When Lance Armstrong claimed his first yellow jersey on 3 July 1999 he gave millions of people hope. At the age of 27 the all-American champion proved there was life after cancer. He had ridden the Tour de France before, won stages in fact, but victory in his first appearance since he was struck down by the illness was a triumph of spirit. But surely his time in the overall lead of the world’s biggest bike race wouldn’t last much longer than the first week. Aficionados of the event knew his name and they recognized his weaknesses.
Before cancer, the Texan couldn’t climb and his ability in the time trial was reasonable at best. Tactically he’d made more than one faux-pas. He was a star but not a rider capable of holding onto the ‘maillot jaune’. Lance proved that the cynics were wrong. And he has continued to do so every year. In the final race of his career there was nothing left to prove. At the age of 33 he had eclipsed the efforts of the greatest cyclists in history in the race which matters most.