Fri, Jul 21, 2006 - Page 21 News List

Landis abandons all hope

COLLAPSE After a long, grueling slog in Stage 16 on Wednesday, it became apparent that the US' Floyd Landis was slowly losing his grip on the race

AFP , ST JEAN DE MAURIENNE, FRANCE

Spain's Oscar Pereiro Sio celebrates retaining the yellow jersey as overall leader on the podium of the 16th stage of the Tour de France in La Toussuire, France, on Wedensday.

PHOTO: AFP

American Floyd Landis has come to terms with his spectacular collapse on the 16th stage of the Tour de France in which he lost all hope of perhaps ever winning the yellow jersey.

After finishing over 10 minutes behind stage winner Mickael Rasmussen, Landis gave up the race lead to Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, who ironically now has a chance of riding all the way to victory in Paris on Sunday.

Given that Pereiro was at Landis's Phonak team until last year, and that a Phonak-sanctioned breakaway by Pereiro a few days ago allowed the Spaniard to crawl back up the general classification, Landis has reason to feel robbed.

However the 30-year-old American, whose commanding performance on the Alpe d'Huez the day before gave him back the race lead, was quick to admit his personal failure.

"I had a really bad day on the wrong day," said Landis, who said he had fought to hide his lack of form for most of what was the hardest climbing day on the Tour.

"I suffered from the beginning. I tried to hide it, but I couldn't. I was struggling on the climbs even before the last climb," he said.

The first signs of Landis' struggle became clear when Russian Denis Menchov, who began the stage still a contender but also finished out of the running, accelerated early on the long climb to La Toussuire.

His attack was chased down by Germany's Andreas Kloden of T-Mobile, and not Landis -- giving the rest of the field an inkling that things were not quite going to plan.

Menchov was soon brought under control, but then Spaniard Carlos Sastre, having seen Landis was below par, decided to take it up a notch.

The CSC rider attacked and quickly built a lead on the chasing group and went on to finish second behind early breakaway rider Rasmussen.

As Sastre bombed it up the hill, Landis's pedaling cadence slowed dramatically.

Even to the untrained eye, it was clear he was slowly losing his grip on the race.

"Once I was dropped, there was only one speed I could go at, which wasn't very fast," he said.

Despite yesterday's stage being a hilly number, it was unlikely to give Landis the chance to launch decisive attacks.

His only hope of finishing further up than 11th place, where he sits with an eight-minute deficit to Pereiro, is to hope for a repeat of his earlier time trial performance, in which he finished second, on last Saturday's 57km race against the clock.

"I don't expect to win the Tour now. It's not easy to get back eight minutes, but I'll keep trying," he said.

"I never assumed the Tour was won, not at any point. I said many times it is possible to have a bad day, and that's why I raced conservatively even when I was feeling good," he added.

Landis, a willing departee from Lance Armstrong's old team, US Postal, would be forgiven for feeling he has lost all chance of ever winning the yellow jersey.

Only last week he announced he would have hip replacement surgery after the Tour, which could leave his future winning potential in doubt.

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