RadioShack denied black-jersey tribute

Updated: July 25, 2010, 12:24 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

PARIS -- Lance Armstrong tried to close out his cycling career by highlighting a key motivation for his return to the sport.

His efforts were quickly discarded.

Armstrong Today, we're riding for every one of the 28 million people all over the world whose lives and families are affected by this disease.

-- Lance Armstrong,
on Team RadioShack's cancer tribute that held up the start of Sunday's final stage

Armstrong and Team RadioShack donned all-black jerseys Sunday inscribed with the number 28 -- to represent the 28 million people living with cancer worldwide -- before the Tour de France's final, mostly celebratory 63.6-mile stage from Longjumeau to Paris.

But Tour de France organizers held up the start of the stage for about 15 minutes until RadioShack and a grim-faced Armstrong changed back into their official red-and-black jerseys.

The International Cycling Union said the RadioShack riders had to wear the official race numbers. The rest of the pack pedaled slowly as race officials delayed the start.

Armstrong and his teammates later returned to the black jerseys before taking the podium for winning this year's team classification.

"Today, we're riding for every one of the 28 million people all over the world whose lives and families are affected by this disease," Armstrong said before Sunday's stage, according to CNN.com.

Armstrong, 38, was diagnosed with advanced testicular cancer in 1996 before beating it, winning the Tour from 1999 to 2005, and coming out of retirement in 2009, when he said he wanted to showcase his Livestrong Foundation to further raise money for the fight against cancer.

[+] EnlargeArmstrong
Joel Sagat/AFP/Getty ImagesA UCI official explains to Lance Armstrong why his team had to change out of their all-black cancer awareness jerseys.

Alberto Contador, who Sunday sipped a glass of champagne en route to the Champs-Elysees and held up three fingers to signal his probable third Tour win, extended his lead over nearest challenger Andy Schleck to 39 seconds in Saturday's time trial.

Schleck was in good mood Sunday, speaking with TV reporters while riding but declining to sing the famous French song, "Aux Champs-Elysees."

The Luxembourg rider and Contador then playfully sprinted in front of the pack about 57 miles from the finish before shaking hands for photographers.

Contador, known as the Pistolero for his trademark finger-firing gesture, took a blue plastic squirt gun and sprayed photographers.

Contador was poised to join Greg LeMond, Louison Bobet and Philippe Thys as three-time Tour champions.

Armstrong was knocked out of contention early in this year's race after several crashes left him well off the pace. He attacked throughout Tuesday's 16th stage high in the Pyrenees, only to fall short in a sprint at the line, finishing sixth.

Armstrong for years has battled rumors and speculation of doping that have taken on new life recently as former teammate Floyd Landis has adamantly leveled accusations that Armstrong has used performance-enhancing methods during his cycling career.

Armstrong has repeatedly denied Landis' claims.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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