~ Controversy at the 2006 Tour de France

 نتيجة بحث الصور عن ‪Tour de France‬‏
The 2006 Tour de France was set to be another of a long line of great races.  The field, though without multiple time champion and cycling legend Lance Armstrong, was a competitive one, and the route was superb as usual.  No one rider was primed to dominate, and the cycling world, while obviously sad to see Lance Armstrong go, was reinvigorated by the prospect of a tight race that nearly anyone could win.

One of the contenders to win was American cyclist Floyd Landis, who had experienced success in the cycling world and was known as a versatile rider who could sprint as well as climb at a high level.  He had been personally recruited by Lance Armstrong to race along with him on the U.S. Postal Service team, and had started off 2006 with a couple of wins, including at Paris-Nice.  Even though he obviously had all the tools to win the race, he was considered one of many contenders who could do so.

Floyd Landis’ chances were bettered when two of the race favorites, Jan Ullrich and Ivan Basso, were suspended and barred from participating just days before the 2006 Tour de France began.  However, Landis himself didn’t get off to the greatest start when the race opened.  A cut tire in one stage and a handlebar malfunction in another conspired to keep him back from the lead through the first several stages of the race.

However, in the middle portions of the race, Landis surged as he was able to lean on his climbing skills during difficult mountain stages.  Unfortunately, on Stage 16, Landis fell far back, going from first place to eleventh in the overall standings.  In doing so, he provided himself a stage (no pun intended) to put on a great show of courage and fortitude, although it would later become infamous for more controversial reasons.

During Stage 17, Landis battled to win by over six minutes, coming to close within the lead that was held by Oscar Pereiro.  He would continue the comeback in the final stages, and was crowned as the 2006 Tour de France champion in one of the greatest races in recent memory.

Unfortunately, the story didn’t end there.  During the mandatory testing at Stage 17, Landis had failed a urine test, as he had an 11:1 ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone.  Landis quickly denied doping, but his backup test came up with the same result, and he was suspended and released from his team, Phonak.

Landis maintained his innocence, and proposed a variety of ways that his sample may have been tainted, misinterpreted, or resulted from normal human activity, not doping.  However, an arbitration did not go Landis’ way, and in September of 2007 Pereiro was crowned as the new 2006 Tour de France champion.

Unfortunately, the win by Pereiro, and the exciting finish to the race itself, was marred by the new reality of performance-enhancing drugs and the problems they cause to all sports.  Although Pereiro is as legitimate a champion as they come, it’s hard to say that no luster has been taken off his considerable accomplishment after the circus that resulted in the media and in the courts.  Landis himself is still fighting for his innocence, but he will likely not be able to change the minds of those who are convinced by the test results.  It’s truly unfortunate that such a historic year of a legendary event was decided in the courtroom, and not on the roads of France.

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Bernard Hinault

One of the legendary personalities and riders in the history of the Tour de France is unquestionably Bernard Hinault.  Hinault was known as much for his outspoken and occasionally stubborn demeanor as he was for his considerable talent.  His talent was incredible, as he won 28 stages of the Tour de France in his illustrious career.  He was a gifted time trial rider as well, as 13 of his stage victories came from individual time trials.  He won five Tour de France victories in his career, which only four other cyclists have ever done.

Hinault was born in 1954 in France, and became a professional cyclist 20 years later, in 1974.  Two years later, his mentor, Cyrille Guimard helped teammate Lucien van Impe, to a victory at the 1976 Tour de France.  Hinault respected Guimard and listened to his advice by skipping the 1977 Tour de France in order to gain more experience.  In the 1978 Tour de France, it appeared that the move paid off, as Hinault overcame the Netherlands’ Joop Zoetemelk in the final time trial stage to take the yellow jersey.  Hinault went on to win by 3 minutes and 56 seconds.

In the 1979 Tour de France, Hinault repeated as champion, defeating Zoetemelk again, but by a much larger margin of 13 minutes and 7 seconds this time.  Hinault had won three stages of the 1980 Tour de France, and looked like he could win his third overall yellow jersey in a row when a knee injury forced him to withdraw.  Zoetemelk was able to take advantage, winning as his rival was forced to sit out the finish.

Hinault made his return to the Tour de France in 1981 a triumphant one, as he won four stages and wore the yellow jersey for 18 days as he won his third Tour de France.  He recreated his original accomplishment of winning two in a row by doing so again in 1982, winning three of the later stages after getting off to a great start in the prologue, and wearing the yellow jersey for 12 days in the process.

Unfortunately, Hinault was again unable to pursue a third straight Tour de France victory, as his knee problems sidelined him again.  Hinault was unable to change gears effectively, and took the 1983 Tour de France off to have the problem addressed.  In the next year, Hinault returned to the Tour de France, finishing second but at 10 minutes behind leader Laurent Fignon.  

Then, in the 1985 Tour de France, Hinault made his last appearance in the victor’s spot at the podium, as he won while famously racing with a black eye sustained in a crash.  He devoted his final Tour de France appearance in 1986 to assisting teammate Greg LeMond, although Hinault’s sometimes aggressive racing led many to question whether he was trying to win the race himself.  Hinault relinquished the yellow jersey to LeMond after 16 stages, though Hinault would still go on to win Stage 18 and Stage 20.

Shortly after his second place finish in the 1986 Tour de France, Hinault retired.  The always respected and often feared competitor would remain involved in cycling for years to come as a part of the race organization team for the Tour de France, but he will always be chiefly remembered for his incredible five wins.  Also, Hinault is exalted for never finishing below second place in any of the years that he completed the entire Tour de France.  

It’s also noted that had he not suffered from knee problems during the prime of his impressive career, Hinault could very well have won anywhere from five to eight installments of the Tour de France in a row.  Luckily, even though Hinault was occasionally hampered by injuries, cycling fans all over the world still got many chances to be witness to his greatness.

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Eddy Merckx

Eddy Merckx is regarded by many to be the best cyclist of all time.  His tenacity and refusal to relinquish his own chance to win earned him the nickname, “The Cannibal”.  Merckx is one of only five riders to win the Tour de France five times.  He only competed in seven installments of the Tour de France to win such an incredible number of them, and also finished second once for a total of six podium appearances.

Merckx, a Belgian rider, was born 1945.  He started competing 16 years later, and participated in the Olympic Games in 1964 before turning professional a year later.  Merckx was a talented mountain rider, winning the Tour de France mountains classification twice as well.  Merckx holds many cycling records, including the most stage wins at the Tour de France, of which he had 34.

Merckx made his first Tour de France appearance in 1969, and he wasted no time in turning the cycling world on its ear.  Merckx became the first cyclist to ever win all three jerseys available by winning the yellow (overall leader), green (best sprinter) and polka dot (best climber) jerseys.  He would have won the white jersey (best cyclist 25 years old and younger) if it had existed at the time.
Unfortunately, Merckx was in a terrible accident in a derny race which resulted in a cracked vertebra and twisted pelvis.  Although Merckx would go on to have even more success, he also acknowledged that the injury would go on to affect him permanently, as he was in near constant pain whenever he raced, especially while climbing.

Despite the setback, Merckx followed up his 1969 win with a dominant performance in the 1970 Tour de France.  Merckx won a record-tying 8 stages while winning the race and the mountains classification.  He also finished second in the sprinter’s classification, solidifying his reputation as a brilliant all-around cyclist.  Many wondered who, if anyone, could challenge the dominance of Merckx.
In 1971, Luis Ocaña answered that question by presenting a huge challenge to Merckx.   Ocaña took the yellow jersey and held it until a crash sadly forced him to withdraw from the race.  As a result, Merckx was able to take the lead and win the race for his third straight Tour de France victory.  The next year, Ocaña was sick and could not race, so Merckx won his fourth Tour de France.

Then, the inexplicable happened.  Merckx was actually encouraged by Tour de France officials to not participate in the 1973 Tour de France due to worries of hostilities by French fans.  Merckx was approaching Jacques Anquetil’s then-record of five wins, and many French fans didn’t want to see that happen.  Incredibly, Merckx complied and did not compete.

Merckx did compete in, and win, the 1974 Tour de France to equal Anquetil’s record of five wins.  However, when he attempted to win a sixth Tour de France in 1975, he was punched by a French fan after having led for eight days.  A later crash with Ole Ritter left him with a broken jaw, and Merckx finished the race only to finish second.

Merckx didn’t enter the 1976 Tour de France, and finished in sixth place in his final Tour de France appearance, in 1977.  In 1978, Eddy Merckx retired after an absolutely superlative career.  He retired with the most total victories by a cyclist in a career as well as in a season, so his success wasn’t limited to just the Tour de France.  Still, his performances and his wins in the Tour de France are what many fans will remember Merckx more for.

Even though Merckx almost definitely could have won more installments of the Tour de France than he did, his career stands as the standard of excellence in cycling that other greats have struggled mightily to reach.  While other riders may have met the standard that Merckx set, it’s doubtful that anyone will ever exceed it.

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Greg LeMond

Greg LeMond was the first American to ever win the Tour de France, and went on to win it a total of three times.  An outspoken critic of performance enhancing drugs and doping both during his career and afterwards, he was slowed during much of his prime by poor luck and injuries.  He competed in six installments of the Tour de France in his impressive career.

LeMond was born in Lakewood, California, and had success in his teens before being selected as part of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Cycling team.  He did not attend, however, nor did any of the American athletes that year, and the following year he turned professional.  He would compete in his first Tour de France in 1984.

His Tour de France debut was a successful one, finishing third and winning the white jersey as the best rider aged 25 years and younger.  LeMond was the first American to ever stand on the podium, but he was not done writing American cycling history.

The next year, LeMond was no longer an unknown commodity, and he finished second in the 1985 Tour de France to teammate Bernard Hinault.  Only 1 minute and 42 seconds behind Hinault at the finish, LeMond would go on to say that he could have won the race and essentially gave it away to Hinault.  Hinault said that he would return the favor and support LeMond the next year, and repeated the promise many times before the 1986 Tour de France.

The 1986 Tour de France had its share of drama, though.  Hinault rode rather aggressively throughout the race, claiming that he was wearing down the opposition for LeMond, even if it sometimes appeared that he was trying to secure the win for himself.  By the end, Hinault did relinquish the yellow jersey, though he won two late stages while finishing second to LeMond.  LeMond made history as the first American cyclist to ever win the Tour de France, and appeared to be primed to win again the next year.

However, fate intervened in a most unfortunate and unpredictable way.  While turkey hunting with his brother-in-law, LeMond was shot in the back and seriously injured.  As a result, LeMond was unable to compete in the Tour de France in 1987 and 1988.  During that time, LeMond also underwent surgery for tendinitis and appendicitis in his leg.  This incredibly disastrous series of events led to LeMond’s return to the Tour de France in 1989, and one of the great races of all time.

LeMond only expected to finish respectably in the 1989 Tour de France, but late in the race he found himself in second place by less than a minute to two-time champion Laurent Fignon.  This set the stage for a showdown in the final time trial, which LeMond would win by 58 seconds, giving him an overall win by just 8 seconds over Fignon.  It was the closest finish in Tour de France history, and the competitiveness of the race along with the tremendous story of LeMond’s return brought great attention to the sport.

In 1990, LeMond would win his last Tour de France, amazingly doing so without winning a single individual stage.  Only a few riders, including LeMond, have ever accomplished such a feat.  He got off to a poor start, at one point being over ten minutes behind, before slowly gaining on the leaders by consistently riding hard through each subsequent stage.
After his final Tour de France win, LeMond continued to race competitively for a few years before retiring in 1994.  He competed in his last Tour de France in 1991, wearing the yellow jersey for 6 days en route to finishing 7th overall.  

Since LeMond’s retirement, American cyclists such as Lance Armstrong have continued to represent the United States at the Tour de France, but LeMond will always be the one who first carried American cyclists to the top of the cycling world.

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Gustave Garrigou

Gustave Garrigou was one of the first great riders in the Tour de France.  In his short but accomplished career, he was able to win the Tour de France once, and finish on the podium a total of six times.  Although Garrigou’s career ended over 90 years ago, he remains one of the beloved French cyclists in the legendary history of the Tour de France.

Gustave Garrigou was born on September 24, 1884, and lived until 1963, when he passed away at the age of 78.  He made his debut in the Tour de France at age 22, the same year he won at Giro di Lombardia and Paris-Brussels.  His first Tour de France went similarly well, although he wasn’t able to win.  Garrigou was able to win stages 10 and 12, but wasn’t able to gain much on the leader, Lucien Petit-Breton, as he finished right behind Garrigou.  The race itself was a wild one, memorable because Émile Georget was close to winning before being penalized because he borrowed a bicycle.
The next year, Garrigou entered the 1908 Tour de France with high hopes, only to perform worse than in the previous years.  Garrigou won no stages of the Tour de France that year, and ended up finishing a disappointing fourth, while Lucien Petit-Breton won again.

The 1909 Tour de France brought more disappointment for Garrigou as well as French cycling fans, as it was the first year that a French cyclist didn’t win the race.  Garrigou finished second again (although he won a stage), and was the top French finisher of the race, with Lucien Petit-Breton not competing.  Garrigou also won a stage the next year at the 1910 Tour de France, but still failed to win, finishing third to earn another podium finish.

In 1911, it was finally Garrigou’s turn to shine, though not solely because of his own performance.  Garrigou’s greatest asset in this Tour de France was his determination and grit, as this was the most grueling edition yet.  Some of the stages required even the fastest of the field to race nearly 18 hours to complete, and only a third of the field ended up completing the race.  Among those to quit were previous winners Lucien Petit-Breton, François Faber and Octave Lapize.  Another cyclist, Paul Duboc, was in a good position to win and had been victorious in four stages, but fell ill.  All of these circumstances conspired to help Garrigou win his first and only Tour de France.  He won two stages in the process.

The next year, Garrigou’s team, Alcyon hired a new rider to assist Garrigou in repeating his win from the previous year.  Unfortunately for Garrigou, the teammate (Odiel Defraye) clearly established himself as the more capable rider early on, and he ended up winning himself.  At this point, it just seemed to be Garrigou’s luck, as he was almost always the bridesmaid, but nearly never the bride.
Garrigou gave one more good effort to win his second Tour de France in 1913, but finished 8 minutes, 37 seconds behind Philippe Thys, despite winning a stage.  Garrigou’s last appearance, in 1914, resulted in a fifth place finish three hours behind the winner (Philippe Thys, again), although he again one a stage.

Garrigou would then retire, although he would be remembered by followers of the sport for years to come.  He was the Charlie Brown of cycling for a time, always blending into the background, with only periodic success.  Still, his win in 1911, along with his other solid finishes and podium appearances, allow him to be mentioned in an elite category among professional cyclists past and present.

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Jacques Anquetil

Jacques Anquetil is famous for being the first cyclist to ever win the Tour de France five times.  Born in 1934, he would become an exceptional time trial specialist, as well as the only rider to ever wear the yellow jersey for the entirety of the Tour de France, during his 1961 win.

The French-born Anquetil was 17 years old when he first took up cycling, which he did to impress girls.  He would go on to win 16 races as an amateur, along with a bronze medal in the 1952 Olympic Games.  Then, in 1957, Anquetil would shock the cycling world, if not himself.

Anquetil had raced as a “semi-professional” for a few years when he entered his first Tour de France in 1957.  Racing at an average speed of about 34 km/h, Anquetil won four stages while finishing nearly 15 minutes ahead of second place Marcel Janssens of Belgium.  During that year’s Tour de France, Anquetil wore the yellow jersey for an incredible 16 days.

During the next three years, he would only compete in the Tour de France once, finishing third overall in the 1959 installment.  However, Anquetil was not gone for good.  He returned in 1961, boasting that he would take the yellow jersey on the first day and wear it for the entirety of the race.

Incredibly, that’s just what he did.  On a difficult course (just over half of the participants actually finished the race), Anquetil won the first stage and never relinquished the yellow jersey en route to winning his second Tour de France by a margin of over 12 minutes.  Even though Anquetil only won two total stages, he was consistent enough to dominate the field during the race.

Anquetil was only just beginning, as he would go on to win the next three installments of the Tour de France for a total of four straight wins, which was a record at the time.  In 1962, he won at a speed of over 37 km/h, which was not bested for 19 years.  In the 1963 Tour de France, he finished at just over 3 ½ minutes in front of Spain’s Federico Bahamontes, and he won his last Tour de France in 1964.  

The 1964 Tour de France win was most notable for Anquetil’s small margin of victory, as he only beat the second place Raymond Poulidor by 55 seconds.  Spectators were energized at the sight of the two of them battling elbow to elbow as Poulidor attempted a late comeback, only to see Anquetil eventually hold on for the win.  That win would be Anquetil’s last in the Tour de France.

The win in 1964 over Poulidor took a lot out of Anquetil, and he never raced in another Tour de France afterward, although he did race occasionally in other events until he retired completely in 1969.  Anquetil retired as one of the greatest cyclists of all time, and definitely of his era.  He was an inspiration to future greats, such as Bernard Hinault, and set a standard for consistency that wouldn’t be reached until Miguel Indurain’s five-year reign in the 1990’s.  Remarkably, Anquetil won five of the six times that he entered the Tour de France, and in the process he raised the standard of greatness for future champions to try to reach.

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Jan Ullrich

Jan Ullrich was one of the great riders and personalities of the Tour de France.  A German cyclist born in 1973, he would go on to become the first German rider to ever win the Tour de France.  He also built a career on his legendary consistency that unfortunately coincided with that of Lance Armstrong.  He finished in the top three of the Tour de France an incredible six times, with one win, four second place finishes and a third place finish.  He also finished fourth in 2004.

Ullrich was known as a powerful rider with great natural ability and athleticism.  He was often criticized for getting too far out of shape in the offseason, but maintained that it was not an issue, since he was always ready to race when the time came.  His start in competitive cycling came when he was 11 years old, as he had his first win at that age.  He turned professional in 1994, signing with team Telekom.

Although his first couple of years as a professional weren’t very memorable, Ullrich experienced great success in his first ever Tour de France.  Ullrich had the chance to compete in the Olympics in 1996 for his native Germany, but he passed up on the opportunity to compete in the Tour de France.  It was a decision he wouldn’t regret.  He made quite a splash, finishing second overall and winning the coveted white jersey as the best rider at age 25 and under.  He also won Stage 20 that year, finishing behind his own teammate, Bjarne Riis, by one minute and forty-one seconds. 

Ullrich quickly earned a reputation as a team player, as he dismissed any speculation that he would have won the race had he not been focusing on assisting his teammate, Riis.  His performance nonetheless impressed many Tour de France veterans, including the great Miguel Indurain.  He would go on to be one of the favorites for the 1997 race.

In 1997, Ullrich would build upon his previous success by winning his first and only Tour de France.  He won stages 10 and 12, while holding off a courageous comeback attempt by Marco Pantani, and was able to win the yellow jersey as well as a second consecutive white jersey in the overall competition.  His win captured the hearts of his home country and sparked a resurgence of interest in the sport of cycling there.

The next year began a rough period for Jan Ullrich.  He fought hard but lost the 1998 Tour de France, finishing second as Marco Pantani won.  It was a moral victory of sorts for Ullrich, as he had been fourth and several minutes back earlier in the race, but a disappointment nonetheless.  Then, in 1999, a knee injury caused by a crash would keep him out of the Tour de France.  It was the same year when Lance Armstrong won his first of seven straight Tours.

From then on, Ullrich unfortunately became known as the “eternal second” to Armstrong.  He was never able to beat Armstrong, although he finished just 61 seconds behind in 2003.  He also struggled with depression at times at this point in his career, disappointed that he couldn’t seem to defeat his rival.  In 2007, Ullrich retired, finishing one of the most storied careers in the history of cycling.  

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Joop Zoetemelk

Joop Zoetemelk was a cyclist from the Netherlands who is widely regarded as one of the greatest riders of all time.  Zoetemelk competed in an amazing 16 editions of the Tour de France, finishing the race in every one.  In a 13-year span from 1970 to 1982 (he didn’t compete in 1974), Zoetemelk finished no worse than eighth, appearing on the podium seven times.  Zoetemelk won the Tour de France once to go along with his six second place finishes.

Zoetemelk was born in 1946, and had success in the 1968 Olympic Games, winning the gold medal for team time trial along with three of his countrymen.  He would then go on to begin his professional career, with his first Tour de France appearance coming in 1970.
In the 1970 Tour de France, Zoetemelk came out of nowhere to finish second to all-time great Eddy Merckx of Belgium.  Although Zoetemelk finished over 12 minutes behind and didn’t win any stages, his performance was quite impressive, especially for someone making their first appearance in the Tour de France.

Merckx would spend the next several years of his career coming close but not quite close enough to winning in the Tour de France.  His second appearance, in 1971, led to another second place finish, again to Eddy Merckx.  This time, Zoetemelk wore the yellow jersey for the first time in his career, albeit for just one day.  In the next two years, he would not finish on the podium, although in 1973 he won his first stage along with the prologue, and spent another day wearing the coveted yellow jersey.
In 1974, Joop Zoetemelk had a career threatening injury resulting from a crash where he fractured his skull.  Luckily, Zoetemelk was able to make a full recovery and in 1975, he returned to cycling and to the Tour de France.  He picked up right where he left off, finishing fourth and even winning a stage along the way.

The next year, Zoetemelk had a legitimately good chance to come away the winner of the Tour de France, dueling with eventual winner Lucien van Impe in the mountains before finishing a few minutes behind him for yet another second place finish.  Still, it was Zoetemelk’s best showing yet, as he won three stages.

After a disappointing step backward with an eight place finish in 1977, Zoetemelk added two more second place finishes in 1978 and 1979.  Though he lost to the great Bernard Hinault both years, these were Zoetemelk’s best efforts yet, as he wore the yellow jersey for four and six days, respectively, in the two years.  Zoetemelk and his fans hoped that he had finally reached the level he needed to win the Tour de France, after five second place finishes.  It turns out that he had.

In 1980, Zoetemelk won the Tour de France for the first time with a margin of about seven minutes ahead of the second place Hennie Kuiper.  Although Zoetemelk won only two stages, he was consistent throughout and held onto the yellow jersey for ten days of the race.  After ten years of competing in the Tour de France, Zoetemelk had finally reached the summit.

Many thought that Zoetemelk could add another win or two to his Tour de France resume before his career was finished, but it was not to be.  He did add another respectable fourth place finish and a last podium finish (second place) in 1982, but in the mid-80’s, Zoetemelk’s performances declined in quality.  He finished 23rd in 1983, 30th in 1984, 12th in 1985 and finally, 24th in his last Tour de France appearance in 1986.  In 1987, he retired.

It’s easy to wonder what Joop Zoetemelk’s resumé would look like if he had not raced in an era with greats like Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault.  However, despite the stiff competition he faced, Zoetemelk’s Tour de France win in 1980 and five second place finishes place him squarely among the best to ever compete in the Tour de France.

Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Lance Armstrong

Even those who are relatively unfamiliar with the ins and outs of the sport of cycling can tell you who Lance Armstrong is.  There are many people worldwide who don’t know the difference between the yellow jersey and the polka dot jersey, but are familiar with Armstrong’s legendary triumphs at the Tour de France, and his courageous battles with cancer.  Let’s take a look at the many great performances of Lance Armstrong on cycling’s biggest stage, the Tour de France.

Armstrong was born in Plano, Texas in 1971.  He began competing in his teens as a triathlete rather than as a pure cyclist.  As he got toward adulthood, he began competing in cycling events, before turning pro in 1992 at age twenty one.  He quickly found success, winning individual stages in several races, as well as being the overall winner of the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic.

In 1993, Lance Armstrong had his first slice of success in the Tour de France, winning Stage 8.  Unfortunately, he was unable to build on that success right away, as his only other stage victory at the Tour de France in the next few years was in 1995, when he won Stage 18 of that year’s race.  Of course, Armstrong had an uphill battle, as he was diagnosed with cancer in 1996.  Only in 1998, after extensive chemotherapy, was Armstrong able to return to competitive cycling.

Then, in 1999, he began a run the likes of which has never been seen in the cycling world, and which will likely never be seen again.

During the 1999 Tour de France, Lance Armstrong was excellent.  He won four stages as well as the overall race for his first-ever Tour de France victory.  The race itself was notable not only for Armstrong’s win, but also for a twenty five rider pile-up at Passage du Gois.  The next year, Armstrong only won one stage, but was consistent overall as he took the yellow jersey in Stage 10 and never surrendered it.  

Armstrong won his third-straight Tour de France in 2001, again besting the perennial runner-up Jan Ullrich by several minutes. Armstrong’s characteristic endurance allowed him to again take the yellow jersey in the middle portion of the race and never relinquish it.  Among the highlights of his 2001 win was his famous “look back” at Ullrich as they rode on Alpe d’Huez.

In 2002, Armstrong again finished strongly, winning three of the last ten stages to hold onto the yellow jersey, after surrendering it early in the race.  His arch rival, Jan Ullrich was unable to compete due to injury.  Armstrong made it an unbelievable five straight with his win in 2003, which was almost made impossible by a near crash that Armstrong barely avoided, that took Joseba Beloki out of the running.
By 2004, many fans and experts were wondering when Armstrong would run out of steam.  However, Armstrong was as amazing as ever, winning an amazing five stages en route to  his sixth straight Tour de France win.  He did not take the yellow jacket until Stage 15, but still finished six minutes ahead of the competition.  In his final Tour de France in 2005, Armstrong made history once again with his seventh straight win.  The accomplishment was enhanced by the fact that Armstrong wore the yellow jersey for all but four stages during the race.  It was also Armstrong’s first Tour de France while racing with the Discovery Channel team.

Armstrong finished his career as one of the only cyclists to transcend the sport and become a major celebrity outside of the cycling world, especially in the United States.   His exploits in cycling and particularly in the Tour de France not only captivated the world, but brought new light to the great sport of cycling.  Whether or not anyone is ever able to equal or best his amazing accomplishments, Armstrong will remain a legend in Tour de France history.

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