PARIS -- Greg LeMond became the first American to win the Tour de France Sunday, breaking Western Europe's century-long dominance of road cycling by capturing the sport's most prestigious race.
The 25-year-old Californian completed the 2,541-mile race around France -- which began in Paris July 4, the day France and the United States celebrated the renovation of the Statue of Liberty in New York - with the traditional ending of six laps up and down the luxurious Champs Elysees.
He finished with a lead of 3 minutes, 10 seconds over La Vie Claire teammate and rival Bernard Hinault, the five-time Tour champion.
'It's amazing,' Lemond said. 'It still hasn't sunk in yet what I've done. I've always thought that to win the Tour de France you have to be one of the greatest athletes in the world.'
It was the first time since Holland's Joop Zoetemelk in 1980 the Tour was not won by a Frenchman.
It also marked the first time since the race began in 1903 that it was won by a rider outside the traditional cycling powers of Western Europe -- France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Spain and Italy.
Switzerland's Urs Zimmermann of the Carrera team finished third, 10:54 behind Lemond. Another American with La Vie Claire, Andrew Hampsten, was fourth. Italian Guido Bontempi, with his second consecutive stage victory, won the final stage in a sprint over Belgian Eric Vanderaerden.
Lemond stayed in the pack on the 158-mile 23rd stage from Cosne-Cours-Sur-Loire into Paris. The American was greeted on the victory podium by French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac and U.S. ambassador Joe Rodgers. Chirac handed him a yellow jersey symbolic of the race leader and a trophy.
Lemond, grinning on the podium, was flanked by Hinault and Zimmermann during the American national anthem.
'Bernard was very good today. We have resolved our problems,' said Lemond, who shared equally in the applause from the crowd with the French star. 'Today he just told me to ride easy and everything will be OK.'
Hinault and Lemond duelled bitterly throughout the race, with the American beating his former mentor on the final week in the high mountains to secure the victory.
The victory highlighted the expansion of the sport outside southwestern Europe in recent years that has seen the emergence of world class riders from North America, Colombia, Ireland, Scandinavia and Australia.
Lemond, who scored his most important victory since winning the 1983 World Championship race, took the overall lead from Hinault a week ago to become the first American ever to wear the yellow jersey.
Lemond had been criticized in Europe for lacking the finishing power to win major races.
'I always knew Greg had the talent to win, but I always doubted he had the spirit,' veteran French rider Ronan Pensec said. 'This year he showed that and he has become a great champion.'
Hinault settled for the red-spotted jersey as the Tour's best mountain rider. Vanderaerden won the green jersey as the leader in points awarded for placings in the daily stages. Hampsten won the white jersey as the best rider in his first Tour.
A record field of 210 riders -- 21 10-man teams -- started the race but only 132 finished.
Italian Maria Canins won her second women's Tour de France. The 37-year-old rider beat her nearest competitor, Jeannie Longo of France, by more than 15 minutes.
American Inga Thompson took third place overall, 22:09 back. France's Valerie Simonet was fourth, 34:31 behind Canins.
'I found this Tour less difficult than last year's,' Canins said. 'I won it, not easily, but I was consistenly strong, and just never let up.'