Landis is back in the fast lane
The Lancaster native, banned for two years, is ready to ride again.
Besides Lance Armstrong, there is one name in cycling that resonates these days in mainstream America: Floyd Landis.
The Lancaster native continues his comeback to the sport tomorrow after a two-year ban as he will be one of 169 riders looking to conquer the longest race in North America, the 25th annual Philadelphia International Cycling Championship.
"Of course," Landis said when asked whether the location of the race makes it appealing to him to participate. "This is my hometown race."
Landis' journey to tomorrow's race has been well-publicized.
Following Armstrong's retirement - which turned out to be temporary - after an unprecedented run of seven consecutive Tour de France victories, the 2006 Tour de France was there for the taking.
In came Landis.
Landis' performance in Stage 17 of the race put him over the top in a close three-way finish. But following that stage, test results showed elevated levels of testosterone in his system. A backup urine sample also tested positive, and Landis was stripped of his Tour de France victory, dismissed from his Phonak Cycling Team and handed a two-year ban from the sport (retroactive to January 2007) after losing his appeal for his positive tests.
Along with all that, Landis became the face of a dark period in a sport notorious for the use of banned substances.
Landis has maintained his innocence and, despite all the negative attention, put the saga in the past and is looking to overcome another obstacle.
During that infamous 2006 Tour de France, it was first reported that he was riding with a condition known as osteonecrosis in his right hip. That meant that his hip was suffering from a lack of blood supply, and the ball joint was deteriorating. He had a Birmingham hip resurfacing procedure done in September 2006 and is looking to do something no one has done before, he said.
"My focus has been my hip," Landis said. "I had [the surgery] nearly three years ago now, and I am focused on being the first athlete to compete at the highest level with an artificial hip."
While some may wonder why he wants to come back to the public spotlight after the doping scandal and hip issues, Landis, who raced in February's Tour of California, said he still loves competing.
"It is," Landis said when asked if cycling is still enjoyable. "You get to see new places and meet new people. Some of my best memories are from racing my bike."
Having the name Landis in tomorrow's silver anniversary race does not hurt the prerace hype, especially considering the financial problems the race organizers have had to overcome the last couple of years.
"I don't think there is one athlete that will make or break this exciting race," Walton said. "This race has some of the top riders and teams in the world. It's great to have the best riders in the world, but this is a showcase for many great riders."
And perhaps a stepping stone back to the top of the sport for Floyd Landis.