Floyd Landis received his chance to make his comeback to the sport in the USA's biggest race when organisers of the Amgen Tour of California announced that they had included Landis' OUCH Pro Cycling team on the list of invited teams on Thursday. Landis will toe the line alongside fellow returnees Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso at the race's start in Sacramento on February 14.
Landis, who was stripped of his victory in the 2006 Tour de France for doping, will emerge from his two-year suspension next week, and is looking forward to racing again.
Landis told The Associated Press he "feels like a kid again", and has put the past behind him. He fought the charges that he used synthetic testosterone during the Tour vigorously and lost, and now intends to follow the career that was chugging along nicely until it was derailed by the case.
"This isn't some kind of statement to shut down the critics or any kind of changing-the-world project of mine," Landis said. "This is me doing what I've trained myself to do for the last 15 years, and I hope that the people that follow bike racing get a better show than what they've had the last couple years."
The show will be impressive, indeed, as Tour of California organiser AEG also announced that the Professional Continental Cervélo team of 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre will be in attendance. Sastre has put the race on his list of early season goals, as have Basso and Armstrong, making it three Grand Tour champions who will tackle the extended parcours of the 2009 edition.
The ever-aggressive BMC Racing was also added to the powerful list of squads for the event's fourth year along with seven Continental teams: Bissell, FlyV Australia, Colavita/Sutter Home, Jelly Belly, OUCH Pro Cycling, Rock Racing and Team Type 1.
Eight ProTour teams, including the Astana squad of defending champion Levi Leipheimer, and those of World Champions Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) will take to the California roads alongside seven domestic teams.
"These 17 teams represent the strongest field we have had at the Amgen Tour of California. We are delighted to have some of the world's best and most established teams and we welcome the new teams who will be racing with us for the first time," said Andrew Messick, president of AEG Sports. "The level of competition and talent for the fourth-annual Amgen Tour of California rivals the top races in the world and demonstrates the importance of the United States to professional cycling."
Team Type 1 General Manager Tom Schuler said it will be an honor for the team to be part of a top-notch field that includes some of the top cycling teams in the world. "We will certainly do our best to live up to the competitive expectations of what promises to be one of the most competitive bicycle races in the history of professional cycling in the United States," Schuler said.
Teams for the 2009 Amgen Tour of California:
Bissell Pro Cycling Team
BMC Racing Team
Cervelo Test Team
Colavita/Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light
Fly V Australia presented by Successful Living Foundation Team
Jelly Belly Cycling Team
Ouch Presented by Maxxis
Team Type 1