Pereiro dons yellow jersey at last

`MIXED FEELINGS': Well over a year after the 2006 edition of the world's most famous cycling race ended, the race-winner's jersey was presented to Oscar Pereiro on Monday

AP , MADRID

Wed, Oct 17, 2007 - Page 19

Oscar Pereiro finally got his hands on the winner's yellow jersey from last year's Tour de France on Monday.

"Finally, we have a winner and it's Oscar," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. "Oscar, you have won the Tour out on the road."

The Spaniard moved up from second to first after the disqualification of Floyd Landis for doping.

"I have the feeling of arriving at the end of a thriller, after having spent 14 months thinking about it and not being able to concentrate as I should have on my job," Pereiro said. "It is essentially a kind of release."

The International Cycling Union formally declared Pereiro the winner on Sept. 21, one day after a US arbitration panel voted 2-1 to remove the title from Landis for using synthetic testosterone during the Tour.

It's the first time in the 105-year history of the race that a winner has been stripped of the title.

"The moment I received the profit of my work, I had mixed feelings, something between satisfaction and regret for what we were deprived of," Pereiro said.

Pereiro stood on the top step of a podium with his winner's jersey, not along the Champs-Elysees as a normal champion would but in offices of Spain's Sport Ministry.

"These emotions, it is impossible to feel them in a ceremony like this one, which is organized so that everyone understands and sees that Oscar Pereiro is the winner of the Tour," the Caisse d'Epargne rider said.

Landis has appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which is expected to issue a final and binding ruling by mid-February.

"We can blame Floyd Landis for many things but we can't blame him for defending himself," Prudhomme said.

The Tour director said once the UCI had made up its mind and announced a new winner, the decision was made to hand the yellow jersey to Pereiro.

Spanish Sports Minister Jamie Lissavetzky and Patrice Clerc, head of Tour organizers ASO, attended the ceremony.

Lissavetzky said Pereiro had been awarded Spain's gold medal for sporting merit.

Pereiro held a lead of more than eight minutes over Landis before the American made a spectacular comeback in the 17th stage to set up his Tour victory. Pereiro finished 57 seconds behind Landis in the final standings.

"It's good for sport to have mechanisms that can filter out those who cheat," Pereiro said.