Landis Poised to Win as Tour Comes to Climax

American cyclist Floyd Landis is in third place Friday as the Tour de France enters its last few stages, a day after winning the last mountain stage. Andrew Hood of the cycling magazine VeloNews talks with Noah Adams about the race, which concludes on Sunday in Paris.

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NOAH ADAMS, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Noah Adams.

A less than exciting Tour de France today, as Italian rider Matteo Tosatto narrowly won in sprint finish. American rider Floyd Landis finished back in the back, along with overall leader Oscar Pereiro of Spain. The big showdown is coming tomorrow.

And here to tell us more about it is Andrew Hood, a writer for the cycling magazine, VeloNews. He joins us from France.

What is tomorrow? It's a time trial, right?

Mr. ANDREW HOOD (European Correspondent, VeloNews): That's correct. It's when the riders go out on the course one at a time. They take their time from start to finish. The fastest won over the course wins.

ADAMS: And how does Floyd Landis do in the individual time trials?

Mr. HOOD: He's probably considered the best time-trialist right now in contemporary cycling. He has a very unique position, that we learned actually a week or so ago, that he changed position because he has this degenerative hip problem. And he's changed this position where his arms quite a bit higher than most of the time trial positions, where you use to see Lance Armstrong with his arms quite low and his back hunched over, Landis rides with his hands quite upright, in almost a praying mantis position, they call it. But he is expected to win the stage tomorrow and win the overall title.

ADAMS: Okay. Well, let's go back. I have never seen a sporting event that had this happen so much. People coming up to me on the streets saying, did you see this Floyd Landis recovery in this race? And we'll go back a little bit. This week he fell badly behind, eight minutes behind in a mountain stage. And then, the next day, tell us what happened the next day.

Mr. HOOD: It was considered really one of the great rides in cycling history. Today, L'Equipe, which is the big French daily, sports daily, called it the ride of the century. There's been some great flops. We've seen riders crack in the yellow jersey; lose a lot of time. But we've never seen a rider bounce back the next day to put himself back in position for the overall contention for the victory. He just buried himself yesterday, did something audacious and amazing; went on a solo attack across five climbs across the Alps. People were just flabbergasted. People were just ecstatic yesterday to see him do it.

He won the stage and he pulled up into 30 seconds back in third place, behind two Spanish riders, Pereiro and Carlos Sastre, in second place at 12 seconds back. And he's poised to win this thing.

ADAMS: Now, he's riding for the Swiss team, Phonak. Did he get much support in this comeback ride up those hills?

Mr. HOOD: Well, he did. There's a lot of little things that happen in these stages before it gets on TV back in the states. His team really drilled at leading up to the first climb in yesterday's stage, to kind of really ramp up the speed and put everybody on the rivet. And then Floyd just rode away. In fact, he was telling people before the start of this stage, because the peloton is quite this tight little unit, and word was getting around that Phonak was going to try something. And they were spreading the word that Floyd was going to try something. And Floyd told riders drink a Coca-Cola because I'm going. If you want to come with me you need to have fresh legs.

ADAMS: Wow. Now, how do you figure? How do people figure he was able to do this? You just don't make up eight minutes in the mountains.

Mr. HOOD: That's correct. I mean, people are wondering what he actually did. And we asked Floyd what he did for recovery, which is very important where the riders cool down, they eat, and he said he had one beer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOOD: And then I asked his trainer what he had for breakfast. And he said he had just a normal breakfast and a lot of confidence. It's really something that people haven't seen in the tour, especially after seven years with Armstrong really dominating the stage and being so strong. And so dominant that people are almost afraid to attack. And this tour has just been wide open and so exciting to watch.

ADAMS: To remind us here as we close, Floyd Landis is how far back from the lead?

Mr. HOOD: He now is 30 seconds, which is not considered very much time against Pereiro and Sastre. Both of those guys are considered mountain goats, or kind of climbing specialists. Pereiro and Sastre really don't expect to be able to hang on to win this tour. They're thinking Podium top three, which is considered prestigious in cycling. Everyone expects Landis to win. It's just a matter of if he can just do his ride like he normally does he will be the winner.

ADAMS: Andrew Hood is the European correspondent for the cycling magazine VeloNews.

Thank you, sir.

Mr. HOOD: Thank you.

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