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Armstrong wins Stages 17 and 19!

No doubt this year. No sirree Bob.

As with Merckx, who was booed and on occasion was punched, Armstrong's domination has not earned universal popularity. A small number of spectators have whistled at him at stage starts. He was apparently spat on during the Alpe d'Huez time-trial. While most spectators' placards have been supportive, there was the odd one referring to drugs - 'EPOstal', for example - and the motto 'Lance go home' has been spotted.

Normally he gives away a present or two to the other riders, but since the first stage in the Pyrenees, which he gave to Ivan Basso, there have been no gifts. It is as if he is trying to make the point that he is the strongest and it is up to the others to fight for what they can get.

While fighting cancer left Armstrong weak and frustrated, it also allowed him to rebuild his body into the perfect shape for a cyclist. He had developed a strong upper body through swimming, but lost nine kilograms of muscle during his illness.

As he prepared to walk out to the podium after Thursday's stage to be honored and applauded and kissed on both cheeks - by pretty girls, not by the race officials - Lance Armstrong met fellow five-time champion Bernard Hinault at the top of the stairs. "Perfect," Hinault assured him. "No gifts."

I repeat the negatives over and over every day," he said on the eve of this Tour. "It’s definitely a perception that I need that chip [on my shoulder]. It’s probably also accurate most of the time. But, and this is an important ‘but,’ most athletes perform better when they’re really motivated or angry about something.

"I don't like to lose. I just despise it."