PARIS, JULY 22 -- The long ride to Paris that ended with eight mostly ceremonial laps on the Champs Elysees today was pretty much a formality for American Greg LeMond, but his third victory in the Tour de France, and second straight, was still sweet.
Belgian John Museeuw won the 113.5-mile sprint from Bretigny sur Orge to Paris for his second stage win, but it was LeMond who climbed onto the podium in his day-glo lime cap and yellow jersey as overall winner of the three-week, 2,112-mile race around France, in 90 hours 43 minutes 20 seconds.
Contrary to last year, when LeMond didn't know the outcome until Laurent Fignon finished the individual time trial, today's final stage held little drama.
"I have to say last year there was more excitement," said LeMond, who virtually sewed up the victory with a strong time trial on Saturday, overtaking Italian Claudio Chiappucci. He had opened a 2-minute 16-second lead that stood up and was the final margin of victory because the leaders finished in a pack in the final stage, and were credited with the same time of 4 hours 53 minutes 52 seconds. Eric Breukink of the Netherlands was third, 13 seconds behind Chiappucci.
"But this time it's more sentimental and emotional," LeMond said. "This year my team really meant a lot to me, and was exciting for me."
Thousands of Parisians and tourists gathered on the city's most famous boulevard in the 88-degree heat, munching ice cream cones and crepes. Empty bottles of beer and mineral water littered the sidewalks as vendors hawked souvenir caps and T-shirts. LeMond was the crowd favorite. Two people carried a banner that read, "Tout le monde aime LeMond" (All the world loves LeMond).
LeMond rode his first Tour in 1984, finishing third, and showed that his 1986 win -- the first for an American -- was no fluke. He was out of racing for two years with various injuries, including gunshot wounds suffered in a hunting accident, but came back in 1989 to win.
Halfway through the 21-stage race LeMond was seven minutes back. But he kept fighting, attacking every mountain and creeping up in the standings. He made his most dramatic move in the 13th leg, from Villard-de-Lans to St. Etienne, cutting almost five minutes off Chiappucci's 6:55 lead. Six days before the Tour ended, he was still more than two minutes behind.
LeMond dug in on the toughest stage in the Pyrenees to close to within five seconds of Chiappucci. LeMond's teammates helped him out of trouble last Wednesday when he had a flat tire. While he changed a wheel and a bike, two team members stopped to wait for him and the others slowed. Then they used a pace-relay system to bring him back to the pack and keep him within five seconds of the lead.
LeMond then bided his time until Saturday's time trial. Just like on the last day of last year's Tour, LeMond had to prove himself again, not against the pack, but against the clock. He did so with ease.
The American 7-Eleven team, racing in its sixth straight Tour, was one of only four teams out of 22 to finish with all nine riders.
Steve Bauer, the Canadian who wore the yellow jersey for 10 days until he faltered in the mountain stages, finished 27th overall.
"I'm always the guy who looks at the positive," Bauer said. "I mean, there are so many riders in this race who would love to wear that jersey, and I wore it for a long time, so I have to be quite proud of that. It's a good souvenir for my career."
American Andy Hampsten, who finished third in the Tour of Switzerland and second in Paris-Raubaix last spring, finished 11th overall.
LeMond, 29, said a goal he set 10 years ago -- to not only ride, but to win the Tour de France -- has been met three times over purely because of his perseverance. "I've done everything possible to get here," he said. "Physically, I know I have many good Tours in front of me. . . . But one thing's for sure, for the next few years I'm dedicating my life to cycling." FINAL STAGE 113.5-mile leg from Bretigny sur Orge to Paris
1, Johan Museeuw, Lotto, Belgium, 4 hours 53 minutes 52 seconds; 2, Adriano Baffi, Ariostea, Italy, same time; 3, Olaf Ludwig, Panasonic, East Germany, same time; 4, Djamolidine Abdushaparov, Alfa-Lum, Soviet Union, same time; 5, Davis Phinney, 7-Eleven, Boulder, Colo., same time; 6, Sean Kelly, PDM, Ireland, same time; 7, Phil Anderson, TVM, Australia, same time; 8, Jelle Nijdam, Buckler, Netherlands, same time; 9, Adrie Van der Poel, Weinmann, Belgium, same time; 10, Uwe Raab, Panasonic, East Germany, same time; 11, Giovanni Fidanza, Chateau d'Ax, Italy, same time; 12, Jan Schur, Chateau D'ax, East Germany, same time; 13, Soren Lilholt, Histor, Denmark, same time; 14, Hendrik Redant, Lotto, Belgium, same time; 15, Jean-Claude Colotti, RMO, France, same time. Other Americans
36, Andy Bishop, 7-Eleven, Tucson, same time; 41, Greg LeMond, Z, Wayzata, Minn., same time; 68, Ron Kiefel, 7-Eleven, Boulder, Colo., same time; 86, Andy Hampsten, 7-Eleven, Boulder, Colo., same time; 147, Norman Alvis, 7-Eleven, Sacramento, Calif., same time; 151, Bob Roll, 7-Eleven, Santa Fe, N.M., same time. FINAL OVERALL STANDINGS
1, Greg LeMond, Z, Wayzata, Minn., 90 hours 43 minutes 20 seconds; 2, Claudio Chiappucci, Carrera, Italy, 2:16 behind; 3, Eric Breukink, PDM, Netherlands, 2:29; 4, Pedro Delgado, Banesto, Spain, 5:01; 5, Marino Lejarreta, ONCE, Spain, 5:05; 6, Eduardo Chozas, ONCE, Spain, 9:14; 7, Gianni Bugno, Chateau d'Ax, Italy, 9:39; 8, Raul Alcala, PDM, Mexico, 11:14; 9, Claude Criquielion, Lotto, Belgium, 12:04; 10, Miguel Indurain, Banesto, Spain, 12:47; 11, Andrew Hampsten, 7-Eleven, Boulder, Colo., 12:54; 12, Pelio Ruiz-Cabestany, Spain, 13:13; 13, Fabio Parra, Kelme, Colombia, 14:35; 14, Fabrice Philpot, Castorama, France, 15:49; 15, Gilles Delion, Helvetia, France, 16:57.
83, Kiefel, 1:39:11; 116, Bishop, 2:03:10; 131, Roll, 2:14:22; 142, Alvis, 2:26:41; 153, Phinney, 2:59:29.
1990....Greg LeMond, United States
1989....Greg LeMond, United States
1988....Pedro Delgado, Spain
1987....Stephen Roche, Ireland
1986....Greg LeMond, United States
1985....Bernard Hinault, France
1984....Laurent Fignon, France
Complete results, Page B12