Race's end will mark more than one farewell

Paris is two days away and Lance Armstrong has about five hours left before claiming his seventh straight title. He's had no serious challengers in the 92nd Tour de France, and he will enter retirement Sunday triumphantly.

Armstrong is not the only one retiring Sunday. Tour race director Jean-Marie Leblanc is leaving his post as well.

And Alexandre Vinokourov is rumored to be leaving T-Mobile for the 2006 season to join Credit Agricole or Liberty Seguros. The reason: a guaranteed team leadership.

. . .

Postcard from the Tour: REVEL, France - I've now been to France 11 times since 1989, for a total of about 225 days, and I'm tired of the question: "When you go to France, is there animosity toward Americans?

I'm convinced such animosity doesn't exist. I've asked for directions and been obliged dozens of times. I've met French people I consider friends and would welcome into my home. I've had strangers offer me a place to stay simply out of kindness.

And now I've been violently sick at midnight in horrible traffic in the Pyrenees during the Tour de France. I've lost my lunch and T-shirt in the process, and I've had the following happen:

I gave my car to a French public relations man to drive to the next city and I retrieved it intact the next day. The driver of a panel truck, seeing me walk down road shirtless and cold in the dark, gave me a T-shirt. A French family vacationing in a mountain cabin gave me a sweater, a bottle of water and called the volunteer fire department.

And I got a high-speed, against traffic, two-hour ride through the mountains to my hotel in Lourdes in a small Renault with a flashing blue roof light.

Animosity toward Americans in France? It's politicians' folly.

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