Barring a disaster in Sunday’s 20th—and final—stage of the 93rd Tour de France, Floyd Landis should become the third American to win the race.
Landis finished third in Saturday’s 19th stage, a 35.4-mile time trial from Le Creusot to Montceau-les-Mines, at 1:10 behind the Ukraine’s Serhiy Honchar, who won the stage. However, the Phonak team leader needed only to make up time on overall race leader Oscar Pereiro of Spain, and Landis did just that.
Trailing Pereiro by 30 seconds and in third place entering the day, Landis beat Pereiro by 1 minute, 29 seconds in Saturday’s time trial to take the yellow jersey and build a 59-second lead over the Spaniard.
All that stands between Landis and a Tour victory is Sunday’s 96-mile ride from Sceaux-Antony to Paris, including the traditional Champs-Élysées finish. With such a sizable lead, Landis should succeed seven-time winner and fellow American, Lance Armstrong, as Tour de France champion and join Armstrong (1999-2005) and Greg LeMond (’86, ’89, ’90) as the only Americans to win the Tour.
What is remarkable about Landis is that his Tour was nearly over after a disastrous ride in Stage 16, when he dropped from first to 11th place and found himself down by 8 minutes, 8 seconds to Pereiro. However, he came back strong the next day by winning Stage 17 and moving from 11th to third place, just 30 seconds behind Pereiro.
In addition, it was revealed during this year’s Tour that Landis is afflicted with a degenerative hip condition and plans to undergo hip replacement surgery following the race.
(Photo: Floyd Landis is congratulated by cycling legend Eddy Merckx after claiming the yellow jersey following Saturday’s 19th stage. Courtesy of LeTour.fr/Photographers-Bruno Bade, Ingrid Hoffmann, Jean-Christophe Moreau.)