American Lance Armstrong’s win last year proved his triumph over cancer, but his second straight Tour de France victory today proved his dominance in the sport of cycling.
Armstrong began the largely ceremonial running of Stage 21 six minutes and two seconds ahead of closest challenger Jan Ullrich of Germany, a seemingly insurmountable lead heading into the final leg of the 2,250-mile Tour de France.
Indeed, it was, as Armstrong rode through Paris in the yellow jersey of the Tour champion for the second year in a row. He became the 11th rider ever to win consecutive Tours, and joined Greg LeMond as the only Americans to have accomplished the feat.
“It was more emotional this time than it was last year, believe it or not,” Armstrong told ESPN after the race. “It’s a sweeter victory.”
A Champion’s Coronation
Italy’s Stefano Zanini of the Mapei team outlasted a frantic sprint at the finish to win the 21st stage with a winning time of 3 hours, 12 minutes and 36 seconds.
German Erik Zabel finished second, and Romans Vainsteins of Latvia came in third in the 138-kilometer (85.7-mile) stage, which began in Paris at the base of the Eiffel Tower and concluded with seven laps of the famous boulevard, the Champs-Elysees.
But the real champion of the day was Armstrong, who completed the entire three-week Tour in the fastest time among the 180-rider field: 92 hours, 33 minutes and 8 seconds.
Ullrich made up no time today on the defending champion and finished second overall, 6:02 behind Armstrong. Third-place finisher was Spaniard Joseba Beloki, at 10:04 off the overall lead.
Zabel earned his final green points jersey as the Tour’s most consistent sprinter, while Colombia climber Santiago Botero won the prestigious polka-dot jersey as King of the Mountains.
On the winner’s podium, the 28-year-old Texas hoisted his 9-month-old son Luke on his shoulders. “It’s a great day for our family. It’s really unbelievable,” said Armstrong’s wife, Kristin.