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How will USA cope without Armstrong?

And coming down the stretch, through the crowd and across the finish line is this year's Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

For the record seventh - and final - time in history, Lance Armstrong will come away with the Tour de France cycling championship Sunday. He will then retire and face the less grueling and more pleasurable task of chasing after singer Sheryl Crow.

Yes, Armstrong will ride off into the Schwinn bike sunset much to the delight of the rest of the cycling world. No more will they have to cry foul and accuse Armstrong of using drugs. After hundreds of negative drug tests, Armstrong will use his yellow jersey to wave good-bye.

But while one great career ends, a great void opens.

America's interest in cycling was due to Armstrong. Most people don't know the name of any other cyclist and, if they do, it's limited to the consistent futile attempts of Jan Ulrich.

Without Armstrong, the race becomes the Bore de France.

I'll miss the other riders looking for excuses as to why Armstrong kept winning. Those cyclist don't realize how ridiculous they are to complain about a guy who nearly died of cancer bouncing back to win seven years in a row. If you lose to a guy who almost died, you ought to keep your mouth shut.

The fact he passed every drug test without a trace of illegal substance makes them look even worse. In other words guys, just shut up.

As I said, there will be a void with Americans in terms of interest in the race. Unless another American challenger comes along, no one in the USA will bother with the race.

However, that can be changed.

Cycling officials could spice up the race to make it more attractive to the regular and casual fan. I have some suggestions that the cycling commission should consider.

Since the race is conducted in stages, let's spice up some of them and make them more exciting.

For example, in one stage the cyclists could look for the real killer of O.J. Simpson's wife with none other than O.J. driving the pace car (a white Bronco, of course).

Borrow a page from Spain and make one stage "Riding with the Bulls." Imagine the cyclists battling stampeding bulls as well as each other. Talk about drama!

Test cyclists for drugs after every stage. If he is drug-free, then he will be permitted to use any drug of his choice in the final stage. It will be the "No Holds Barred" stage. Can you imagine what kind of finish this would create?

Probably my favorite idea would to make the overall race worth $1,000,000. Give each of them some clues to a buried treasure. The first one to find the treasure and dig it up is the winner and gets to keep the money. It's my Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World stage.

Now, those are some exciting ideas the cycling commission should consider.

Or, maybe not.

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.