July 21, 2006
Landis' Legendary Leap
American cyclist Floyd Landis did something yesterday that is not suppose to happen. Wednesday, Landis cracked on the final climb of stage 16 giving up his yellow jersey and falling over eight minutes behind the leader. That looked to be the end of his Tour de France title chances. No one thought after his body gave out that Landis could overcome such a lead not even Landis. He told reporters, "I don't expect to win the Tour at this point. It's not easy to get back 8 minutes." All he was thinking about after Wednesday's ride was to "drink some beer."
I want to know what beer he drank because, on stage 17 "Lazarus" Landis conquered the final climbs in the Alps, destroyed the competition, and put himself into position to win the Tour de France. From the first climb Landis launched himself ahead of Tour contenders Oscar Pereiro and Carlos Sastre and never looked back. Riders in the peloton asked Landis to take things easy in the heat. He replied, "Go drink some Coke because we're leaving on the first climb if you want to come along."
Here's what William Fotheringham wrote for the Guardian:
On the Saisies his team-mates had set the early pace, one of them - Miguel Angel Martín Perdiguero - with such gusto that he was unable to complete the stage. Landis disappeared as if the finish was around the corner, sprinting up the gutter alongside the lead riders in the string. Ahead was a group of 10; by the ski lifts at the summit he had halved their six-minute lead. On the day's second major mountain, the Colombiere, he was alone, pouring vast amounts of water into his helmet every few minutes to counter the 30C heat, and on the descent his advantage reached nine minutes - enough to make him the race leader on the road.
Eurosport called it "one of the greatest [performances] in the history of the Tour de France." Injured American cyclist Bobby Julich called it "a miracle in cycling."
When stage 17 was through Landis beat Sastre by over five minutes putting him in third place only 30 seconds behind Pereiro. Saturday's time trial, Landis' specialty, will decide the winner of the Tour and if the yellow jersey stays on the body of an American cyclist.
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