By John Trevorrow
What a magnificent Tour de France. What a deserving champion and what a gallant loser.
Floyd Landis has pulled off one of the most amazing comebacks in any sport and may well challenge the dynasty of his former team boss Lance Armstrong.
Landis was asked if, when he was Armstrong's teammate, he thought he would one day wear the maillot jaune. "I dreamed of wearing it. I always hoped that I would lead a team and get the opportunity but it takes a lot of hard work from a lot of people, a lot of determination and a bit of luck. Today I feel lucky," an emotional Landis said.
Landis was raised in a strict Mennonite family and said that his upbringing helped him recover from the disastrous day in the Alps, "I felt only humiliation so I just got angry. I had good parents who taught me the value of hard work and patience."
Oscar Pereiro was inspiring in the final week. The way he defended in the Alps was stirring stuff and he never looked like folding. His time trial was also full of determination and fire and he kicked and scratched all the way to the line in a huge attempt to keep the maillot jaune.
It was also a brilliant event for Australia. Cadel Evans was just sensational. His grit and determination were always evident and he never stopped trying. His fifth place now puts him alongside Phil Anderson as the highest placed Australian.
Robbie McEwen proved himself to be the fastest man in the world and at the time of writing was heading into Paris as the unbackable favourite to win stage number four and the most prestigious of them all on the Champs Elysees.
Michael Rogers was superb. He managed to join Evans and Phil Anderson as the only Australians to make it into the top 10. But Rogers' effort is all the more creditable because he spent most of the days in the big mountains forcing the pace for teammate Andreas Kloden. Rogers could well have finished top five or even made the podium if he had been able to ride for himself.
Stuart O'Grady proved once again that he is the tough man of cycling. A fractured vertebra in the first week would have stopped most athletes but O'Grady not only suffered through the pain but rode himself back into good form. He spent most of the tour protecting teammate Carlos Sastre and did it very well.
Simon Gerrans also showed the fighting spirit that Australian professional cyclists are renowned for. Recovering from a smashed shoulder and complications in his rehabilitation, Gerrans was well under done at the start line in Strasbourg. He improved each day but he couldn't quite get on the podium in a stage as last year. He also did a power of work to help teammates Dessel and Moreau. The sight of Gerrans leading the charge on the front of a depleted peloton, over one of the biggest Pyrenean passes, was stirring stuff.