Au revoir: Armstrong waves goodbye with final attack
Lance Armstrong might have lost his headline-grabbing abilities over an entire Tour de France but today was something of a history lesson.
The seven-time winner led the inevitable breakaway on the penultimate mountain stage of the 2010 tour, joining in with two breaks and finishing in the winning group almost seven minutes clear of the peloton.
For a moment, as Armstrong leapt out of his saddle and reared away from the peloton, you could have been forgiven for thinking it was a stage from any one of his seven consecutive victories.
But of course this was 2010, five years since he last won the tour, and instead of wearing the yellow jersey, Armstrong started the day in 31st place, over 40 minutes behind the leader Alberto Contador.
It was almost predictable that Armstrong would target the 200km stage into Pau as his last chance to add to his 25 tour stage wins.
He has been without form or luck all race and, though the bloody-mindedness which drove him to his record number of tour wins is still evidently on show, his legs can no longer last the pace.
Though stage 16 included two super-category climbs, the final 60km was a gradual decent and the likes of Contador and his fierce maillot jaune rival Andy Schleck stayed in the pack to bide their time.
So Armstrong, leaving the safety of the peloton he would once have enjoyed, set off on one last final hurrah.
For his legions of fans, and equally vociferous detractors, this was the last chance to see him grace the slopes of a French mountain stage before the 38-year-old retires at the end of this season.
It has been a tough tour for Armstrong, by far the hardest since he sensationally returned in 1999 to win, having recovered from testicular cancer just two years previously.
But his belligerence in the face of adversity this year has curiously endeared him to the sections of the cycling public who have lived to loathe him over the years.
Pierrick Fedrigo celebrated the stage win as he outsprinted the rest of the nine-man breakaway, while a clearly exhausted Armstrong wheeled in six places back.
But while the Frenchman celebrated the sixth stage victory for the host country in this years edition, the Tour de France, begrudgingly or otherwise, nodded its collective head towards its most famous name.