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Pedaling to the Top

The sheer physical demands of this year's 2,032 mile Tour de France boggles the mind. Steep climbs in the Pyrenees and the Alps are exhausting even to think about.

Any cyclist who finishes the race should be proud. The winner has attained his impossible dream.

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For Lance Armstrong, claiming that dream for the fourth time in a row, the possibilities seem endless. He not only is perched, virtually unrivaled, atop his sport at the moment, but is clearly primed to swoop on to future triumphs – joining, and perhaps surpassing, only four other champions who've won the Tour de France a record five times.

Cycling may not be the big-time sport in the US that it is in other parts of the world, but Armstrong's achievements put him in the highest rank of American athletes. His personal story, overcoming what was thought to be a fatal illness, has added to his stature. And his style of competition, making superb use of his teammates and carefully planning his race stage by stage, is a study in self-discipline. Armstrong has said you don't "fly" up hills and mountains, as he is sometimes described as doing, you struggle. But, clearly, he has learned from and mastered the struggle.

Here's an athlete who embodies much of what makes sport compelling – minus most of the commercialism and hype so rampant today.