Armstrong Nears Victory

Overall leader Lance Armstrong, of Austin, Texas, waves from the podium after winning the 19th and next-to-last stage of the Tour de France cycling race, a 55-kilometer (34.18-mile) individual time trial around Besancon, eastern France, Saturday, July 24, 2004. Armstrong clocked 1 hour, 6 minutes.
With a commanding lead, Lance Armstrong did not need to win Saturday's leg of the Tour de France. So what did he do? He buried the competition, 61 seconds ahead of the nearest contender, reports CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta.

C'est la vie. Such is life, when you are Lance Armstrong. With Saturday's victory (and barring a disaster), he's guaranteed a record sixth Tour triumph.

"To win six…it's very hard to put into words," says Armstrong, adding, "I'm always careful to say that we have another day to go and if you crash on the Champs Elysees and don't finish tomorrow, then you don't win. So I have to be careful and hope that it works out."

American fans are glowing. But, while they are in awe of his talent, the French have a name for Armstrong: "le patron de tour." The boss of the tour. By winning, they say he just takes the fun out of cycling.

The French have been screaming over the way the American champion intimidated a much weaker Italian cyclist, who has accused Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs.

French journalist Ulysses Gosset admits some of the "whining" may be a case of sour grapes, saying, "There's definitely no love for Lance Armstrong on this tour but there's lot of fascination... Whatever you think about Lance Armstrong, you remember that he won against cancer. He is a kind of incredible symbol of the fight for life, an incredible symbol of the fight for winning."

This race has convinced even the Tour's French organizers that Armstrong is the greatest cyclist of all time. And with the chance he won't return next year, it's possible a Frenchman just might win for a change.

Pedaling furiously toward a stage victory that he didn't even need, Armstrong overpowered his rivals yet again, quickly building a gaping lead which he carried past cheering crowds to the finish line of the individual race against the clock.

Riding a high-tech aerodynamic bike, and wearing the bright yellow leader's jersey, the Texan finished 61 seconds faster than Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour champion and a five-time overall runner-up.

The stage win was Armstrong's fifth of this Tour, his most since he conquered cancer and won cycling's most prestigious event for the first time in 1999.

Only a crippling crash or other catastrophe will prevent Sunday's closing ride into Paris from being a lap of honor for Armstrong.