The 2004 Tour de France was anything but anti-climatic with Lance Armstrong winning his record breaking sixth consecutive tour. This year’s tour saw 189 riders and 20 stages, ending in the final ride into Paris. This year’s tour was expected to challenge Armstrong and his blue train of U.S. Postal riders.
Former U.S. Postal riders Tyler Hamilton and Roberto Heras now lead their own teams for the yellow jersey. Only two years ago Hamilton was Armstrong’s first lieutenant guiding him up the grueling Alps.
German Jan Ullrich, riding for team Telekom, was said to be Armstrong’s top opposition. He won the tour once and since then has finished runner-up five times to Armstrong.
This year however Armstrong won the tour decisively by a margin of six minutes and 19 seconds. Finishing second was Andreas Kloden, third place went to Ivan Basso and in fourth Ullrich had his worst tour finish. Armstrong broke the record of five consecutive tour wins set by Miguel Indurain (1991-1995). “I live for this race. I love it. I want to win in more ways than most will ever know. I cherish so much my days in yellow that is keeps me busy almost 365 days a year. To lose a Tour and have to face my team, who have worked so hard, would be heart wrenching. I don’t want to see that day and I’ll do whatever I can to prevent it,” said Armstrong.
The U.S. Postal Team set the tone winning stage four, the team time trial and putting Lance in top contention to win. Staying close to the front of the main peleton, Armstrong avoided many crashes that eliminated some others including rival Tyler Hamilton.
Armstrong then went on to win stage 15 and a very decisive stage 16, individual time trail, by passing his closest opponent just kilometers from the finish on the slopes of L’Alpe d’Huez. Lance also won stages 17 and 19 en route to his tour victory.
The U.S. Postal Service will no longer represent Lance and his team. Discovery has decided to pick up the endorsement as Lance goes for his seventh consecutive tour victory in 2005.