Great Cyclists of the Tour de France: Lance Armstrong

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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