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MSG’s president surprised by Landis exit

Floyd Landis (OUCH) responds to an early attack.

Floyd Landis (OUCH) responds to an early attack. (Image credit: Jon Devich)

Floyd Landis and Momentum Sports Group (MSG) announced today the early termination of their rider-contract agreement, releasing Landis from OUCH-Maxxis Professional Cycling team before the end of the 2009 season. While slightly surprised by Landis’ departure, MSG President Thierry Attias wished Landis well in his future endeavors when speaking to Cyclingnews.

“There was no big climax,” Attias said. “He communicated his desire and game plan to move forward and we told him what our game plan was and it was in the best interest of both to allow him to meet his goals in the future.”

Attias admitted he expected Landis would sign a contract with the team’s management company for the 2010 season. Landis had returned to cycling at the start of 2009 with OUCH-Maxxis after finishing a two-year suspension following a protracted legal battle over urine test results from the 2006 Tour de France.

“We did expect him to ride in 2010,” Attias said. “We planned on having him on board. It was a little bit of a surprise but he is a big talent. When he is firing on all cylinders he is really strong and he thinks big. He is working his way back from that hip procedure. This was the first year back after two years and we saw glimmers of greatness in him.”

Landis has a desire to compete in longer stage races in Europe that better suited his former reputation of being amongst the top general classification riders in the world, according to Attias. The American rider recently ruled out a return to the sport’s top stage race, the Tour de France.

“He had more success in that area and he wanted to do more international races too,” Attias said. “Our team has a US focus. We wish him nothing but the best. He came on board and really helped us patch a hole, so to speak. We had a great season and we are sorry he won’t be with us next year.”

Landis’ presence on the squad brought title sponsor OUCH on board to void a financial hole left by former long-term sponsors Health Net. He underwent an unconventional hip replacement with OUCH Sports Medical Centre, needed after a case of bone death that resulted from excessive scar tissue which blocked blood flow to the hip joint.

“To have a guy that has won the Tour on our team was another level for us and he gave leadership and direction,” said Attias who expressed gratitude for Landis’ involvement with the team. “He has an all or nothing attitude. He gave his all and that gave something to the other riders to show them how to go all in.

“He was a solid guy all around,” he added. “He did a good bit of media for us. It was a positive and a learning experience for both of us. We’ve never had someone of that stature in our program. We learned how to work with that level and he learned how to work with us so it was a nice relationship overall. He was always friendly and brought great sponsors.”

Landis won the 2006 Tour de France with Phonak Hearing Systems, however was stripped of the title following a positive urine sample.

OUCH Sports Medical Centre will not continue to sponsor Attias’ team in 2010. While Attias said OUCH has been replaced by a new title sponsor to be announced at a later date, a recent Continental license application to USA Cycling had the team’s name as UnitedHealthcare presented by Maxxis.

“OUCH is not moving forward in 2010 with us. I don’t know what OUCH will do now,” he said. “We have a new title sponsor all lined up and we are just finalising minor details. We’ve kept over half of our squad and brought in a few young guys.”

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Kirsten Frattini has been involved in bike racing from the grassroots level all the way to the World Cup. She is an honours graduate of Kinesiology and Health Science from York University in Toronto, Canada. Kirsten has worked in both print and digital publishing. She started with Cyclingnews as a North American Correspondent in 2006, and was responsible for reporting from the US and Canadian racing scene. Now as a Production Editor, she produces international race coverage for all cycling disciplines, edits global news and writes features.