For the eighth straight year, an American took the podium on the Champs-Elysees Sunday as native Pennsylvanian Floyd Landis won the Tour de France championship.
The 30-year-old leader of the Phonak team thanked his teammates for supporting him, especially for his comeback in the final Alpine stage. Later he told OLN: “I'm proud of the way my team raced, and I'm proud of the way I raced.”
After winning the inaugural Tour of California in February, followed by the Tour of Georgia and Paris-Nice, Landis now faces an uncertain professional future with hip replacement surgery and the possibility of joining a new team as his Phonak contract expires. (Landis' present team, which will be sponsored by iShares next year, is interested in renewing his contract. Lance Armstrong told AP that Discovery would be interested in looking at him, too.)
Let's hope all goes well with his future and he's back in the peloton next year.
Norgwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd, winner of the prologue, won the final sprint in Paris. Robbie McEwen and Erik Zabel followed close on his rear wheel in the sprint. Several riders, including American George Hincapie, tried to attack in the final mile, but were unsuccessful.
The peloton allowed 40-year-old Discovery cyclist Viatceslav Ekimov to lead them down the Champs-Elysees on their first lap, his 15th visit to Paris in the Tour de France.
Marred by a doping scandal and absence of several favorites, many expected this Tour would be a boring affair. That was hardly the case, especially as the see-saw battle between Landis and Oscar Pereiro took place, culminating in Landis taking the yellow for the third time in the Tour after Saturday individual time trial.
Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong is quoted at Paceline.com, the Discovery team fansite:
“I was in the car with Johan when Floyd had his bad day. It looked like it was over for him but knowing Floyd the way I do I was not surprised to see him come out fighting. His ride on Thursday was epic. He showed a champions resolve. I look forward to seeing him up on the podium in Paris. If it couldn't be one of my guys from Discovery Channel than I am thrilled to see Floyd continue the success of American cycling.”
Meanwhile, Discovery team manager Johan Bruyneel told TdF Live that next year, “I believe we need to be more focused on having just one leader.” This year, the team went into the Tour without a designated leader, although George Hincapie earned the yellow in the second stage and Yaroslav Popovych won a stage.
The top 10 at the end of the Tour:
The top 10 riding in the overall standings are:
1. Floyd Landis (US) Phonak
2. Oscar Pereiro (Sp), Caisse d'Epargne, :57 behind
3. Andreas Kloden (Ger), T-Mobile, 1:29
4. Carlos Sastre (Sp), CSC, 3:13
5. Cadel Evans (Aus), Davitamon, 5:08
6. Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, 7:06
7. Cyril Dessel (Fr), AG2R, 8:41
8. Christophe Moreau (Fr), AG2R, 9:37
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Sp), Euskaltel, 12:05
10. Michael Rogers (Ger), T-Mobile, 15:07
The standings for the remaining 6 US riders:
1. Floyd Landis (Phonak)
13. Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), 19:22 behind
24. Christian Vandevelde (CSC), 50:19
32. George Hincapie (Discovery), 1:11:14
64. Chris Horner (Davitamon), 2:12:25
74. David Zabriskie (CSC), 2:33:46
Among the other Tour competitions, Robbie McEwen for Davitamon Lotto won the green jersey ahead of Erik Zabel; Michael Rasmussen won the polka dot jersey for best climber for the second year in a row; Damiano Cunego picked up the Best Young Rider jersey on the strength of his individual time trial effort; and T-Mobile won the best team competition. Most combative cyclist went to David de la Fuente.