Armstrong Wins Final Time Trial, Clinches Sixth Tour Championship

Lance Armstrong capped his spree of victories in the 2004 Tour with a win in the final time trial, all but guaranteeing that he'll capture an unprecedented sixth championship in the celebrated race.

Lance Armstrong won his fifth stage Saturday, virtually clinching an unprecedented sixth victory in the 2004 Tour

Lance Armstrong won his fifth stage Saturday, virtually clinching an unprecedented sixth victory in the 2004 Tour

The Texan crushed his nearest opponents Saturday for a stage win he didn't really need to remain in the lead, thrilling fans along the 37-mile route around Bensançl;on. Armstrong finished 1:01 faster than five-time runner-up Jan Ullrich.

At this point, only a crippling crash could thwart Armstrong's chances of winning a history-making sixth Tour.

"To be on the verge of breaking history is incredibly special," he told reporters Saturday.

Ullrich's teammate, Andrée;as Klöden, finished third in the time trial and is expected to take second place on the podium tomorrow, while Ivan Basso is slated for a third place finish. Ullrich is currently in fourth place overall, and will probably remain there tomorrow— the first time the German has not finished the Tour on the podium.

At this point, it's unclear whether Armstrong will return in 2005 to try to claim yet another title.

"I would do it. I'm not saying I'd never do it again," Armstrong told AP reporters Friday, after maintaining his overall lead of four minutes, nine seconds in the 18th stage. "I'll do it again before I stop. It's a special race. You can't have this intensity in any other event."

But The New York Times reported Friday that Armstrong intends not to return to the race next year to attempt a seventh Tour victory, out of respect for the other four riders who have won the race five times.

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Lead Photo: Beth Schneider
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