Armstrong's crash ... and burn

2003 Tour de France: Lance Armstrong wins epic Stage 15

Originally Published: December 14, 2009
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Lance ArmstrongAP Photo/Bernard Papon/Pool

From 1999 through 2005, Lance Armstrong won an unprecedented seven consecutive Tour de France races.

Maybe that doesn't impress you, maybe cycling isn't your thing or maybe Lance just doesn't do it for you.

Watch Stage 15 in 2003. Just watch it. Here. A little highlight. It's less than 3 minutes.

Armstrong won 19 different individual stages over those seven years, but none were more dramatic, impressive or as epic as this stage.

To set it up: Armstrong had already survived a crazy ninth stage, when Joseba Beloki, who was battling Armstrong for the overall lead at the time, crashed violently on a descent, forcing Armstrong to swerve into a field, race down the bumpy terrain and eventually get off his bike to climb a small embankment and rejoin the race.

By Stage 15, Armstrong was battling rival Jan Ullrich for the lead, with Armstrong holding a 15-second edge entering the stage. The riders were on the final ascent up Luz-Ardiden, chasing Sylvain Chavanel, when Armstrong got his handlebars wrapped around a spectator's bag and crashed to the ground.

Did you watch the video yet?

Did you see Armstrong get back on his bike and scream past the other riders? Remember ... this was an ascent up a steep mountain.

Holy crap. I've never seen anything like it.

Ullrich would earn a good sportsmanship award by slowing down to let Armstrong catch up. Once that happened, Armstrong showed no mercy. He raced like a man possessed. He dropped Ullrich and Iban Mayo, caught Chavanel and raced to the victory, 40 seconds ahead of Mayo and Ullrich.

His slim 15-second lead was now 1:07 (with added time bonuses). Armstrong would finish the Tour 1:16 ahead of Ullrich, and tie Miguel Indurain's mark of five Tour de France victories in a row. Stage 15 made it possible.
--David Schoenfield