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Finishing Last Leaves Him Feeling in the Red

Hans de Clercq finished almost five hours behind winner Lance Armstrong in last place at the Tour de France, gaining the unofficial title of “Lanterne Rouge,” a name derived from the red lamp that used to dangle from the rear wagon of French trains.

Others in the back of the pack are long forgotten, but the last finisher gets publicity and lucrative invitations to a series of races that follow the Tour de France.

“Nobody dreams of being last in the Tour, but once you’re the Lanterne Rouge, you get to like it,” said De Clercq, a 34-year-old Belgian.

The gap between Armstrong and De Clercq was the largest in 30 years, but it wasn’t a record. When Antoine Deflotriere finished last in 1904, he was more than four days -- 101 hours, 36 minutes -- behind winner Henri Cornet.

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Trivia time: What year did the NFL make wearing helmets mandatory?

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Spirit of Hope: Sam Felipe thinks Bob Hope may have been smiling down on him Monday at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake. Playing in the KCBS-KCAL Special Olympics charity tournament at the course where Hope was a longtime member, Felipe aced the 170-yard third hole and won $50,000.

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Felipe, a 17-handicapper, says he’s never come close to a hole in one before, but his good fortune hadn’t yet run out.

At a dinner afterward, he won the first raffle prize, which included a DVD player and four tickets to Disneyland.

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Appetite curbed: San Francisco Chronicle reader Steve Quinlan was an unofficial winner of the newspaper’s “Best Use for a Tommy Lasorda Bobblehead Contest” with this entry:

“I put my Lasorda figurine in my refrigerator as a deterrent to late-night snacking.”

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No worries: Greg Norman continues to advocate random drug tests on the PGA Tour. He says he’s not as worried about steroid use as he is about other drugs such as sedatives or beta-blockers that could be used for their calming effects.

Hall of Famer Tommy Bolt once tried sedatives in an attempt to calm both his nerves and his legendary temper.

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Bolt said they worked “great.”

“I’m still three-putting, but I don’t give a damn anymore.”

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The jump: Former NBA star Darryl Dawkins says Julius Erving is the most amazing basketball player he has ever seen.

“He could get up and dunk on the whole team,” Dawkins told the Denver Post. “It wouldn’t matter how many guys were under there. When they turned around, all they saw was shoe coming.”

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Lucky loser: Today is the last day to enter a United Airlines contest to win a free trip to the U.S. Open. The grand prize includes air travel, lodging, courtside seats and a chance to play tennis with Chris Evert.

Enter at www.united.com/usopen, but be forewarned: Chrissy hates to lose.

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Trivia answer: 1943.

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And finally: From Steve Rosenbloom in the Chicago Tribune: “Government figures revealed America’s birthrate fell to a record low last year. Officials attribute it to fewer teen pregnancies, an aging population and an all-consuming interest in video games by NBA players.”

-- John Weyler


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