By Shane Stokes in Granada
Having led the race for quite a while last year and placing a strong 9th in this year's Tour de France, Floyd Landis goes into this year's Vuelta as one of the big contenders. The Phonak rider had a scare on Thursday when he hit the deck out training, losing control on a dusty corner. He was sporting a bandage on his left arm and grazes on his right yesterday evening in the team hotel in Granada, but said that he was otherwise fine.
"I went round a corner too fast on a downhill" he told Cyclingnews. "I made a mistake, nothing too serious. Just road rash, my hip is a little scratched, but nothing broken. I will be stiff tomorrow, though, I'm sure."
Landis was strong in the first half of last year's Tour of Spain but faded towards the end. This time round, he has chosen to take a complete break from racing after the Tour. He feels his form is where it needs to be.
"I think it is good, I did the same as last year in taking it easy after the Tour. I went back to California and rested. I did some small training. Normally after the Tour you have good form, if you're not too tired, so I think it should be all right. The team is good, the morale is good.
"Last year I was okay for the first two weeks, but it was a bit long. I don't know what to expect this year. I didn't race so much in the spring this year, so hopefully that will help."
Rather than designating a leader before the race starts, Phonak is adopting a 'wait and see' policy. "We have a couple of guys that are very good right now, " Landis says. "I think that Santos Gonzalez is good, Gutierrez is good and...Oscar [Pereiro], I don't know how motivated he is, but he looks fit. I don't think we are going to pick one person and say that we will work for them. There are other teams to control the race, just like the Tour. Discovery are here, and I think Roberto [Heras] wants to win, so I would expect that they will work. But the Vuelta is different, anyway, you have to be careful with the wind and so it is more a case that we have to stay together."
When asked if he had looked at key stages in the race, Landis said that he didn't know the full route. "I haven't done any reconnaissance like the Tour, but I looked at the maps...Anyway, it is a case that if you're strong enough in the mountains, you can win the Vuelta. If not, you get dropped! There are seven mountaintop finishes, or something like that. So your strength is the most important thing. As for the time trials, I think the prologue is a bit short. But the last two are better for me."