Verdun, Roche attacked with 400m to go, Armstrong sitting tight in sixth place. Dropping it in to his 12 sprocket the American accelerated to the right. Pensac slowly began to drift in the same direction at which point "I let out the loudest, ugliest, gnarliest yell I could to startle him, and sure enough, there it was - a gap, with the finish line clear as a day with 100 meters to go." Armstrong crossed the line to become one of the youngest ever riders to win a stage of the Tour de France. And yet more was to come following a summer of recuperation.
Having taken 5th place in the Leeds Classic two weeks before the World Championships in
Oslo, Norway, Armstrong let slip "I'll be disappointed if I'm not World Champion". Arrogance? Confidence? Although he later admitted that the World's had indeed been a primary goal for the season, his success that day in
Northern Europe certainly surprised a lot of people in the sport. Held on a day of non-stop rain, the roads became as slick as ice. Armstrong was himself involved in two minor crashes before moving his way to the head of affairs aided by his American team mates, whom he later described as "truly awesome." With one lap to go the field was down to a select handful of riders including Tour de France champion Miguel Indurain. "Taking it into the final climb I knew this was the time to go, and I mean go like I'd never gone before! Turning the 53x12 back into town I thought it was too good to be true, but a quick check of my computer confirmed 250 kms. I had done it!" wrote Armstrong in his column in Winning magazine. Asked later what it felt like to attack at the end of the world championships and be on your own heading into the finish at the age of 21, the Texan replied, "When I went, I knew I had to go with everything I had. It was all or nothing at that point - if I'd been caught, I wouldn't have had anything left for a sprint."
People now knew Lance could do it in a big one-day race but did he think he could also win the big stage races now? "First, I'm never going to proclaim that I will win the Tour de France. It would be foolish to say that. I feel I could win the yellow jersey, but I don't think I'll have it on when it counts - in
Paris." And so came to an end 1993 - it was one hell of a debut season.
Stay tuned to Roadcycling.com for part III of the Armstrong story.
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