Paris: Lance Armstrong celebrated the centenary of the Tour de France by winning the world’s most famous cycle race for the fifth time on Sunday, a feat only four other men had achieved.
The 31-year-old cancer survivor, who came back from the near-fatal disease in 1999 to win his first Tour, emulated France’s Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, Belgian Eddy Merckx and Spain’s Miguel Indurain at the end of the 152-km final stage to the Champs-Elysees.
“It’s a great feeling when someone like Hinault comes to you on the podium to says ‘welcome to the club’,” said Armstrong, who beat German Jan Ullrich by 61 seconds overall, his narrowest Tour win by far.
Kazakh Alexander Vinokourov was third, four minutes 14 seconds behind the US Postal team leader, who was challenged and tested for the three weeks, 20 stages and 3,427 km of fastest Tour ever, raced at an average of 40.940 kph.
Tour organisers could not have dreamt of a more fitting winner for the centenary of their race. “It was superb, the best race in 20 years or at least since 1989 when I took over as the Tour director,” said Tour director Jean-Marie Leblanc.
US Postal fined
Meanwhile, Armstrong and his Postal teammates were each fined for sporting an illegal jersey during the last stage to Paris.
The nine riders wore a jersey showing the emblem of their sponsors, an eagle, instead of their regular gear on Sunday.
They were individually fined 200 Swiss francs ($148.5) while the team was handed a fine of 4,500-francs.