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Sunday, 23 July, 2000, 17:43 GMT 18:43 UK
Armstrong rides to victory
Lance, Kristin and Luke Armstrong
Armstrong and family celebrate on the podium
American cyclist Lance Armstrong has ridden into the record books to retain the Tour de France title he won last year.

The Texan, who is the first man to hang onto cycling's greatest crown since Spain's Miguel Indurain five years ago, vowed to repeat his success.

"It was a hard Tour de France and I'm glad it's finished... but I'll be back next year, I can promise you that," he said

Italian rider Stefano Zanini won the final stage of the race, a traditional bunch sprint on the famous Champs Elysees.

It was a first stage win for the Mapei rider, but this was Armstrong's day - less than four years after he was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer.


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
The nature of Sunday's final stage in the French capital meant that Armstrong was secure in the knowledge that he would end the race as winner.

Because of his insurmountable lead, fellow riders joked and clowned with Armstrong as they coasted through Paris watched by huge crowds.

Armstrong donned a long-haired wig, and using a pocket camera took snaps of the American tourists shooting pictures of him.

When passed a glass of local bubbly, Armstrong raised a toast as he pedalled, even though he'd earlier declared that he wasn't "a champagne kinda guy."

Impressive record

The American ended with a lead of six minutes over 1997 winner Jan Ullrich, who has now finished runner-up three times.

  Armstrong at the Tour
2000: Winner, one stage win
1999: Winner, four stage wins
1996: Did not finish
1995: 36th after one stage win, team-mate Fabio Casarteli killed in Pyrenean crash
1994: Did not finish
1993: Won one stage, but later retired

Earlier Ullrich, who missed last year's race through injury, said he though Armstrong "the rightful holder of the yellow jersey."

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

However, Armstrong paid tribute to Pantani, saying he believed the rivalry himself and the former champion would prove "interesting".

Armstrong's victory answers the critics who said last year's win was due to the absence of former winners.

Armstrong and the Eiffel Tour
Armstrong: Hitting the heights after experiencing the lows
Last year was Armstrong's great comeback. This year will be seen as a vindication of his very special talent and incredible fighting spirit.

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

But the way he has won both titles has also stunned and impressed experienced Tour-watchers.

Armstrong has been as dominant as five-time winner Indurain was in the time trials, taking 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 Sestrieres, Hautacam and Mont Ventoux.

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

After this performance they must go back to the drawing board and their training plans in an effort to beat him next year.

Other winners

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

Zabel and son, for the fifth time
Sprint king Erik Zabel's son is a veteran of five podiums
Columbia's only finisher Santiago Botero became King of the Mountains in his first Tour, while his Spanish Kelme squad celebrated a hard-fought win in the team prize.

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

"Beloki showed his class in the mountains and in the time trials," noted an impressed Lance Armstrong.

"He won't be a surprise next year, but a Tour favourite," he added.

See also:

23 Jul 00 | Tour de France
23 Jul 00 | Tour de France
23 Jul 00 | Tour de France
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