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2005 Sportsman of the Year

My Sportsman Pick: Lance Armstrong

Posted: Monday November 14, 2005 11:38AM; Updated: Monday November 14, 2005 2:47PM
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American Lance Armstrong retired after winning his record seventh Tour de France.
American Lance Armstrong retired after winning his record seventh Tour de France.
Simon Bruty/SI
Armstrong won his first Tour in 1999.
Simon Bruty/SI
SI's writers offer their 2005 choices:

By Austin Murphy

I don't know, what do you think? I mean, I guess you could make a case for Lance Armstrong to be SI's Sportsman of the Year.

Then again, what has the guy really done, other than win his final race, the 2005 Tour de France, bringing down the curtain on one of the greatest careers in the history of sport with the class and panache of Jim Brown?

Other than triumph in this, the world's most grueling endurance event, a race no one had ever won more than five times, for the seventh summer in a row -- in so doing putting the record so far out of reach that it will not be broken in ours, or probably anyone's lifetime.

Other than take the '05 Tour by the throat in jaw-dropping fashion, overtaking his main rival, the German rider Jan Ullrich, who'd rolled out of the start house a minute before him, and whose doors Armstrong blew off halfway through the 19-kilometer course, a figurative gelding from Ullrich never recovered.

Paying no mind to the fact that Armstrong became a bellwether for cycling, leaving his singularly American stamp on this oh-so European sport, embracing advances in technology and training methods, honing his aerodynamics in wind tunnels, weighing his food and reconning the Tour course in early spring. He  revolutionaized the way teams and riders prepare for this century-old event.

Looking past the fact that Armstrong flung open the doors for an entire generation of American riders (there were five Yanks, but just a single Frenchman, in the top 20 of the '05 Tour). Putting aside, for the time being, the fact that all of the gooseflesh moments in all his victories -- The Catch (of Ullrich, last July); the Detonations (his demolitions of the peloton on the slopes of Sestriere in '99 and Mont Hautacam a year later); The Bluff (after feigning illness during the Alpe d'Huez stage in '01, a suddenly chipper Armstrong bolted from the bunch on the final climb); and The Detour (across a fallow cornfield to avoid a fallen Joseba Beloki in '03) -- all of them were but anticlimactic little blips compared to the truly defining battle of his life.

If you're unmoved by the fact that if he has his way Armstrong's impact on his sport will pale in comparison to his impact on the disease that came close to killing him. If you're unimpressed by the fact that the Lance Armstrong Foundation has raised, last time we checked, $85 million for cancer research and survivorship programs. If it makes little difference to you that he has used his celebrity bully pulpit to do more good than any athlete, ever -- well then, maybe you've got a point. Maybe we should give this award to somebody else.

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Sports Illustrated will announce the 2005 Sportsman of the Year winner on Friday, Dec. 9 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. Check back every weekday until then to read more Sportsman picks from SI writers.