I suppose it was inevitable. A storybook career can't end without one last triumph, really. And so Lance went out and won the last time trial of his career today, beating Jan Ullrich by a mere 23 seconds.
Lance at the start today, and finishing - with the armada of police and journalist motorbikes behind him. (photos from here)
Lance's three kids made their first appearance at this year's Tour today, and their apparent nonchalance about the gravity of the situation was refreshing - as was Lance's ability to play with them only moments before one of the more important days of his life.
Lance during warmup, and girlfriend Sheryl Crow minding Lance's three kids (son Luke is playing with Sheryl's camera, untempted by the stuffed lion).
Ivan Basso had amassed enough of a cushion above Ullrich coming into today's time trial that he was able to take it easy around the tricky hairpin corners and descents - he lost about two minutes overall to Lance, but retained his second place position. Ullrich catapulted over King of the Mountains winner Michael Rasmussen to third place overall. Rasmussen, who appeared to implode on international television, crashed twice, got one flat tire, and switched bikes three times. Not a good day for the Dane.
Tomorrow's largely ceremonial stage will be our last opportunity to watch Lance ride his bike in a race. Unfortunately, there's the possibility of rain in Paris, which would be disappointing - after the stage is done and the trophies handed out, the teams make a point of riding slowly along the Champs-Élysées, thanking the crowds who cheer them on. Doing that in the rain will suck. Not to mention that the final straight is cobblestones, which could make it dangerous for the sprinters (who are still competing for the green jersey). All in all, what should be a boring day of champagne drinking and waving at the camera could be a bit more interesting than normal.
Oh, and each year the folks who outfit Lance's team traditionally make a special uniform and bike for the final stage into Paris - they've been hinting at what Sunday's bike will look like, but it's all a big secret until tomorrow.
Sen. John Kerry arrived in France today, and was nearly as big a star as Lance...