Tour de France: Lance keeps on rolling to record

For the fifth time in six years, Lance Armstrong was once again invincible in the Tour's final time-trial, again confirming his total superiority in this year's race. Given this was Armstrong's fifth stage win since he outsprinted Ivan Basso on the slopes of Plateau-de- Beille exactly a week before, any other result would have been a huge upset.

But there was little chance, barring an untimely crash, of Armstrong failing to deliver the goods on a 55km route starting and finishing - appropriately enough for a time trial - in Besançon, known in France as the "city of the watchmakers". Rather than take any risks on roads still wet after the morning's thunderstorms, Armstrong opened up a gap of 43 seconds on Jan Ullrich in the first third of a rolling, technical course that swooped through the pastureland of the Doubs before turning back to Besançon.

Thereafter he was largely content to maintain that margin, keeping the pedals turning steadily and flashing across the line 61 seconds ahead of Ullrich.

"I am very happy that it's all over," a visibly relieved Armstrong said afterwards. He had special praise for his back-up staff, saying that "a lot of work in wind tunnels this winter has meant that my head and back are as perfect as you can get aerodynamically". However, he was understandably looking forward to the Champs-Elysées, saying: "It's a special feeling for me and for any rider".

Despite gaining motivation from the thousands of German supporters who had crossed over the nearby Rhine to cheer on the T-Mobile co-leaders, Ullrich and Andreas Klöden, Ullrich was unable to fulfil his dream of finishing on the podium for a sixth time in Paris.

Whilst the 1997 Tour winner was forced to settle for fourth, his team-mate Klöden, 26 seconds slower than Ullrich, easily outstripped the non-specialist Basso - a disappointing sixth on the stage - for third place in Besançon and the runner's-up spot in Paris.

Given that this time-trial was his rival's last realistic chance to unseat Armstrong - now 6min 38sec ahead of Klöden - nothing will now stop the Texan from taking a sixth consecutive win in Paris today.

While it is a largely symbolic ride in the French capital for the general classification riders, the final 163km stage, finishing with the traditional 10 laps on the Champs-Elysées, will still be critical for the green points-jersey competition. Four sprinters - the Australians Stuart O'Grady and Robbie McEwen, German Erik Zabel and Norwegian Thor Hushovd - are all still in contention for the jersey awarded to the most consistent finisher.

McEwen currently leads by 11 points over Hushovd, but the Australian knows only too well what it means to lose the green jersey in Paris.

Last year, the Fdjeux.com sprinter Baden Cooke wrenched it from his grasp on the last sprint of the race - something now beyond all possibility for Armstrong and cycling's greatest treasure, the yellow jersey.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine