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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Tour legend, cycling superstar

Chris Boardman
Former Tour de France yellow jersey wearer

I remember riding next to Lance Armstrong at the 1996 Tour de France. He was telling me he was feeling really terrible and was all set to quit.

I wished him well, he stepped off the bike and the next day he was diagnosed with cancer. The rest, as they say, is history.

Lance Armstrong (left) with Chris Boardman at the 1994 Tour de France
Armstrong and Boardman have competed at the Tour before
When he came back to the peloton after recovering from such an horrific illness, we were all pretty curious.

But you have to remember, athletes are a very selfish breed. All of us were very focused and pretty self-obsessed.

We were all thinking the same thing - it's impressive but he's never going to do anything fantastic, he was barely hanging onto his Cofidis contract at the time, they were only doing the right thing by him, and so on.

But they must be kicking themselves now and Lance has certainly silenced a lot of his past and current peers.

Arguably the hardest thing to achieve as a cyclist is to win the Tour de France - it's our Wimbledon or Super Bowl.

And the fact that Lance did that six times, and could even go on to win a seventh, is awesome.

He's unique and everyone around the world, even from other sports, can appreciate what he's achieved.

I remember when I last rode it in 1998. I briefly took the yellow jersey before crashing out. Then, I never envisaged he would even challenge for the win the following year. But he did - I guess that was the last time he surprised me.

It simply became a case of "who's going to beat him?" rather than "will he win?".

There's no doubting he's one of the greatest and will always be compared to the likes of Eddy Merckx or Bernard Hinault, but that makes no sense to me.

ARMSTRONG'S CAREER
Lance Armstrong after announcing his decision to retire
1971: Born in Dallas, Texas
1991: Becomes US national amateur champion
1993: Wins first Tour de France stage but fails to finish race
1996: Diagnosed with testicular cancer
1997: Declared cancer free. Joins US Postal team
1999: Wins first Tour de France
2004: Wins a record sixth-straight Tour
2005: Announces retirement
Merckx won the whole spectrum of races - all the big tours, the world championships and the big one-day races.

I'm sure Armstrong has the ability to have won all of those too.

But cycling has completely changed in the modern day and that's just not possible now, even for the greatest rider of his generation.

Added to that, Merckx was only famous for being a phenomenal bike rider. Armstrong is so much more than that.

He became cycling's first global superstar. OK, the Tour was Armstrong's springboard, but his adversity and the way he came back and what he's done off the bike, bring so much more appeal.

He made cycling a consumer issue and massively hiked up the salaries of professional riders.

I'm certain he doesn't consider himself just a cyclist and my prediction is he'll end up going into politics.

Knowing his character, that wouldn't surprise me. He won't go quietly, spending his time sipping a beer on the porch of his family home.

I've not spoken to him for a long time but I don't imagine he's a different person from when I knew him.

He was always aggressive and tenacious, but that got the job done. To me he was a colleague, an acquaintance, but not a friend.

He's one of the most tested athletes in the world - what more can he do than pass test after test?
In the Armstrong bubble, you were either with him or against him. That's just the way he did things, and people will have to say he did them very successfully.

He is forthright in his views and very sharp and, under stress, snaps back. I guess that's why he's riled a few people.

He's never been well liked by the French - they like to knock down people at their peak - and his career has been dogged by drug controversy.

But he's one of the most tested athletes in the world - what more can he do than pass test after test?

He'll certainly leave a hole in the sport as he's big business and a huge character, but he's not about to go away.

And there's always a new superstar waiting to pop up. It'll just be interesting to see who the next Armstrong will be.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Report: BBC's Adam Parson on Armstrong's future


Report: BBC Five Live's Simon Brotherton



SEE ALSO
Merckx leads Armstrong tributes
19 Apr 05 |  Cycling
Armstrong to bow out after Tour
18 Apr 05 |  Cycling
Lance Armstrong's career in photos
18 Apr 05 |  Photo Galleries
Armstrong joins the stars
18 Apr 05 |  Cycling
Great, but there are greater
18 Apr 05 |  Cycling
Lance Armstrong timeline
19 Jul 04 |  Cycling


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