43 2. U.S. Postal Service, 02:42 3. CSC, 10:33 4. Illes Balears-Banesto, 52:26 5. Quick Step-Davitamon, 57:33 6. Phonak, 57:42 7. Rabobank, 1:26:24 8. Crédit Agricole, 1:30:35 9. Brioches La Boulangere, 1:32:12 10. Euskaltel-Euskadi, 1:47:46

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STAGES 1 - 7
PROLOGUE: Liege (6km) old gave teammate Floyd Landis a strategic shove at the summit of the Col de la CroixFrey that sent him speeding down towards the finish. Ullrich and Kloden took the bait and went barreling after him. However, by the time they had caught up, so had Armstrong. The clever captain of the US Postal team proceeded to stun Andreas Kloden by flying past him during the last 500 meters to take the win. Ullrich was forced to settle with third place.
1. Fabian Cancellara (SUI) Fassa Bortolo 00:06:50.0 2. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 00:06:52.0 3. Jose Ivan Gutierrez (ESP) Illes Baleares 00:06:58.0 4. Bradley McGee (AUS) Fdjeux.com 00:06:59.0 5. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Crédit Agricole 00:07:00.0

STAGE 1: Liege Charleroi (195 km)
1. Jaan Kirsipuu (EST) AG2R Prevoyance 04:40:29.0 2. Robbie McEwen (AUS) Lotto-Domo 04:40:29.0 3. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole 04:40:29.0 4. Danilo Hondo (GER) Team Gerolsteiner 04:40:29.0 5. Jean-Patrick Nazon (FRA) AG2R Prevoyance 04:40:29.0

T-Mobiel’s Andreas Kloden is favored to win the Tour in the near future.

STAGE 2: Charleroi- Namur (195km)
1. Robbie McEwen (AUS) Lotto-Domo 04:18:39.0 2. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole 04:18:39.0 3. Jean-Patrick Nazon (FRA) AG2R Prevoyance 04:18:39.0 4. Danilo Hondo (GER) Team Gerolsteiner 04:18:39.0 5. Stuart O'Grady (AUS) Cofidis 04:18:39.0

Beverly Hills 9021-Bike
By the time the riders suffered through the brutality of stage 18, with its five categorized climbs, two sprints and rainy weather, the battlefield turned into something that could have been an episode of Beverly Hills 90210. Filippo Simeoni gave chase after the multiple-man break led by Juan Miguel Mercado (Quick Step) and Armstrong counter attacked with a vengeance. The action was clearly personal. Armstrong had secured the last three stages and enough of a point lead that he did not need to chase down any of the lower-level riders in the break. None of them were a threat on the G.C. However, it was Simeoni’s attempt to get ahead that spurned the Texan to pursue, stalking him with preditorial intent. Upon closing the gap to the nervous leaders, one of the lead group actually asked Simeoni to leave. The riders in the break knew that they would never shake a determined Armstrong. The only prayer they had would be if Simeoni departed. Thankfully for the riders in the break, Simeoni agreed. As predicted, Armstrong laid off the gas and allowed the peloton to catch both he and Simeoni, satisfied he’d successfully thwarted the Italian. Rumor has it that at the conception of Simeoni’s attack, Armstrong informed other members at the front of the Peloton that should they ride with Simeoni, he would place the US Postal team on the front line to chase them down. No one wanted the wrath of the Posties, and all obviously stayed in place while Armstrong tended to business. By why? It was obvious to many that this feud was the upshot of off-the-bike issues; a legal battle going on between the two men. Simeoni is suing Armstrong for defamation of character. Both men were previously linked to Dr. Ferrari, who, according to Simeoni, prescribed him performance enhancing drugs such as EPO, testosterone and similar banned substances. Armstrong took offense to Simeoni’s fingering of Ferrari and subsequently called him a liar during one 2003 interview in the French newspaper, Le Monde. Simeoni responded by slapping Armstrong with a suit for $100,000, which he has referred to as a symbolic sum. Once back in the peloton, word has it that Simeoni received flack from

STAGE 3: Waterloo - Wasquehal (195km)
1. Jean-Patrick Nazon (FRA) AG2R Prevoyance 04:36:45.0 2. Erik Zabel (GER) Team T-Mobile 04:36:45.0 3. Robbie McEwen (AUS) Lotto–Domo 04:36:45.0 4. Tom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step 04:36:45.0 5. Kim Kirchen (LUX) Fassa Bortolo 04:36:45.0 6. Danilo Hondo (GER)Team Gerolsteiner 04:36:45.0 7. Jaan Kirsipuu (EST) AG2R Prevoyance 04:36:45.0 8. Alessandro Bertolini (ITA) Alessio-Bianchi 04:36:45.0 9. Fabio Baldato (ITA) Alessio-Bianchi 04:36:45.0 10. Jose Enrique Gutierrez (ESP)Phonak 04:36:45.0

STAGE 4: Cambrai - Arras TTT (65Km)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 01:12:03.0 2. George Hincapie (USA) US Postal 01:12:03.0 3. Vjatceslav Ekimov (RUS) US Postal 01:12:03.0 4. Pavel Padrnos (CZE) US Postal 01:12:03.0 5. Manuel Beltran Martinez (ESP) US Postal 01:12:03.0

STAGE 5: Amiens - Chartres (200 Km)
1. Stuart O'Grady (AUS) Cofidis 05:05:58.0 2. Jakob Piil (DEN) CSC 05:05:58.0 3. Sandy Casar (FRA) Fdjeux.com 05:05:58.0 4. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) Brioches La Boulangère 05:05:58.0 5. Magnus Backstedt (SWE)Alessio-Bianchi 05:06:01.0

STAGE 6: Bonneval - Angers (190 Km)
1. Tom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step 04:33:41.0 2. Stuart O'Grady (AUS) Cofidis 04:33:41.0 3. Erik Zabel (GER) Team T-Mobile 04:33:41.0 4. Danilo Hondo (GER) Team Gerolsteiner 04:33:41.0 5. Baden Cooke (AUS) Fdjeux.com 04:33:41.0

STAGE 7: Chateaubriant - Saint-Brieuc (190 Km)
1. Filippo Pozzato (ITA) Fassa Bortolo 04:31:34.0 2. Iker Flores (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 04:31:34.0 3. Francisco Mancebo (ESP)Illes Baleares 04:31:34.0 4. Laurent Brochard (FRA) AG2R Prevoyance 04:31:44.0 5. Sebastien Hinault (FRA) Credit Agricole 04:31:44.0

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STAGES 8 - 15
STAGE 8: Lamballe - Quimper (172Km)
1. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole 03:54:22.0 2. Kim Kirchen (LUX) Fassa Bortolo 03:54:22.0 3. Erik Zabel (GER) Team T-Mobile 03:54:22.0 4. Robbie McEwen (AUS) Lotto-Domo 03:54:22.0 5. Andreas Klöden (GER) Team T-Mobile 03:54:22.0

STAGE 9: St Leonard de Noblat-Gueret (160 Km)
1. Robbie McEwen (AUS) Lotto–Domo 03:32:55.0 2. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole 03:32:55.0 3. Stuart O'Grady (AUS) Cofidis 03:32:55.0 4. Jerome Pineau (FRA) Brioches La Boulangère 03:32:55.0 5. Erik Zabel (GER) Team T-Mobile 03:32:55.0

STAGE 10: Limoges – Saint Flour (237 Km)
1. Richard Virenque (FRA) Quick Step 06:00:24.0 2. Andreas Klöden (GER) Team T-Mobile 06:05:43.0 3. Erik Zabel (GER) Team T-Mobile 06:05:43.0 4. Francisco Mancebo (ESP) Illes Baleares 06:05:43.0 5. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) Brioches La Boulangère 06:05:43.0 6. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 06:05:43.0

STAGE 11: Saint Flour – Figeac (164 Km)
1. David Moncoutie (FRA) Cofidis 03:54:58.0 2. Juan Antonio Flecha (ESP) Fassa Bortolo 03:57:13.0 3. Egoi Martinez (ESP) Euskaltel-Euskadi 03:57:15.0 4. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole 04:00:56.0 5. Erik Zabel (GER) Team T-Mobile 04:00:56.0

STAGE 12: Castelsarrasin - La Mongie (199 Km)
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Ivan Basso (ITA) CSC 05:03:58.0 Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 05:03:58.0 Andreas Klöden (GER) Team T-Mobile 05:04:18.0 Francisco Mancebo (ESP) Illes Baleares 05:04:22.0 Carlos Sastre (ESP) CSC 05:04:31.0

STAGE 13: Lannemezan - Plateau de Beille (217 Km)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 06:04:38.0 2. Ivan Basso (ITA) CSC 06:04:38.0 3. Georg Totschnig (AUT) Team Gerolsteiner 06:05:43.0 4. Andreas Klöden (GER) Team T-Mobile 06:06:05.0 5. Francisco Mancebo (ESP) Illes Baleares 06:06:05.0

STAGE 14: Carcassonne - Nimes (200 Km)
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Aitor Gonzalez (ESP) Fassa Bortolo 04:18:32.0 Nicolas Jalabert (FRA) Phonak 04:18:57.0 Christophe Mengin (FRA) Fdjeux.com 04:18:57.0 Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA) Credit Agricole 04:19:01.0 Peter Wrolich (AUT) Team Gerolsteiner 04:19:03.0

STAGE 15: Valreas - Villard de Lans (179 Km)
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 04:40:30.0 Ivan Basso (ITA) CSC 04:40:30.0 Jan Ullrich (GER) Team T-Mobile 04:40:33.0 Andreas Klöden (GER) Team T-Mobile 04:40:36.0 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Rabobank 04:40:43.0

STAGES 16 - 20
“They want to create pressure that cracks you. So internally I say, ‘OK, I will never crack because of that. This will not crack me.”
Lance Armstrong
other riders. Armstrong remained at the front of the line, chatting it up with his team members. Each man appeared to be conversing with others around him to express positions on the matter during the race. We even see Armstrong converse with lead-opponents Jan Ullrich and Andreas Kloden shortly after the event. Not long after that Armstrong is seen conversing with a tense Team Director Bruyneel and appearing to have a difficult time keeping a straight face. Juan Miguel Mercado of Spain took top honors in the stage, however it failed to put a dent in any of the big guys on the GC. Stage 19 reveals a once-again-dominant Armstrong as he tackles the last and most difficult time trial; one that stretches over undulating terrain, only 5km of which is flat. While conditions were once again uncomfortable, this time it was both damp and humid as sporadic rain falls upon the riders. The event was clearly between Armstrong, Ullrich and Kloden, all of whom performed at their peak. Italian Ivan Basso also performed well, but slipped down to 3rd on the GC. But in the end Armstrong took the stage and with it the insurance of his 6th Tour de France win. He only needed to arrive upright now in Paris during the last stage to take home the $400,000 prize and the elusive title of 6-time winner, something no one has ever accomplished before. The four riders before him, Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Spain's Miguel Indurain all won five Tours. STAGE 16: Bourg d’Oisans - L’Alpe d’Huez (15Km)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 00:39:41.0 2. Jan Ullrich (GER) Team TMobile 00:40:42.0 3. Andreas Klöden (GER) Team TMobile 00:41:22.0 4. Jose Azevedo (POR) US Postal 00:41:26.0 5. Santos Gonzalez (ESP) Phonak 00:41:52.0

STAGE 17: Bourg d’Oisans - Le Grand Bornand (212 Km)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 06:11:52.0 2. Andreas Klöden (GER) Team TMobile 06:11:52.0 3. Jan Ullrich (GER)Team TMobile 06:11:53.0 4. Ivan Basso (ITA) CSC 06:11:53.0 5. Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 06:12:05.0

STAGE 18: Annemasse Lons le Saunier (166 Km)
1. Juan Miguel Mercado (ESP)Quick Step 04:04:03.0 2. Jose-Vicente Garcia Acosta (ESP) Illes Baleares 04:04:03.0 3. Dmitriy Fofonov (KAZ) Cofidis 04:04:14.0 4. Sebastien Joly (FRA) Credit Agricole 04:04:14.0 5. Marc Lotz (NED)Rabobank 04:04:14.0

STAGE 19: Besancon Besancon ITT (60 Km)
1. Lance Armstrong (USA) US Postal 01:06:49.0 2. Jan Ullrich (GER) Team TMobile 01:07:50.0 3. Andreas Klöden (GER) Team TMobile 01:08:16.0 4. Floyd Landis (USA) US Postal 01:09:14.0 5. Bobby Julich (USA) CSC 01:09:37.0

Stirring Up And Goofing Off
While stage 20 is usually a formality and doesn’t heat up until the racers enter Paris and start their eight laps around the Champs-Elysees, this year was different. Simeoni remained riled up and determined to take a few final digs at Armstrong. He attacked from the get-go, and then proceeded to do so three more times after that. It was obvious he wasn’t going to get far with US Postal hauling him back each time, but for Simeoni this was about pushing a point not a victory. US Postal member Viatcheslav Ekimov expressed the team’s reaction to Simeoni’s drama best when he looked at the man and knocked his own forehead. Personal issues aside, the big struggle of the day was not for the yellow jersey, as that was already firmly within Armstrong’s clutches, but rather the green, which McEwen (LottoDomo) and Hushovd (Credit Agricole) were in embattled pursuit of. The men were separated by a scant 11 points and it could have easily gone either way. Also nipping at their heals were Erik Zabel of T-Mobile and Stuart O’Grady of Cofidis. Ultimately McEwen

STAGE 20: Montereau Paris (165 Km)
1. Tom Boonen (BEL) Quick Step 04:08:26.0 2. Jean-Patrick Nazon (FRA) AG2R Prevoyance 04:08:26.0 3. Danilo Hondo (GER) Team Gerolsteiner 04:08:26.0 4. Robbie McEwen (AUS) LottoDomo 04:08:26.0 5. Erik Zabel (GER) Team TMobile 04:08:26.0

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took the green, but the others definitely gave him a run for it. As far as the other jersey’s go: Richard Virenque took the polka dotted mountains jersey and Vladimir Karpets earned the white young rider. Ironically, Filippo Simeoni was awarded most aggressive rider in the stage, while Richard Virenque claimed the most combative prize for the Tour overall. While the stage was ultimately won by master-sprinter Tom Boonen (Quick Step), US Postal did not appear the least bit upset. They were all ready to celebrate their assured yellow jersey victory. Each team member wore a commemorative blue jersey with a yellow stripe, not to mention a yellow wrist band in support of the Lance Armstrong foundation, which raises funds for cancer research. (To order your own, and make a $1 donation, log onto www.laf.org). Armstrong donned a gold Giro helmet while riding his decked-out “Livestrong” bike. Even the spokes were tinted yellow as he cruised his way over the finishline, the 114th rider to get there that day. In the distance the French fly the Texas flag in his honor. And although they’ve managed to string it upside down, their hearts were in the right place. The crowds are 10-deep and roaring as the riders cross the finishline.

Over 1,900 miles
* * * * 11 flat stages 6 mountain stages 2 individual time-trial stages 1 team time-trial stage

Many of the riders didn’t even wait to cross the finish line before celebrating. In fact, Armstrong had a glass of champagne from Jean Marie Leblanc's personal stash while in motion. Ullrich, T-Mobiel’s heavy artillery, didn’t hesitate to take a glass of champagne from US Postal Team Director Bruyneel to celebrate. While Ullrich placed 4th in the Tour, decidedly lower than he has in past years, and was rumored to be fighting illness throughout, he was still happy for teammate Kloden who earned runner-up. Aside from the early tension with Simeoni, there appeared to be a good amount of horsing around in the peloton as the big guns of the group felt secure in their positioning. They mug for the press, laugh among themselves and express relief that the long three weeks are finally over. US Postal member Floyd Landis could be seen flashing a prize gifted to him by comedian Robbin Williams. Upon finishing mountain stages, and especially for his efforts in stage 17, Williams presented Landis with a gold ring and the title of “baddest mofo of the mountains.” Jimmy Casper whips out a camera while in motion to snap a few pictures of everyone on the front line of the group. While many might be disappointed in their placing, we have seen impressive performances from the likes of Andreas Kloden and Ivan Basso, both of whom could easily be future Tour winners, and Ullrich who is the 1997 Tour winner. But more than anything, we have seen a resilient performance from Armstrong who’s spirit obviously thrives when faced with opposition. His win over runner-up

Andreas Kloden was an impressive 6 minutes and 19 seconds. The man who had thumbed his nose at testicular cancer eight years ago, which had spread throughout his body and was given only a 50 percent chance of living, had yet again done the impossible. And no one was going to be able to hold him back. Not disease. Not divorce. Not the reporters who allegedly broke into his hotel room ransacking it for dirt on the rider. Not the LA Confidential book by David Walsh and Pierre Ballester published in France right before the tour which claimed circumstantial evidence of drug use. Armstrong took each blow and allowed it to fuel him. "They want to create pressure that cracks you," Armstrong told one reporter. "So, internally I say, 'OK, I will never crack because of that. This will not crack me.'" Born to a single, teenage mother, Armstrong has faced each challenge life had to give with an indomitable spirit which can not be denied. Love him or hate him, you have to respect his accomplishments. “The man who works the hardest is the man who deserves to win.” A much quoted philosophy that he applies to all areas of his life, Armstrong remains loyal to the Tour de France even though he is unsure if he will do it again in 2005. With a new 10-million dollar sponsorship from the Discovery Channel, he may find himself obligated, however he has stated his desire to focus on other events such as the Giro d'Italia or the Vuelta de Espana. "I'll do it again before I stop. It's a special race. It's everything. You can't have this intensity in any other event."

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