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American Lance  Armstrong is Favorite in 2002 Tour de France - 2002-07-05

Lance Armstrong is about to begin his bid to become the first American cyclist to win a fourth straight Tour de France title. The prestigious 21-day race gets underway Saturday in Luxembourg.

Armstrong is tied with fellow American Greg LeMond with three victories. The tour record is five. Armstrong says he has trained hard for the event because he says any rider can emerge from the pack to finish in front. But the U.S. Postal Service rider is highly favored to win, in part because several of his top rivals will be missing.

German veteran Jan Ullrich, last year's runner-up and winner of the 1997 Tour, tested positive for amphetamines in a recent out-of-competition surprise test. Ullrich is skipping the Tour because of a knee injury. The 1998 Tour champion Marco Pantani of Italy failed to qualify for this year's Tour, and he is also embroiled in doping charges.

The 3,282 kilometer Tour takes riders through Luxembourg, Germany, the plains of northern France, the Mediterranean coast, the Pyrenees and Alps mountains. It is the shortest ever Tour, and is designed to hopefully keep the outcome uncertain until the last few days.