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Last Updated: Friday, 25 June, 2004, 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK
Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong
Born: 18/8/1971
Nationality: American
Best Tours: Winner - 1999-2003
Lance Armstrong is on the brink of further greatness as he bids to become the only man in the history of the sport to win a sixth Tour de France.

This time, though, the 32-year-old's attempt looks the toughest yet, if 2003 was anything to go by.

Ahead of last year's race, the pre-Tour talk was all about when, not if, he would finally seal overall victory.

But he was made to work as his rivals attacked and he narrowly avoided crashing out with Joseba Beloki.

And this year Armstrong's arch nemesis, Jan Ullrich, should be stronger than ever, having switched back to T-Mobile after a season at Team Bianchi.

But none of his rivals boasts the same religious, almost freakish, preparation for the annual race as Armstrong.

Worryingly for Armstrong's rivals, he says he has been a "little ahead of schedule" in his Tour build-up, including victory in the Tour of Georgia, third place in the Criterium International and fifth in the Tour of the Algarve.

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.

Away from the sport it has not all gone smoothly for the Texan in the last year. He has got divorced from his wife but has since started a relationship with singer Sheryl Crow.

Cancer comeback

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 quintet 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 2004 race will once again be the Tour de Lance.

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