By Shane Stokes in Paris
Lance Armstrong today rode into history when he emerged as the final winner of the 2005 Tour de France, sealing a record-extending seventh win in Paris. The Discovery Channel rider was confirmed as the race winner a full 54 kilometres from end of the stage, due to the dicey conditions caused by wet roads in the French capital. Although these dried up soon after the peloton started the ten laps of the Champs Elysées finishing circuit, the race judges had already made their decision vis-à-vis the rules and the Tour win was his.
While the final podium placings were decided early, the peloton continued to race in order to settle the stage honours. Fastest in the final kilometre was the fighting Kazakhi Alexandre Vinokourov (T-Mobile), who topped off an aggressive Tour with a superb stage win. He was clear with Brad McGee (Francaise Des Jeux) with two kilometres remaining and came by the Australian in the final sprint. McGee took second with Fabian Cancellara (Fassa Bortolo) third.
Armstrong ended the race with a clear 4'40 advantage over the Italian Ivan Basso (Team CSC). Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) took the seventh podium finish of his career when he finished third, a further 1'41 behind, while Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) was fourth. Vinokourov's stage win bonus carried him clear of American rider Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), the two swapping their fifth and sixth places overall.
"It was hard for me, hard for my team of course," said Armstrong for the final time. "Jan has challenged us everyday. He's a special rider, and a special person. And Basso has been a great rival. It's tough to race against him, he's too much of a friend. He's perhaps the future of the Tour de France. So, Ivan: next year, this is your step; or Jan: this might be your step next year, I don't know, but I'm outta here, so..."
Points leader Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) placed seventh today and so retained his maillot vert. Michael Rasmussen carried off the King of the Mountains award, while Best Young Rider went to Discovery's Yaroslav Popovych, and the winning team was Jan Ullrich's T-Mobile squad.