Saturday, July 22, 2006
STAGE 19: LANDIS RETAKES YELLOW JERSEY
THIRD TIME'S A CHARM? He'd worn the Yellow Jersey twice earlier in the race. He'd given it up voluntarily the first time to Oscar Pereiro, considered a non-contender who rode himself into contention on a long breakaway. Landis had regained the race leadership on the fabled L'Alpe d'Huez. But the next day he lost it again--most thought permanently--when he fell behind eight minutes to his rivals on the last mountain climb. The next day, the last day in the Alps, Landis went for broke, pulled out all the stops, astounded the critics, confounded his rivals, broke away and rode himself to within 30 seconds of Pereiro's race-leading time.
TIME TRIAL DRAMA. It all came down to this second to last stage--the pentultimate stage--and his ability to finish the 57 kilometer individual time trial far enough ahead of Oscar Pereiro, Carlos Sastre, and Andreas Kloden to overcome a 30-second deficit to Pereiro. Sastre rode poorly. Pereiro did extremely well, finishing the stage in fourth place. But Landis rode faster than Pereiro; he finished one-minute, 29-seconds ahead of Pereiro. Landis' third-place finish in this stage put him into the race lead, with a 59-second lead over Pereiro and a one-minute, 29-second lead over Andreas Kloden. Congratulations to Landis for an incredible comeback!
ALL BUT OVER. Unless riders and teams break all the rules for the final stage--Stage 20--tomorrow, Landis should be the next American to win the Tour de France. I wouldn't put it past some rider or team to, like Landis did, go for broke in Stage 20, but it is not likely. What is likely is that Floyd Landis will roll onto the Champs Elysees as only the fourth American in over 90 years of this storied international competition to win the Tour de France. It will be the first time Americans have won it back to back. It will be quite a celebration in Paris tomorrow!