Floyd Landis Takes Crown in Tour de France

Floyd Landis won the Tour de France on Sunday, a few days after being written off after a disastrous performance in the 16th stage of the Tour de France. But in a classic comeback story, the 30-year-old's performance Thursday catapulted him back into the fray. Andrew Hood, a reporter for Velo News, was on the Champs Elysee when Landis sailed across the finish line.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Once again an American has conquered France. This time it's not Lance Armstrong but Floyd Landis who won the Tour de France today. It's a classic comeback story.

Landis was written off as a contender a few days ago after a disastrous day in the 16th stage of the three-week race. But an epic performance on Thursday catapulted the 30-year-old rider back into the fray and renewed hopes for another American victory.

John Wilcockson is editorial director of the Velo News, a cycling publication. He was on the Champs-Elysee when Landis sailed across the finish line today. Hi there.

Mr. JOHN WILCOCKSON (Editorial Director, Velo News): Hi. It's, yeah, it's been a very exciting day and a very exciting race for the whole three weeks, and it's just amazed everybody in France. He's become very popular here, instantly.

ELLIOTT: Has anything like this ever happened before? I mean, he had eight minutes to make up. Nobody thought he would be able to do that.

Mr. WILCOCKSON: Well, we have to go back a long, long way in the history, back to the 1950s, to find anything comparable, when a Luxembourg rider, Charly Gaul, was 16 minutes behind, a week from the finish. And the next day he finished 14 minutes ahead of the guy who was leading, and he actually won the race in the end, same as Floyd has done.

But, you know, what Floyd did was unique because nobody has collapsed like he did, then the next morning come back as strong as ever. He said he ran out of fuel, basically, and a few hours after the race, he'd eaten a lot, he was back, and he said I'm going to come back and I'm going to win this race, and that's just what he did.

ELLIOTT: What was the scene as he crossed the finish line?

Mr. WILCOCKSON: When he crossed the finish line in Morzine the other day, when he finished more than five minutes ahead of everybody, after riding on his own for - it was almost 80 miles alone - it was, you know, it was just unbelievable. Everybody was shaking their heads. They just couldn't believe what they said.

Then there's an Australian, Michael Rogers, who's the team rider for Andréas Klöden who finished second in the Tour, he said, I've never seen anything like it. It was - he said it was like trying to follow a motorcycle.

ELLIOTT: Now this is the eighth straight year that an American has won the Tour de France. How are the crowds there responding to that?

Mr. WILCOCKSON: There's actually a lot more excitement because a lot of new names have come forward this year. When Lance was winning year after year, it was pretty predictable, by the end of the first two weeks, that he was going to win. But this year, it was right up to the last minute. You know, yesterday, Saturday, there was a time trial, and any one of three people could have won the race. They were within 30 seconds of each other, which is unheard of.

ELLIOTT: Now, Landis has been riding with a severely injured hip. In fact, he plans on having hip-replacement surgery. What do you think that means for his future as a cyclist?

Mr. WILCOCKSON: Well, it's a little into the unknown because nobody has ever had to have a hip replacement and return to the sport at the highest level as he has. Bo Jackson did it, sort of, in baseball, but he wasn't that successful at it.

The use of the hip is really essential in cycling. You know, you're going through millions and millions of peddle cycles in every Tour de France, so if his hip is not perfect, it's going to stop him, but he's very confident. He says this is my next battle. I've won this battle. I've won the Tour de France, and I can win this other battle coming up.

ELLIOTT: John Wilcockson is the editorial director for the Velo News and has been covering the Tour de France. Thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. WILCOCKSON: It was a pleasure. Thanks, Debbie.

Another American athlete took a foreign title today. Tiger Woods won the British Open for the second year in a row. It's golf's oldest championship. The win is the 11th major tournament victory for the 30-year-old Woods, and it's his first championship since the death of his father Earl in May.

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