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Lance Armstrong, left, is greeted by his children Grace, Isabelle, Luke, his mother Linda and girlfriend Anna Hansen, who is holding their son Max, following the final podium ceremony at the Tour de France. (Christophe Ena / Associated Press / July 26, 2009)
PARIS - It did look weird. Sure, the Arc de Triomphe in the background had not budged - it long has proved good at not budging - but somebody bearing remarkable resemblance to Lance Armstrong had.
To a viewer staring up Avenue Champs-Elysees on a golden Sunday, the Texan face and Texas-sized presence off to the right of the winner on the Tour de France podium seemed to dangle oddly over there, as if some frustrated choreographer had gone mildly loopy.
After Armstrong's seven Julys (1999-2005) spent so squarely in winner's middle that it seemed he might have to start paying property taxes there, this shift did mean something even if Armstrong's third-place finish did please him and even if, at 37, he did become the second-oldest cyclist to reach the 1-2-3 podium.
To the world's fevered cluster of cycling nuts, and to those who love any good diva duel, Armstrong's place below winner Alberto Contador might have said: Go ahead and hurry up, 2010.