He is also the beneficiary of a superb, selfless team whose primary goal is to win the Tour de France. After Armstrong was isolated on some key climbs last year, U.S. Postal brought in the cycling equivalent of two juco transfers: Roberto Heras and Jos� Luis Rubiera of Spain. Heras is one of the world's best pure climbers, and Rubiera is his trusted lieutenant. There they were, escorting Armstrong on the last ascent of the final mountain stage. "It was perfect protection," says Armstrong. "It was a clinic."
When Ullrich attacked for the final time, less than a mile from the summit on the way to Luz-Ardiden in stage 14, Armstrong pulled even with him. As they crossed the line together, the German extended his right hand, which Armstrong grasped. It was a gracious gesture--a gesture, Ullrich would explain, of concession. It was the gesture of a man who knows who is boss.