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Bruce Millington: In total awe of legend Lance.

THE French way of life is, by and large, every bit as good as the English.

French windows are just the same, made of glass, nice and see-through; French letters are also remarkably similar, although they do have one which is like an o and an e fused together. Only French toilets are worse. I had to whip strides and pants off and then put my trainers back on again just to be on the safe side.

The French tube system is certainly better - cheap, graffiti-free and boasting subways that smell of the urine of tramps who drink vintage wine rather than those whose subterranean swill is Tennents Super.

And on the fourth Sunday in July there is no better place to be than the French capital, which hosts the climax to the greatest annual sporting event in the world, the Tour de France.

It was a good weekend for hero-worshippers with Tiger Woods strutting his stuff in Scotland and Lance Armstrong taking his lap of honour after his second Tour triumph.

I opted for Lance. Tiger should be winning Opens for another 20 years. There are no such guarantees that we will be able to see the amazing Armstrong, so soon after having beaten cancer, in the flesh for decades to come. And I'm glad I did.

Watching him every day for three weeks on Eurosport as he mocked the meanest mountains in Europe and rode his rivals ragged was one thing; being there to laud his astonishing achievements was quite another.

Top-notch cyclists are scandalously under-appreciated in England, just as the Spanish care little about the excellence of the world's top golfers. But the French know the score and as the 128 men who had somehow overcome the unique challenge of the Tour reached their final destination - the Champs-Elysees - the crowd prepared to greet them.

Then, all of a sudden, amid a multi-coloured sea of lycra and scrawny bodies, there he was, crouched comfortably over his handlebars as he saw out the final few kilometers of his epic journey.

And there I sat, hung over and humbled in the presence of human greatness.

It is no longer possible to take footballers seriously. They should be made aware of what Armstrong has had to go through to reach the top before they bleat about anything and everything. Here is a genuine hero.

My grandchildren will be at liberty to point out that 99 per cent of the tales I tell them about the good old days are painfully boring. But the Lance Armstrong story will not be one of them.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Millington, Bruce
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2000
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