Landis bounces back with dominant Alpine performance
Twenty-four hours after his Tour de France chances looked to have gone up in smoke, Phonak rider Floyd Landis raced right back into the fight for the final yellow jersey with one of the most impressive solo rides in modern cycling history.
Racing à la Merckx, Landis broke clear in the early slopes of the first category Col de Saisies, 72 kilometres after the start in St. Jean de Maurienne and was out front for the remainder of the 200.5 kilometre stage. He carved his way through an 11 man breakaway group which had gone clear after 12 km, dropping the last remaining rider from that selection, Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile) on the final climb of Joux Plane and then snaking his way town the descent to victory in Morzine.
Landis' maximum lead during the stage was 9'06, established when race leader Oscar Pereiro's Caisse d'Epargne team was riding at the front to try to limit their losses. Carlos Sastre's Team CSC and Andreas Klöden's T-Mobile squad then took over, driving the chase, but they found it difficult to reduce the gap to Landis.
Sastre set off in pursuit on the final climb and reached the summit 5'07 back, but Landis' well known descending abilities saw this rise to 5'40 over the cautious Spaniard at the line. Frenchman Christophe Moreau (AG2R) had his best ride of this year's Tour to finish third, 17 seconds further back, while race leader Oscar Pereiro came in as part of a group 7'08 down. This was enough to see him retain yellow, with Sastre now just 12 seconds back.
More ominously, Landis' ride and the bonus seconds he picked up en route saw him jump from eleventh to third overall, 30 seconds off yellow, and looking like a very real contender again in advance of Saturday's 57 km time trial showdown.
When asked afterwards if he was happy with the stage win, Landis showed his focus and source of motivation. "I don't care," he said, smiling. "I came here to win the Tour, and that is what I am trying to do."