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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 July, 2005, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Lance Armstrong profile
By Matt Majendie

Lance Armstrong celebrates winning his seventh Tour de France
Lance Armstrong finished the final day's racing of his illustrious career safely in the main pack of the Tour de France field.

But that understated farewell belies the American's historic achievements in forging undoubtedly the most remarkable career in cycling history.

With seven Tour de France wins, he has surpassed anything his most-gifted predecessors achieved in the race, even the great Belgian Eddy Merckx.

But it is what Armstrong had to go through before he embarked on his run of success that makes it arguably the greatest ever sporting achievement.

For three years before his first Tour win in 1999, the Texan was diagnosed with testicular, brain and lung cancer and given less than a 50-50 chance of survival.

In fact, Armstrong's life story was remarkable from the outset - so incredible it would be hard to believe as a Hollywood blockbuster.

The now 33-year-old was brought up by his mother after his father Eddie Gunderson walked out on them when he was just two.

Linda, then a supermarket checkout girl, had got pregnant at the age of 16 and gave birth to her son when she was only 17.

LANCE ARMSTRONG FACTFILE
Born: 18 Sept 1971
Lives: Austin, Texas; Girona, Spain
Team: Discovery Channel (previously US Postal)
Career highlights: Seven Tour de France wins (1999-2005); world road race champion (1993); world number one (1996)
Marital status: Single (ex-wife Kristin - three children: Luke, Isabelle and Grace)
Outside cycling interests: Head of Lance Armstrong Foundation; part of President Bush's cancer advisory committee
Heart rate: 32 bpm (resting) - 201 bpm (maximum)
The pair enjoy an exceptionally close relationship, which Linda puts down to the fact that "we grew up together".

Armstrong took on the surname of his stepfather, whom Linda, who has been married and divorced four times, has since separated from.

His mother took on a host of jobs to help pay for her son's upbringing - Armstrong has since said he "never wanted for anything" and credits his mother for the work ethic which enabled him to win the Tour de France.

Armstrong's competitive urges were ably backed by Linda, who took him to triathlon events where he made his name as an athlete before getting involved in the US Olympic cycling development programme as a teenager.

By 1991, he was US national amateur champion, two years later he was world champion and in 1995 he won enjoyed his first Tour success - winning an emotion-filled stage in honour of friend Fabio Casartelli who had died earlier in the race.

By 1996 he was world number one before being diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to his lungs and brain - a moment he now calls the "best thing that ever happened to me".

After extensive chemotherapy, Armstrong defied the odds and recovered, returning to cycling action in 1998.

Armstrong's key aim in retirement is to spend more time with his three children
Armstrong wants to spend much of his retirement with his kids
But when he retired from the Paris-Nice race of that year, he contemplated retirement before returning to America to train with friend and coach Chris Carmichael.

There, under the US Postal team, he started his lengthy bid for Tour victory in 1999, a race in which he was not even fancied to feature highly, despite winning the prologue.

Former British cyclist Chris Boardman, a previous rival of Armstrong, said: "Back then I never envisaged he would even challenge for the win. 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?'."

That sums up the way in which the Texan has dominated cycling's biggest event.

There are a plethora of Tour highlights: a dominant victory at Hautacam in 2000, his infamous look back to arch-rival Jan Ullrich on Alpe d'Huez in 2001, his avoidance of a near-certain crash in 2003 which brought down Joseba Beloki in 2003 and his final stage win in St Etienne on Saturday.

Lance Armstrong as a 17-year-old triathlete
Armstrong first got into sport through the triathlon
But some have questioned the manner in which he has made the Tour his sole goal each season.

Manolo Saiz, Beloki's former team boss and now head of the Liberty team, this week said: "Armstrong has given a lot to the Tour but not much to cycling."

Armstrong, who has had his critics throughout his career, has been dogged by accusations of doping but is probably the most tested athlete in any sport and has never failed a drugs test.

Earlier this year, he said: "Let me make one thing emphatically clear. I believe in clean and fair competition. As I have said before, I do not use - and have never used - performance-enhancing drugs."

It remains to be seen who will become the Tour's next dominant force - or what Armstrong will do now.

Spending time with his children and working for the Lance Armstrong Foundation cancer charity are two of his priorities, but some, including best friend and team-mate George Hincapie, have hinted at a possible future in the White House.

Hincapie, however, this week insisted the best way to sum up his friend was to accept just what a special talent he is.

"Everybody is looking for the next Lance but there won't be another Lance for another century," Hincapie says.

Armstrong now heads off for a well-deserved beach holiday with his family and girlfriend, the rock star Sheryl Crow.

After a life of such towering achievements, it is hard to believe he can sit still for long.




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Report: Armstrong wins seventh Tour



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Armstrong seals seventh Tour win
24 Jul 05 |  Cycling


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