July 24, 2005

Armstrong rules in Texas after seventh Tour victory

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Lance Armstrong, who has hinted he
might enter politics after retiring from competitive cycling,
virtually ruled Texas after winning an unprecedented seventh
Tour de France on Sunday.

Across his home state, people gathered around television
sets and cheered him on as the American crossed the line in the
peloton at the end of the 144.5-km final stage on the Champs
Elysees in Paris.

The most successful Tour rider in history has made big news
throughout Texas over the last three weeks and on Sunday the
state's newspapers blared his victory in banner headlines on
their Internet editions.

"It's official: Lance Armstrong makes it a magnificent
seven," reported the Houston Chronicle.

In Austin, which Armstrong considers his home town, crowds
watched the race on giant outdoor television screens put up
outside a central city grocery store and many people filled
sports bars for the telecast that began at 0630 local time.

Urged by the city's mayor, many fans wore yellow, the
traditional color of the Tour winner's jersey, to show their
support for Armstrong. At one store, people wearing yellow
clothing were given discounts on their purchases.

Armstrong is so popular in Austin that the city has named a
cycling route in his honor.

A local woman, Terese Wier, has written and recorded a song
entitled "Je T'aime Lance" and featuring the line: "Who knew a
blue-eyed boy from Texas would ride rings around the world?"


Avid cyclist Mike Errico said it was not only Armstrong's
success that endeared him to people but also his personality
and his compelling comeback after being diagnosed with
testicular cancer in 1996.

"He's a heck of a nice guy from Austin who overcame cancer
to become the greatest cyclist in history," he said. "This is
great for America, for Texas and for Austin."

Armstrong, 33, grew up in a Dallas suburb before moving to
Austin where he now lives part-time. He also has a home in
Spain and is often seen with his girlfriend, rock star Sheryl
Crow, at her Los Angeles residence.

The American has said he would spend more time in Austin
once he retired from competition. When asked by journalists, he
replied he had not ruled out a run for public office, although
such a move is not expected over the next few years.

While Texans celebrated Armstrong's final Tour victory,
they were also saddened by his departure from the sport he

"I am so proud of him and he seems like such a wonderful
guy, but I am also very sad that we won't get to see him in the
Tour de France next year," said Houston businesswoman Maria

"He's been a great representative for Texas."