Armstrong rides up Mont Ventoux to Tour podium. Garate wins stage 20.

Lance Armstrong rides onto the Tour podium.

Lance Armstrong rides onto the Tour podium.

The old fart triumphed.

Lance Armstrong secured third place in the Tour de France in todays brutal, windy 12.5 mile climb up the feared Mont Ventoux.

After nearly 4 years retirement, he’s back in a familiar place: the podium. In his post-race interview, a fresh-looking Armstrong told Versus, “an old fart coming in here, getting on the podium with all these young guys, that’s not bad.”

The winner of seven tours was never in difficulty, closing down any gaps to his chief rivals. Despite nearly a dozen attacks from his brother Andy, Frank Schleck failed to pry himself away from Armstrong’s’ wheel. A tenacious Bradley Wiggins, who began the day just 16 seconds behind Armstrong, faded near the summit. Astana teammate Andreas Kloden, also in contention for the third spot,  yo-yoed off the lead group and was not a factor.

In the end the “bald giant of Provence” showed who the strong men were in this year’s tour. Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck and Lance Armstrong climbed the moonscape of Ventoux together through a screaming crowd estimated at over 700,000. “I’ve never seem to many people on Ventoux,” said Armstrong. Seemed like half of America and all of France.”

The glory went to Jaun Manuel Garate of Rabobank, who broke away with a dozen riders after just three riders. The relentless gradient whittled the group down to two, Garate and Team Columbia’s Tony Martin, with the Spaniard sprinting to victory inside the 1k banner.

Perhaps Armstrong was already picturing himself at next year’s Tour de France with his new Radio Shack team. “I felt good. I can’t complain. I had the legs.” Lookout, Alberto Contador.

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