Lance still centre of attention
He was never going to go quietly, was he?
Despite being 40 minutes off the pace and reduced to "tourist on a bike" status, Lance Armstrong's leaving of the Tour de France was in keeping with his 17-year relationship with the world's greatest bike race.
When Tour officials noticed Armstrong's Team RadioShack were wearing unauthorised jerseys for Sunday's final stage, they halted proceedings and made them put their official kit back on.
Farcical scenes ensued as Armstrong and co changed by the side of the road, safety-pinning race numbers to their old shirts, while the rest of the riders wondered what was going on.
If the intended message was that nobody is bigger than the Tour, it ended up very mixed. The officials made their point but Armstrong got his photo opportunity.
Armstrong and his team were forced to change their shirts at the start of the Tour's final stage
"The Boss" might not be bigger than the race that made his name but it has been a close-run thing for the last decade or so. The most successful cyclist in Tour history, he is also - and this changes almost everything - arguably the most famous cancer survivor on the planet.
Those jerseys were not the cycling equivalent of football's second away kit released in time for Christmas. Emblazoned with the number 28 (to signify the 28m people suffering from cancer worldwide) they were billboards for Livestrong, the charity Armstrong set up in 1997, a year after he was told he had a less than a 40% chance of beating testicular cancer.
Long odds have never daunted him - the Texan was a world champion at 21 - and by 1998 he was back on the bike. A year later he won his first Tour de France, a feat he repeated six more times in succession.
Like him or loathe him, you could not ignore him. If he was not revolutionising his sport with new techniques and equipment, Armstrong was dating a pop star, raising millions for his foundation or dragging cycling's profile up by the collar.
But if that is all there is to say about him he would not be the sporting Marmite he has become.
For some fans there was more to his "new techniques and equipment" than spinning a low gear, meticulous preparation and team radios. For them Armstrong is the one who got away with it.
Allegations of doping - never substantiated, always denied - have dogged him for years.
The "did he/didn't he" debate has almost spawned a book genre of its own and his legal victories are nearly as numerous as his cycling wins. Look at almost any cycling website and you will find both sides battling over a No Man's Land from entrenched positions.
This argument (of almost no interest to the average punter) could have gone on forever if Armstrong had stuck to his plan to retire at the top in 2005. But that would have been a denial of what made him so special in the first place: the widest competitive streak in professional sport.
So having flirted with celebrity life and politics for three-and-a-half years, Armstrong returned to the sport in 2009.
Tour legend Greg LeMond backs Floyd Landis's claims Armstrong took performance-enhancing drugs
This was either the greatest comeback story ever told or a shameless attempt to cheat justice once again - the for/against front lines had not moved an inch during his absence.
So why come back at all? Was an eighth title really worth the risk of re-opening hostilities with his enemies in cycling?
For his fans, the comeback was an opportunity to reassert his greatness, proclaim his message of hope for cancer patients and answer his critics with a concerted effort at anti-doping transparency.
For his knockers, it was a sham and a retrograde step for a sport starting to emerge from a tainted era.
That he managed to ignore this and claim a third-place finish in Paris was probably the least surprising part of it. When he confirmed plans to return in 2010 with a new team, few were willing to write off his chances completely.
There was no Hollywood-style ending for the LA story, though. A calamitous eighth stage saw him crash twice and lose almost 12 minutes to the leaders. When he got off his bike at the end of a horrible day in the Alps, he admitted: "My Tour has finished."
So the cycling world has changed with a new generation replacing the last: more worrying for Armstrong is that the world outside cycling may have changed too.
When disgraced cyclist Floyd Landis revealed two months ago that his previous denials of doping were lies, it caused a few ripples.
Having spent four years proclaiming his innocence (even writing an autobiography called "Positively False"), Landis was hardly the most credible of witnesses but what he had to say demanded attention.
When he started saying it about his former team-mate Armstrong, those ripples became waves. The confession came in a stream of leaked emails to cycling officials in the US and within days the mainstream media had taken the story on.
If Landis is telling the truth this is not just one man's quest for absolution, it is an indictment of a decade of American cycling. And that means Armstrong.
The Landis accusations (and they are many and wide-ranging) are now the subject of an investigation led by Jeff Novitzky, a senior officer at the US Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations in California.
If Novitzky's name sounds familiar it is because he was the lead investigator in the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (Balco) case that brought down Olympic sprint star Marion Jones.
The federal government's involvement represents a considerable raising of the stakes for Armstrong, hence his hiring of a high-powered legal team.
Details of the investigation are still sketchy, although Armstrong's lawyers are annoyed we know as much as we do, but it seems it will focus on the possibility federal money was used to fund a doping programme during the era Armstrong's team was sponsored by the US Postal Service.
But this will not be a straightforward case and recent reports suggest all aspects of the Armstrong network - the deals with bike manufacturers, other sponsors and the sport's governing bodies - will come under the microscope.
The next stage in the process comes on Friday when Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour, goes to a federal court in Los Angeles to add his testimony. Coming from the generation of cyclists before Armstrong and Landis, it is unclear what he can say to substantiate Landis's claims but his feelings about Armstrong are unmistakeable.
"I think (Landis) is telling the truth," LeMond told The Denver Post. "I think the level of detail, the descriptions, it rings true."
Despite LeMond's instincts, it should be made clear Armstrong has taken more than 300 drugs tests during his long career and passed them all.
The concern for Armstrong should be that this bout of claim and counter-claim will be played out in front of a grand jury, on home soil and in prime time. There will be leaked testimony, running commentary in the media and numerous shots of serious-looking people on the steps of federal courts.
Whatever happens in the coming months, Armstrong's legacy is going to be tested like never before.