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Armstrong is crowned Tour champion


PARIS, France -- Lance Armstrong created Tour de France history with his sixth consecutive victory as the 2004 edition finished with the customary sprint finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

The 32-year-old American was content to finish at the rear of the main peloton with his U.S. Postal team-mates, his victory margin of over six minutes assured.

Tom Boonen of Belgium won the prestigious stage, while Australian Robbie McEwen clinched the points leaders' green jersey.

"The Tour de France is the most beautiful race in the world. For me, for cycling, for my team, for my new sponsor Discovery Channel, I cannot think of not doing another year on the Tour de France," Armstrong told French television.

"We'll see..." he added.

T-Mobile's Andreas Kloden of Germany finished second overall, with Italian Ivan Basso of the CSC completing the podium.

French hero Richard Virenque had already sealed the King of the Mountain's Polka Dot jersey.

Champagne had flowed among Armstrong's U.S. Postal teammates as they pedaled out of Montereau earlier Sunday and on towards the frantic closing circuits in Paris.

Under sunny skies, the riders entered Paris and began their eight laps up and down the famed Champs Elysees, with Armstrong in an unbeatable lead, barring a disastrous fall.

Tens of thousands of people lined both sides of the boulevard, many furiously waving American and Texas flags.

Earlier in the stage, the riders looked relaxed and had some fun. Armstrong -- easy to pick out of the pack in his overall leader's yellow jersey and gold-colored aerodynamic helmet -- laughed and chatted with adversaries while his Postals hovered around to keep him safe.

At one point, Armstrong and his teammates sipped flutes of champagne as they headed north.

Other riders waved at television crews and snapped pictures of their own with cameras as they rode by stretches of golden wheat fields.

But with a coveted victory in Paris up for grabs, the pace increased in the French capital, a group of ten riders causing concern in the peloton by building up a lead of over 40 seconds.

But they were hauled in before the final lap, leaving the sprinters to dash for the line.

Lotto's McEwen has proved the best of the bunch this year, but he could not match the speed of Quick Step rider Boonen, with 2003 final stage winner Jean-Patrick Nazon of France in second place.

McEwen was fourth, but ahead of his main rival of the green jersey, the Norwegian Thor Hushovd.

But all eyes were really on the remarkable Armstrong as he mounted the podium after his recordbreaking victory, watched by his proud mother and pop star girlfriend Sheryl Crow.

It took him ahead of four legendary riders, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Jacques Anquetil and into cycling history.


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