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By Andrew Hood
Lance Armstrong will kick start his retirement years with 600 of his best friends during a huge blowout Sunday night in Paris.
Armstrong’s illustrious career will be feted in the private affair at the Paris Ritz hotel in the heart of Paris. The A-list guest ledger includes top Hollywood and political movers and shakers.
“This year we’re doing more of a celebration of Lance and his accomplishments,” said Dan Osipow, Discovery Channel team spokesman. “Win or lose, we’re going to celebrate Lance’s career, but we’re hoping we’re going to win.”
More than 600 invited guests along with riders, family and friends will attend. The traditional sit-down dinner that the team’s hosted since 1999 will be replaced with a more festive setting with DJs and dancing.
Among the expected guests are 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, comedian Will Farrell and movie director Stephen Spielberg. Armstrong sidekick Robin Williams, a regular on the Tour circuit, won’t be attending because he’s filming a movie in Canada.
As he’s done the past few years, Armstrong will stay overnight in a private suite in the palatial Hotel de Crillon overlooking the Place de Concorde with the Texas flag flying in honor.
The glamorous trappings show how far the team has come since its humble beginnings. After the team’s first Tour in 1997, a handful of journalists and family joined riders at a small Mexican restaurant called Café Pacifico.
The team graduated to the Musée d’Orsay for Armstrong’s first Tour win in 1999, then switched to the even more glamorous Grand Ballroom of the Intercontinental Le Grande to celebrate wins No. 5 and 6.