Tour de France: Sorry, Lance. You might be a legend, but you can't wear that kit

Lance Armstrong wanted to end his Tour de France career on a winning note. Instead, his chances of victory long since gone, he was denied even the dignified exit he must have hoped for yesterday when, as the final stage of his final Tour was getting under way, officials told him and his team-mates to stop riding and change their kit.

A former cancer sufferer who has his own foundation – Livestrong – to fight the illness, the 38-year-old American and his RadioShack squad had planned to wear special jerseys on the Champs Elysées to raise awareness for his campaign. The garments were snazzy, all-black affairs with a huge 28 to represent the 28 million people affected by cancer worldwide. But despite having the best of intentions, the team was told by the men in suits – the International Cycling Union (UCI) – that the jerseys could not be worn.

The stage start was delayed by a tense 20 minutes as officials argued with Armstrong's team about the change, pointing out that the jerseys lacked prior authorisation. A compromise allowed the riders to pedal through the warm-up zone wearing their Livestrong tops. But the situation then became ridiculous as the American and his team had to take off their gear in front of spectators in the town of Longjumeau outside Paris.

While Armstrong's change was not shown on television, his team-mates were filmed squatting on the pavement and roadside frantically getting changed while the rest of the bunch slowpedalled and laughed into their (perfectly legal) sleeves.

Armstrong, visibly annoyed by the dispute, then broke another rule. His usual jersey, fished out of a following car, did not have his identifying number glued to its back. He was forced to drop back to his team car to get a replacement. He rejoined the peloton with his race numbers flapping wildly in the wind - "as if," commented the Tour's official website, "he was a first-year junior starting his first race."

Armstrong is far from a rookie, however. Seven times a Tour winner after recovering from testicular cancer, he retired in 2005 but staged a staged a comeback last year, finishing a superb third overall at the age of 37. But his final Tour has gone badly askew. He has crashed four times – more than in his previous 12 Tours put together – and the resulting injuries from one bad fall in the Alps two weeks ago wrecked his challenge. Since then, he has barely been noticed in the bunch.

It would be hard if not impossible to find equivalents of such obsessive stickling in other sports – telling Michael Schumacher in his last Formula One race that he could not wear a different colour helmet, perhaps, or ruling that Tiger Woods could not use a different colour club.

Nor is the final stage of the Tour a serious racing affair, barring the last few laps of the Champs Elysées: in the first few kilometres, the overall winner, Alberto Contador, could be seen swigging a glass of champagne and firing a water-pistol while pedalling along.

The ban on Armstrong's jerseys seemed particularly insensitive, as one of French television's main commentators for the Tour, double winner Laurent Fignon, was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

Despite undergoing treatment, Fignon has continued to provide race analysis this year, his shaven head, hoarse voice and intense, bespectacled stare a regular feature of the coverage.

The UCI initially announced a 6,200 Swiss franc (£3,800) fine, but later backpedalled somewhat, saying that it would be donated to a cancer charity.

Finding himself at the mercy of the Tour's rule enforcers over something so trival must have been hard to take for Armstrong, but at least he and his team had the last laugh, donning their black jerseys to receive their prize as the best Tour team and for their lap of honour on the Champs Elysées – where not even cycling's jobsworths could reach them.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

£38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

£35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

£15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea