Monday, July 25, 2005

The final cut


PARIS (AP) -- Lance Armstrong will never ride in the Tour de France again. After seven years of dominance, he is trading in rough rides through the mountains for leisurely days on the beach. Having stepped onto the podium for the last time on Sunday to celebrate his seventh straight Tour victory, Armstrong will spend a few days ``with a beer, having a blast.''

It's time for him to play with his kids, chill out with rocker girlfriend Sheryl Crow, and toast his success as the undisputed champion of cycling's most demanding event. ``I'm finished,'' Armstrong said. He is moving far away from the awe-struck crowds that crossed countries for the merest glimpse, the six-hour training rides in pouring rain that gave him the edge over others, the stress of worrying whether his rivals could ever catch up. Armstrong is now retired at the ripe old age of 33.``We're just going to hang out in the south of France for a little while and do nothing,'' Crow said.

He also delivered a final shot at ``the people who don't believe in cycling, the cynics and the skeptics'' who suspect that doping is rife in the grueling sport and fueled his dominance.`I'm sorry for you. I'm sorry you don't believe in miracles. But this is a hell of a race,'' he said. ``You should believe in these athletes, and you should believe in these people. I'll be a fan of the Tour de France for as long as I live. And there are no secrets -- this is a hard sporting event and hard work wins it.''

Enjoy retirement. You have earned it.

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