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26 Jul 2003
It was not without a typical dose of drama as Lance Armstrong wrapped up his fifth straight win of the Tour de France. Jan Ulrich had the mallot jaune well within his reach today in the final individual time trial. But a head-to-head race would be too simple this year. Instead, we were treated to the Tour’s worst conditions – driving rain, 30kph winds, water pooling on the course. As the two men sped along, the seconds ticked back and forth, kilometer by kilometer. Then, with just 10k left, Ulrich’s bike slipped out from under him in a sharp corner, his derailleur threw sparks from the pavement, and he slammed into the hay bales lining the course. Armstrong sat up, and carefully took the jersey across the line.
There was even more than that, however. British rider David Millar took the stage, and was seconds from the fastest time trial in history – and he had gone down earlier as well. Tyler Hamilton, still nursing that broken collar bone, took second place today and moved up to fourth overall. And that was on the heels of a 140k solo breakaway two days ago to take his first stage win.
Tomorrow, there will be enormous celebrations in Paris. But then, a few days later, Armstrong will begin preparing for number six – something that has never been done before. In a post-stage interview, he said, “I’ll be back next year and I’m not coming back to get second.”