The July sports calendar has had a striking consistency in recent years. First, the American League wins baseball's All-Star game. Then Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France.
For seven consecutive years this amazing athlete has wheeled his way into Paris as winner of the world's most famous bicycle race. He's become as much a part of summer as ice cream and beach sand.
By retiring from racing now, Mr. Armstrong only adds to his mystique. How many more races could those powerful legs and that indomitable spirit have won? Talk now can turn to where his seven titles should rank among the finest accomplishments by a US athlete.
One quickly thinks of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941, one of the oldest and most treasured American sports records. Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 straight games over 17 seasons for baseball's Baltimore Orioles. Edwin Moses won track's grueling 400-meter hurdles event 107 times in a row over nearly a decade of competition.
Wherever you rank him, Armstrong made his own history. He'll be remembered as a meticulous tactician who melded keen intelligence, steely determination, and awesome physical gifts into an unbeatable combination. His ability to triumph over a serious illness, and still go on to his seven Tour victories, has inspired countless others. His yellow rubber LiveStrong wristbands, sold to support his charity, have become a symbol of hope.
Next year the Tour's yellow jersey will belong to someone else, perhaps German veteran Jan Ullrich or Spain's rising star Alejandro Valverde. And, one day, undoubtedly, to another American, inspired by Armstrong.
The Tour de Lance is no more. But the Lance Armstrong legacy lives on.