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  Sunday, 29 July, 2001, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Armstrong's winning ways
Lance Armstrong is congratulated by his US Postal team-mates
Armstrong is congratulated by his team-mates
BBC Sport Online profiles Lance Armstrong after his third consecutive Tour de France win.

For a third successive year, Lance Armstrong has once again proved himself, head and shoulders above the competition in the Tour de France.

The American said his third triumph was the best so far and added that he had a fourth victory in his sights.

"It's the best feeling of the last three (wins)," he said.

"As always I am happy to finally arrive, to finally finish the Tour. It's a special feeling."

But the Texan added: "The fourth (title) is still the first goal."

The 29-year-old sent out a warning to his rivals that he may be around for some time yet.

"I love what I do - I love the approach, the preparation, I love the race and as long as that stays the same, I'll be around for years," he added.

"The Tour de France is the most beautiful, the biggest, and most special race in the world for me, and for the United States."

Magic number

Armstrong becomes the first American rider to win the Tour three times in a row.

Armstrong's compatriot Greg LeMond also won the Tour three times, an feat also achieved by Louison Bobet and Philippe Thys.

Still only 29, Armstrong also looks well placed to reach the magic number of five Tour victories.

Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain are the only men to have achieved that feat in the race's 98-year history.

  Armstrong factfile
1971: Born in Plano, Texas
1991: Becomes US amateur cycling champion
1992: Turns professional with US team Motorola
1993: Races in first Tour de France - and wins a stage
1996: Joins Cofidis team but is diagnosed as having testicular cancer
1998: Returns to the sport with US Postal team
1999: Wins Tour de France
2000: Retains Tour de France title
2001: Wins third consecutive Tour de France

It's ironic that Armstrong might never had found the prodigious strength to helped him to his Tour hat-trick had he not suffered life-threatening testicular cancer in 1996.

For a time it was touch and go whether Armstrong would survive.

The American underwent chemotherapy and surgery. His treatment left him a gaunt shadow of the athlete he once was.

When he was given the all clear to resume training Armstrong found that his muscle grew back in a different way than before.

When his weight stabilised, he was much lighter than his pre-cancer weight of 12 stone.

The new, sleeker Armstrong realised he was able to cope with the decisive mountain stages of the Tour - the stages that had previously scuppered his challenge.

Destroyed

Armstrong's latest tour de force once again saw him dominate the mountains.

In the Alps he destroyed his main rival Jan Ullrich before racing away for a solo win at the Alpe d'Huez.

The next day he followed that by winning the crucial mountain time trial.

Lance Armstrong
Armstrong is aiming to win a fourth Tour de France
On the tough 13th stage in the Pyrenees he again rode to a solo victory to gain the yellow jersey.

No wonder Armstrong has often said that the cancer is the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Armstrong, even after he got back on his bike at the start of the 1998 European season with his new US Postal Service team, thought of retirement.

However he claimed a fourth-place finish at the Tour of Spain, a result that boosted his confidence returned.

The following year Armstrong won his first Tour de France.

As a youngster he showed the iron resolve that has served him so well in the Tour, winning the Iron Kids Triathlon at the age of 13.

Inauspicious start

Three years later he became a professional tri-athlete.

Turning to cycling, he represented America in the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, turning professional the same year.

His pro career in the saddle had an inauspicious beginning in the Classica San Sebastian - he finished last, 27 minutes behind the winner.

A year later he came back from that underwhleming debut start to win a stage win in his first Tour de France.

At the age of 21 he then became the youngest ever road race world champion.

Armstrong and his wife Kristin - the couple married in 1998 - have one son Luke. Kristin is expecting twin girls in December.

The Texan had entered the last day virtually assured of the title - barring any mishap - and 70th place was enough to assure him victory.

He ended the race nearly seven minutes clear of Jan Ullrich.

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