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More in store in 2004

Armstrong eyes unprecedented sixth Tour win

Posted: Sunday July 27, 2003 12:51 PM

PARIS (Reuters) -- The curtain has fallen on Lance Armstrong's fifth and hardest Tour de France victory and the American is already setting his sights on an unprecedented sixth.

The 31-year-old cancer survivor joined the sport's select club of five-times champions when he won the centenary Tour on Sunday and he now hopes to inaugurate a new century of the world's showcase cycling event.

Neither Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, nor Spaniard Miguel Indurain, the only rider before him to have won five straight Tours, not even "the cannibal" Eddy Merckx, the greatest rider ever, were able to add a sixth jewel to their crown.

To have won five Tours, seven years after cancer nearly destroyed more than just a cycling career, is an incredible achievement.

The Texan said he was aware of the historical significance of his feat.

"It's still a great feeling when someone like Hinault comes to you on the podium and tells you 'welcome to the club'.

"As to know how I compare with the other big four, that's stuff people can only decide 10 or 20 years from now," he said.

A sixth victory would be a definite answer and Armstrong made it clear he was not weary or blase just yet.

"I'll be back next year and I'm not coming back to be second but hopefully to come back to the level I was in the first four Tours," he said after struggling to make it five like all his predecessors.

Too old?

At 31, Armstrong is the same age as Hinault and Indurain when they won for the fifth time while Anquetil was 30 and Merckx 29.

Can he do it again at 32, the age at which Frenchman Maurice Garin won the first Tour in 1903?

"There were a lot of those moments when I felt older in this Tour.

"But I'm almost 32 and I still think that for an athlete in a sport such as this and in an event such as this, I don't think 32 or 33 is too old, even 34," he said.

The oldest Tour winner, Belgian Firmin Lambot in 1922, was 36.

In any case, the American pledged to quit while still at his peak, hoping to finish his career on a high note.

"I think it's a dream for most athletes. Often times athletes have a tendency to stay around longer than their body wants.

"I just hope I can know the moment when it's time to walk away. I've been around 12 years. My time is limited and I know that.

"But I'm not planning to do a farewell Tour if I can go out on top," he said.

For the time being, Armstrong will relax and put an end to his season after the Tour, missing the road world championship which he has not entered since his first Tour win.

"This Tour took a lot out of me, the stress was much higher than it has been in the past. I need to step back from cycling and relax a little bit and focus on 2004 in due time," he said.


 
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