Tour de France: Armstrong seals ultimate triumph

American provides powerful example for cancer sufferers and restores stature of tainted event

IT WAS the stuff of movies, but as Lance Armstrong said: "It's not Hollywood. It's a true story." The American was trying to bring perspective to his achievement in winning the Tour de France three years after facing death from cancer.

As he stood on the podium on the Champs-Elysees, the yellow jersey of Tour winner on his shoulders, the strains of "The Star-Spangled Banner" filling the air, he was viewed by many as the saviour of an event haunted by last year's doping scandal.

"If I had to put money on the `cleanest' Tour winner, it would go on Armstrong," one former Tour rider said, but even the American had to contend with accusations that his achievement was somehow tainted.

"I am absolutely happy to win because of the speculation and innuendo," he said, referring essentially to Le Monde newspaper's ill-founded allegations about his use of forbidden corticoids.

He heads for New York on Wednesday to sign a book deal, talk over plans for a documentary film, discuss a couple of endorsement deals, star in a few talk-shows, and rake in a million dollars or so. It is, however, time to roll the credits on a story that touched on triumph, emotion, rejection, courage, and one man's refusal to cave in to anything that life tossed his way.

It opened in Oslo on a rainy day six years ago when a 21-year-old Texan insisted that his mum, Linda, came too when, as the new world champion, he was presented to the King of Norway.

To American cycling he was the new era after Greg LeMond had given them glory in the toughest cycling arena with three Tour wins and world titles. Then late in 1996 Armstrong was diagnosed as having testicular cancer. It proved to be not the end, but the beginning of an inspirational struggle to be the best again, and help other cancer sufferers with his own cancer research foundation.

"I was prepared to forget the sport. There was a very real possibility that I would have to forget a lot of things. I just wanted to keep living. It was scary," Armstrong said. "Now my victory is going to give inspiration to those who never had it. The disease was a good thing for me. I would not change anything. I came back with a new perspective. I am hungry now on the bike."

LeMond, too, had to fight back after being shot in a hunting accident, but he said: "I never regained the same potential or the same health. I am still bitter about it, but Lance `in yellow' is perfect."

The toughest thing for Armstrong was reviving faith in his ability. "When I wanted to find a team no one took me because it was not possible. No one rang me back. No one believed in me."

Then US Postal had faith, and yesterday on the Champs-Elysees they got their reward. His contract, renewed for two years last week, is still packed with performance clauses, which work both ways. "Johan Bruyneel was the first man to believe in me. When he got the job of team manager with US Postal he sent me an e-mail, saying: `I look forward to being with you when you wear the jersey in Paris'.

"His direction, focus, and passion made me decide to race the Tour," said Armstrong, who believed that he was only a single-day racing specialist. "I have worked hard and passionately, and sacrificed everything for this race."

Bruyneel, Armstrong's rival on a bike last year, said Armstrong was unique. "He is not like any of the great champions I have known. The difference is his mental strength and extraordinary determination."

Armstrong so inspired Jose Maria Jiminez in last year's Vuelta a Espana that the Spanish rider offered him the chance to win a stage. "I would have liked him to win because of his great merit in fighting cancer. It would have been beautiful," Jiminiz said. But Armstrong recalled: "I could not do it. I was empty."

Armstrong had already had a brush with tragedy in 1995 when his team- mate, Fabio Casartelli, died from injuries suffered in a crash, and two days later as Armstrong crossed the line first in Limoges, he pointed to the sky. "I did it for Fabio, his family, his friends, and the Italian people. I will never feel those emotions again," he said.

He will experience a new emotion in Octobert. His wife, Kristin, is expecting their first child. Others had their moments of triumph in this Tour which was the first to exceed an average speed of 40 kph [25mph] in covering 3,686km (2,290 miles).

Switzerland's Alex Zulle, beaten by 7min 37sec, said: "I rode all out and took all kinds of risks throughout the three weeks but I could not beat Armstrong."

The Australian Robbie McEwen won the final stage on the Champs-Elysees ahead of Germany's Erik Zabel, who equalled Sean Kelly's record of four green-jerseys, the colours awarded for consistency in finishing.

The last overall victory for France is in the dim and distant past: 1985 to be exact, and this Tour was even more forgettable. For the first time in 73 years the hosts did not win a stage, and Jacky Durand was the fifth consecutive Frenchman to take the "lanterne rouge" for the last man overall.

Their sole triumph was in the mountains department with Richard Virenque winning his fifth polka-dotted jersey in six years. Yet he was the man the organisers did not want in the race because of his association with the doping scandal which still rumbles on.

TOUR DE FRANCE RESULTS

FINAL OVERALL STANDINGS

(after 20 stages totalling 3,686.8km-2,290 miles)

1 L Armstrong (US) US Postal

91hr 32min 16sec

2 A Zulle (Swit) Banesto at 7min 37sec

3 F Escartin (Sp) Kelme +10:26

4 L Dufaux (Swit) Saeco +14:43

5 A Casero (Sp) Vitalicio Seguros +15:11

6 A Olano (Sp) ONCE +16:47

7 D Nardello (It) Mapei +17:02

8 R Virenque (Fr) Polti +17:28

9 W Belli (It) Festina +17:37

10 A Peron (It) ONCE +23:10

11 K van de Wouwer (Bel) Lotto +23:32; 12 D Etxebarria (Sp) Kelme +26:41; 13 T Hamilton (US) US Postal +26:59; 14 S Heulot (Fr) La Francaise de Jeux +27:58; 15 Roland Meier (Swit) Cofidis +28:44; 16 B Salmon (Fr) Casino +28:59; 17 A Elli (It) Telekom +33:39; 18 P Lanfranchi (It) Mapei +34:14; 19 C Contreras (Col) Kelme +34:33; 20 G Totschnig (Aut) Telekom +37:10. Selected: 56 Boogerd +1hr 42min 32sec; 119 Boardman +2.47:48.

20TH AND FINAL STAGE (143.5km, Arpajon to Paris): 1 R McEwen (Aus) Rabobank; 3hr 37min 39sec; 2 E Zabel (Ger) Telekom; 3 S Martinello (It) Polti; 4 S O'Grady (Aus) Credit Agricole; 5 C da Cruz (Fr) Big Mat; 6 L Michaelsen (Den) La Francaise de Jeux; 7 S Commesso (It) Saeco; 8 T Steels (Bel) Mapei; 9 S Wesemann (Ger) Telekom; 10 G Mondini (It) Cantina Tollo; 11 H Vogels (Aus) Credit Agricole; 12 C Moreau (Fr) Festina; 13 J Durand (Fr) Lotto; 14 M Piccoli (It) Lampre; 15 P Chanteur (Fr) Casino; 16 F Simon (Fr) Credit Agricole; 17 L Mazzanti (It) Cantina Tollo; 18 D Konyshev (Rus) Mercatone Uno; 19 C Capelle (Fr) Big Mat; 20 L Auger (Fr) Big Mat. Selected: 38 M Boogerd (Neth) Rabobank; 49 A Olano (Sp) ONCE; 55 R Virenque (Fr) Polti, all same time.

19TH STAGE (57km time trial, Futuroscope): 1 L Armstrong (US) US Postal 1hr 8min 17sec; 2 A Zulle (Swit) Banesto +9sec; 3 T Hamilton (US) US Postal +1:35; 4 A Casero (Sp) Vitali Seguros +1:37; 5 R Verbrugghe (Bel) Lotto +2:03; 6 A Olano (Sp) ONCE +2:18; 7 W Belli (It) Festina +2:23; 8 A Gonzalez Galdeano (Sp) Vitali +2:28; 9 J Voigt (Ger) Credit Agricole +2:45; 10 S O'Grady (Aus) CA +2:47; 11 A Peron (It) ONCE +2:53; 12 S Gonzalez (Sp) ONCE +3:04; 13 G Maignan (Fr) Casino +3:04; 14 L Brochard (Fr) Festina +3:04; 15 C Boardman (GB) Credit Agricole +3:29; 16 C Vandevelde (US) US Postal +3:41; 17 D Nardello (It) Mapei +3:43; 18 S Heulot (Fr) La Francaise De Jeux +3:51; 19 E Dekker (Neth) Rabobank +3:52; 20 F Jeker (Swit) Festina +3:55.

WINNERS ON THE ROAD TO PARIS

Date Stage Stage winner Race leader

3 July Prologue Lance Armstrong (US) Armstrong

4 July 1st Jaan Kirsipuu (Est) Armstrong

5 July 2nd Tom Steels (Bel) Kirsipuu

6 July 3rd Steels Kirsipuu

7 July 4th Mario Cipollini (It) Kirsipuu

8 July 5th Cipollini Kirsipuu

9 July 6th Cipollini Kirsipuu

10 July 7th Cipollini Kirsipuu

11 July 8th Armstrong Armstrong

13 July 9th Armstrong Armstrong

14 July 10th Giuseppe Guerini (It) Armstrong

15 July 11th Ludo Dierckxsens (Bel) Armstrong

16 July 12th David Etxebarria (Sp) Armstrong

17 July 13th Salvatore Commesso (It) Armstrong

18 July 14th Dimitri Konyshev (Rus) Armstrong

20 July 15th Fernando Escartin (Sp) Armstrong

21 July 16th Etxebarria Armstrong

22 July 17th Steels Armstrong

23 July 18th Gianpaolo Mondini (It) Armstrong

24 July 19th Armstrong Armstrong

25 July 20th Robbie McEwan (Aus) Armstrong

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsWelsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
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

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

Time to stop running

At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence