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Sunday, 23 July, 2000, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Armstrong rides to victory
Lance in yellow
Armstrong celebrates the result of hard work
American cyclist Lance Armstrong rides into Paris and the record books on Sunday to retain the Tour de France title he won last year.

The Texan is the first man to hang onto cycling's greatest crown since Miguel Indurain five years ago.

The special talents required to be a Tour champion mean that a select band of four men have won the event five times.

Zabel
Erik Zabel wins a historic fifth green jersey
But there are many more who have been unable to repeat their first success, including the winners between 1996 and 1998.

The nature of Sunday's final stage in the French capital means that Armstrong is secure in the knowledge that, whoever wins the final sprint to the Champs Elysee finish line, he will end the race as winner.

The day will also end in a historic achievement for Germany, celebrations in Columbia and Spain, relief in France itself and renewed hope for the small army of British cycling fans.

German Erik Zabel will win his fifth successive green points jersey, beating the previous record of four held by Irishman Sean Kelly.

Millar
Britain's David Millar finishes his first Tour strongly
Columbia's only finisher Santiago Botero is King of the Mountains in his first Tour, while his Spanish Kelme squad are also likely to celebrate a hard-fought win in the team prize.

The climbers in their distinctive lime green outfits have enlivened the mountain stages and proved that the Tour were right to invite them to the party as a wild card entrant.

Spain has the best young rider Francisco Mancebo, and four of the top ten, including third-placed finisher Joseba Beloki.

Botero wins stage
Santiago Botero and Kelme have had a great Tour
France can look back on two stage wins after none in the 1999 race, while in Britain the performance of opening stage winner David Millar has impressed his followers.

The 23-year-old will be the race's youngest finisher - 62nd of the 128 survivors.

But all these achievements will be put in the shade by Armstrong.

The American has a lead of six minutes over one of the one-time winners from the 1990s, Jan Ullrich, the German who won three years ago and is now set for a third second place to go with his single win.

During this year's race Armstrong has also seen off the challenge of 1998 champion Marco Pantani.

Armstrong's efforts are made all the more special by the fact that as Denmark's Bjarne Riis held the crown four years ago, the American was diagnosed with testicular cancer and given a minimal chance of survival.


Cancer was probably the best thing that ever happened to me - it nearly killed me, but instead it made me a better athlete
  Lance Armstrong
Last year the battling Texan completed one sport's great comebacks.

This time he has defied the critics who said last year's win was more down to the absence of Ullrich and Pantani.

The scale of Armstrong's two victories leaves no-one in any doubt about his superiority.

Last year he was almost eight minutes ahead of Alex Zulle, and this time's six is a huge margin in the competitive, team-controlled world of modern bike racing.


No matter how hard things might look at a given moment, they could never be as hard as when I was back in Austin in a hospital bed with my hair falling out
  Armstrong on the mountains
The way he has won both titles has stunned and impressed experienced Tour-watchers.

Armstrong has been as dominant as Indurain was in the time trials, winning four of the Tour's last five.

But unlike the great Spaniard Armstrong has also thrilled the fans with stunning performances over the mountains to Sestriers, Hautacam and Mont Ventoux.

On each occasion the best mountain climbers in the world simply could not hold onto his wheel.

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See also:

12 Jul 00 |  Tour de France
Millar on the road to hell
21 Jul 00 |  Tour de France
Brotherton's Tour moment
14 Jul 00 |  Tour de France
Millar rides on
12 Jul 00 |  Tour de France
Yates: Millar has sights on white
28 Jun 00 |  Tour de France
David Millar: Britain's new hope
21 Jul 00 |  Tour de France
Commesso sprints to victory
19 Jul 00 |  Tour de France
Dekker grabs hat-trick
21 Jul 00 |  Tour de France
Armstrong charges towards Paris
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