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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 July, 2005, 05:56 GMT 06:56 UK
Tour of champions
By Alex Trickett

(From left to right) Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong

As Lance Armstrong rides off into the sunset with a record seven Tour de France wins to his name, his status as a legend of cycling is secure.

In his era, no man had an answer for his speed, determination and pedal-pushing power, but how would the Texan have got on alongside the Tour greats of yesteryear?

Two years ago, BBC Sport pitted Armstrong against the other five-time winners - Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain - in a virtual "Tour of Champions".

Armstrong finished third to Merckx and Hinault then, but his legacy has grown since and, with his career over, now is the time for a re-run.

Stripping each man of his domestiques, we speculate how the five would have fared over the key 2005 stages.


Stage one - time trial:


Little more than a leg-stretching exercise, there is not much to pick between the riders on this sprint against the clock.

Armstrong makes an uncharacteristic mistake at the start when his foot briefly slips from the pedal.

That is enough to put him behind Indurain, Merckx and Anquetil, who delights the home fans by taking the win.

Result:
1. Anquetil
2. Indurain at 2 secs
3. Merckx at 4 secs
4. Armstrong at 9 secs
4. Hinault - same time


Stage 10 - Alps:

Graphic of stage 10 of the 2005 Tour de France

After a gentle ride through the "foothills" on stages eight and nine, the Alps get tough and Hinault goes into attack mode on the ascent of Courchevel.

His first move is covered by Merckx, who jumps straight on to his wheel and brings the other riders back with him.

But 2km out Hinault accelerates again - and this time Indurain and Anquetil fall off the pace, their faces etched in pain.

Armstrong and Merckx doggedly hang on to the flying Frenchman, but they cannot stop him crossing the line first, fists pumped in victory.

Result:
1. Hinault
2. Armstrong at 3 secs
3. Merckx at 3 secs
4. Indurain at 43 secs
4. Anquetil - same time


Stage 15 - Pyrenees:


All five set off knowing that the six steep climbs of stage 15 could make or break their Tour.

Hinault tries his luck again on the penultimate climb, building up a lead of 50 seconds by the summit, but he starts to pay for his effort halfway up the brutal Pla-d'Adet.

Smelling victory, Merckx picks up the pace taking with him Armstrong, who looks to be at his limit.

They pass Hinault 1km from the finish and Merckx instinctively strikes for home.

"The Cannibal" casts off even Armstrong as he charges to victory, while Indurain draws on fervent Spanish support to catch the struggling Hinault.

Result:
1. Merckx
2. Armstrong at 14 secs
3. Hinault at 38 secs
3. Indurain - same time
5. Anquetil at 1 min 16 secs


Stage 20 - time trial:


Starting the day 19 seconds adrift of Merckx, Armstrong tears away from the start and sets a furious pace.

Unthinkably, the Texan is 22 seconds ahead of his rival at the second split, but Merckx grits his teeth and claws back nine of those seconds in a spectacular show of resistance.

The stage goes to Armstrong, but it will not be enough. . .

Result:
1. Armstrong
2. Merckx at 13 secs
3. Indurain at 14 secs
4. Anquetil at 23 secs
5. Hinault at 24 secs


Stage 21 - Champs Elysees:


The game is up for Armstrong.

The American legend may have won more Tours than anyone else, but he has to watch with envy as the greatest ever all-round rider toasts success on the champagne leg to Paris.

Hungry until the last, Merckx wins the Champs Elysees sprint to add gloss to the narrowest Tour victory in history.

Overall result:
1. Merckx
2. Armstrong at 6 secs
3. Hinault at 51 secs
4. Indurain at 1:17
5. Anquetil at 2:02




SEE ALSO
All-time Tour of champions
28 Jul 03 |  Tour de France 2003


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