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US Fans Travel to France to Show  Support For Lance Armstrong - 2003-07-26

Many American cycling fans made the trip to France this month to see if Lance Armstrong can win a record-tying fifth straight Tour de France. VOA Sports editor Parke Brewer is following the final days of the prestigious three-week event and caught up with two Americans who have a particular interest in Armstrong's success.

Jim Hoyt is from Texas, the home state of U.S. cycling star Lance Armstrong. Armstrong raced with Hoyt's company, Richardson Bicycles, from the age of seven until 17. Hoyt, in fact, sold Armstrong his first bicycle when he was seven.

Hoyt has traveled to France to see every one of the Tours that Armstrong has raced in. He said that after Lance won last year's Tour for his fourth straight win, Armstrong gave him a 'high five' so Hoyt has dubbed this one the 'high five' Tour.

Hoyt came over here to France to see the final nine days of the competition. He's watching the races with friends, including Sue Moran, who has seen nearly the entire Tour this month.

Moran is part of a huge group from Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycles that is here taking in this year's Tour de France.

"There is a big motorcade that is taking approximately 60 Trek dealers from throughout the United States," she said. "So they're over here and we're following the team. And they're also riding the bikes. The dealers actually get out and experience the course before the race ever starts. It's a lot of fun for them."

Both Sue Moran and Jim Hoyt emphasized that Lance Armstrong and his U.S. Postal Service teammates are riding Trek bicycles in the Tour de France that anyone can buy.

Moran: "He's got his road bike which is available to the public, which is phenomenal that he rides a bike that the general public can purchase through any of the Trek dealerships." Hoyt: "And the time trial bike. It's the same one that we sell in our stores. I mean all of the products that they put out here on the race course, which is pretty way cool, it's readily available to the public."

Sue Moran says the success of Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service team has been a big boost for the company.

"I think for the entire team to be on their bicycle and for the entire world to see their bike and to see the enthusiasm that everybody here has for the sport of cycling is probably the most significant thing," she said. "I think everybody can relate to an American team coming over to Europe and performing the way that they have over the last five years. It's pretty exciting for everyone."

And Jim Hoyt added that it will be even more exciting if Lance Armstrong can win his fifth consecutive Tour De France, an achievement done previously only by Miguel Indurain of Spain in the 1990s.

"It's very important to him. It's very important to us," said Mr. Hoyt. "Obviously, he proved that on his climb the other day. We were all in tears when he went down. He championed up just like a Texan would."

Hoyt was referring to Monday's race when Armstrong fell after colliding with a spectator, but got back on his bike and ended up winning the stage.

Hoyt says all in all, if you're a cycling fan, there's nothing better than witnessing the Tour de France in person.

"It's a blast. I mean we have a really good time," he said. "The wine is very, very good. The company is phenomenal. The history, the watching of this 100th anniversary is just, just pretty amazing. If you haven't been here, you need to come."

The three-week Tour de France ends Sunday down the Champs Elysees in Paris.