Beyond the Peloton

July 25, 2010 11:20 PM

One More Podium for Armstrong

Lance Armstrong, the cyclist, is indeed over. But not before winning one more time in the Tour de France.

Armstrong's 2010 Tour appearance isn't a complete waste, as his new RadioShack team won the team competition. During Lance's reign as a seven-time Tour winner, his team never won the team competition. But now his team has won two in a row, with Astana also finishing first last year.

lance.pngEven with that, Armstrong's final Tour certainly has been filled with more angst and disappointment than triumph. He had mechanical problems and crashed several times early in the Tour and was never a factor after the first week. And thanks to Floyd Landis, he has also had to spend the entire Tour talking about the ongoing/upcoming federal probe into whether he had doped while riding for U.S. Postal in the early 2000s.

In retrospect, does Armstrong regret making this comeback? After all, by his being an active cyclist and constantly in the news, he gave Landis a target to unleash his accusations that prompted the feds' inquiry. Had he stayed retired after 2005, maybe Landis would've gone away quietly. Now these investigations threaten to forever tarnish his legacy.

But after having made a successful comeback last year, it was nearly impossible for Armstrong not to ride this year. His third-place finish in last year's Tour was phenomenal, considering he was coming off a three-year retirement. It also may be credibly argued that he could've done better without being on the same team as Alberto Contador. And his presence led to the founding of the new Team RadioShack, whose express purpose for this year was to help Lance win one more Tour.

The team victory obviously is a bit hollow for Armstrong, though it did prove one last hurrah for the golden generation of American cycling. Chris Horner had a brilliant Tour, leading RadioShack with a 10th-place finish. Levi Leipheimer finished 13th and Armstrong 23rd. Adding Germany's Andreas Kloden in 14th place, it gave Team RadioShack four riders in the top 23, one more than Caisse d'Epargne, their chief competition.

After his last appearance on the Champs Elysees as a cyclist, Armstrong heads into retirement with a new battle ahead. Judging by Lance's history, he'll have no regrets about coming back. He's always been manically driven to meet challenges head on, and the federal probe is just a new project to be dealt with. He's beaten cancer, which probably afforded him a sense of invincibility, and he must feel certain that he can beat this, too, with his reputation and legacy in tact.

While Armstrong is over, the Tour will go on. We're putting our bikes away for now, and will be back next July.

97th Tour de France Recap

GC: Alberto Contador. His 39-second victory is the fourth-closest in Tour history (but only the second-closest for him as he beat Cadel Evans by only 23 seconds in 2007). Andy Schleck and Denis Menchov placed second and third, respectively.

Sprint: Alessandro Petacchi. He edged Mark Cavendish by 11 points even though Cavendish won five stages, including the last sprint on the Champs Elysees.

Mountains: Anthony Charteau. He beat fellow Frenchman Christophe Moreau by 15 points.

Young Rider: Andy Schleck. It was not even close. But after winning three white jerseys in a row, Schleck will not be eligible for this competition next year.

Team: Team RadioShack. They came out ahead of Caisse d'Epargne by 9:15.

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