July 26, 2004 08:00 AM

Lance Armstrong has cemented his place in history: The 32-year-old Texan triumphed Sunday as the first cyclist in the 100-year history of the Tour de France to win the prestigious race six times – and to accomplish that remarkable feat over six consecutive years.

“The thing that was different this year was my motivation,” Armstrong told French TV in Paris Sunday after he completed the final stage of the 2,000-mile competition. “I was motivated to do better than last year and be close to losing. For some reason I had the motivation of a 20 year old.”

Armstrong, the leader of the U.S. Postal Team, approached the cobblestones of the Champs-Elysees right before 4:45 p.m. local time and crossed the finish line with no special gestures beyond tipping his cap to the crowd.

Asked if he planned to try for a seventh win next year – or, as has been rumored, whether he will instead attempt to win the Giro in Italy next spring – Armstrong said: “This story got started a few days ago. Listen, I love the (French) race. The course, the whole thing, the prestige, the difficulties – this is a race I train harder for this than anything else.

“I want to savor this sixth victory. I’ll think in the next few months about my program for next year, but let me say that I will be back for the Tour de France at some point in my career.”

Armstrong also confirmed that in the middle of the awards ceremony he received an overseas phone call from President Bush, who had been watching the finish of the race.

In the grandstand at the finish line were Armstrong’s mother, Linda Armstrong Kelly, her husband Ed Kelly, as well as Will Smith and Robin Williams, who told PEOPLE: “This has been a great week, an extraordinary week. Lance has had a great week. Every day has been amazing. Each day has had a lot of drama.

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