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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 June 2005, 19:19 GMT 20:19 UK
Lance Armstrong
ARMSTRONG FACTFILE
Lance Armstrong
DOB: 18/8/1971
Nationality: American
Best Tours: Winner - 1999-2004
As always the build-up to this year's Tour de France was all about six-time winner Lance Armstrong.

But unlike previous seasons, the debate was over whether he would turn up at all, let alone set the standard on cycling's premier event.

For all the soap-opera-like drama and a less-than-perfect preparation for the race, he will once again pop on his lycra and hope to edge his rivals.

For once, though, the opposition could prove too strong for him.

Admittedly last year he had a relatively easy time of it, and only CSC rider Ivan Basso found a way to keep up with him on the toughest ascents.

But Armstrong has not exactly been firing on all cylinders so far this season.

He bowed out of his season-opening race, the Paris-Nice, citing a sore throat after terrible conditions on the opening three stages.

And shortly afterwards he admitted his level of fitness for the race was some way off where he wanted to be.

Whatever form he ends up showing, this looks set to be his last Tour with his place already guaranteed in cycling history.

He no longer quite seems to have the same religious, almost freakish, preparation for the annual race as before.

Armstrong is one of those few cyclists whose fame transcends the limits of his sport.

His dedication is legendary. Like other current sporting greats such as Tiger Woods or Michael Schumacher, Armstrong is not only the best, he also works hardest.

There is very little else to say about the Texan's efforts which has not already been publicised all over the world.

His successful battle against testicular cancer and his sextet of wins in the Tour de France have both been well documented.

Armstrong's early career saw him represent the USA at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and his first big Tour success came in 1993 when he won a stage.

A promising career took a further step when he became the youngest road race world champion at the age of 21.

All that success was put on hold following successful chemotherapy treatment for cancer so advanced that many thought it a miracle he survived.

But, when he returned to training, he found his muscle grew back in a different way to make him a sleaker and more competitive cyclist, particularly in the mountains.

He has used that new strength to become a formidable sportsman whose electric acceleration at crucial points on gruelling climbs is a key weapon in his Tour success.

It remains to be seen whether the 2005 race will once again be the Tour de Lance.




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