Floyd Landis
American Floyd Landis celebrates his first Tour de France win. He is only the third American in history to win cycling's most prestigious event.

American Floyd Landis Wins 2006 Tour de France

Floyd Landis
James Raia

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PARIS — With his cycling future unknown, American Floyd Landis secured his improbable Tour de France victory Sunday with a casual, celebratory four-hour ride to the French capital.

Floyd Landis

Floyd Landis American Floyd Landis celebrates his first Tour de France win. He is only the third American in history to win cycling’s most prestigious event.

Landis, 30, of Murrieta, Calif., leader of the Phonak team, finished the 95.9-mile (154.5-kilometer) 20th stage at 69th in the main pack and maintained the race leadership he regained in the 19th stage Saturday.

Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne) of Spain, who placed tenth in the past two years, finished second overall in the 2,271-mile (3,657-kilometer) race, 57 seconds behind Landis. Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) of Germany, who was second overall in 2004, placed third, 1:29 behind.

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) of Norway claimed his second win in the 20th stage in a tight sprint over Australia’s Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) of Australia in three hours, 56 minutes, and 52 seconds. Stuart O’Grady (CSC), also of Australia, was third.

Landis, riding in his fifth Tour, joined Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong as the only American winners of cycling’s most prestigious race. With LeMond’s three titles (1986, ’89, and ’90) and Armstrong’s seven titles (1999-2005), Landis became the eighth consecutive U.S race titlist and the 11th American winner in the past 21 years.

But whether Landis will be able to defend his title remains unknown. Early in the Tour, Landis announced he will soon undergo hip-replacement surgery. Landis’s hip problem dates to January 2003 when he crashed while riding near his Southern California home.

“The Tour de France is a dream of mine, and having a hip replacement puts that in jeopardy,” said Landis. “But having won the race, I’m much more relaxed about it.”

“I don’t feel like my life would be a failure if I didn’t win the race. But it was a dream, and I would be extremely disappointed if that was taken away by an unfortunate accident.”

During his pre-final day press conference, Landis said he hopes to return to the Tour, although it may take two years.

The Tour’s 93rd edition began July 1 in Strasbourg amid controversy. The expected field of 189 was reduced to 176 with the departure of last year’s top-five finishers and various others in the fallout of an ongoing Spanish doping investigation.

But when racing finally began, the Tour developed as predicted—as a wide-open race.

Seven different riders led the race, with Pereiro twice taking the yellow jersey twice and Landis wearing it on three occasions.

With the leaders’ jersey swap meet lasting three weeks, several cyclists called the race a “crazy Tour.”

Landis’s dramatics further added to the race’s reputation. While holding a ten-second margin over Pereiro entering the mountainous Stage 16 to La Toussuire, Landis badly faltered at the base of the final climb. He quickly lost chunks of time and appeared to ride himself out the race, falling to 11th overall and trailing by 8:08.

But the next day, Landis returned with a fury. He went to the front early, rode what he later described as a “four-hour time trial” and claimed nearly a six-minute solo stage win in Morzine.

The victory, which some described as the most drastic one-day comeback in Tour history, catapulted Landis back into race contention, 30 seconds behind Pereiro.

The Tour, which progressed in a counter-clockwise direction and visited six countries, included several stages in which temperatures surpassed 100 degrees.

Eight Americans, competing for five different teams, began the race. Six U.S riders finished, with Bobby Julich (CSC) of Reno, Nevada, and Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto) both crashing out. Rodriguez fell on the narrow roads on Holland in Sstage 3 and; Julich fell on a sweeping corner in Sstage 7.

In addition to Landis, U.S. finishers included: Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), Santa Rosa, California, 13th (19:22); Christian Vande Velde (CSC), Lemont, Illinois, 24th (50:19); George Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Greenville, South Carolina, 32nd (1:16:14); Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto), 64th (2:12:25); David Zabriskie (CSC), Salt Lake City, 74th (2:33:46).

Hincapie, who held the race lead for one day after Stage 1, finished the race for the tenth time, the most ever by an American.

Several stage winners and former race leaders withdrew from the race and 139 racers (79 percent) of the starting field arrived in Paris.

For more on 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, read Daniel Coyle’s feature profile of the rider “The New American in Paris,” from the July issue of Outside. Then read his follow-up interview with Landis, “From the Hip: Q&A with Floyd Landis.”.