American cyclist Floyd Landis, stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title and suspended for two years for doping, marks his return to road racing at next month's Tour of California with trepidation and excitement, USA Today reported Thursday.
Landis, 33, will race for the Team OUCH, sponsored by his personal physician Brent Kay. Kay's osteoarthritis medical center performed reconstructive surgery on Landis's ailing right hip.
"I feel really good and I'm working hard to stay in shape," Landis told USA Today reporter Sal Ruibal in an an article posted on their website. "It's good to have some goals and to put all that stuff behind me."
The Tour of California, slated for February 14 - 22, will also feature seven-time Tour de France winner (and Landis' former USPS teammate) Lance Armstrong, and Landis said he believed his vaunted American compatriot's comeback is good for cycling.
"(Armstrong's) comeback is good for the sport," Landis said, adding that he had been watching the Texan's progress in the Tour Down Under in Australia. "You know, he's just one of 200 other cyclists there, but I'm getting an idea of his condition by how he's doing in the Australian race."
Landis said his campaign with OUCH, sticking to a US schedule that includes the Tour of Missouri, Tour of Utah and several one-day races, is a contrast to Armstrong's return with the Astana team, which is slated to include spring classics like Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.
"Lance is on a whole different level," Landis said. "We're not sponsored by Kazakhstan. Other than Lance, the rest of pro cycling is pretty much blue-collar guys."
Landis, who has denied doping and fought a lengthy, expensive and eventually losing battle against the US Anti-Doping agency in the wake of his positive test for testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France, says he has no faith in the sport's anti-doping procedures and those who administer them.
"I have no more trust," he said. "Those are half-hearted tests and they know it, but I have no choice if I want to race. You have to agree to those terms. But I trust those guys less than just about anyone I've ever met.
"Doing my own testing wouldn't do any good either," he added. "It won't make a difference because to them; as we saw, the chain of custody is just a concept to them. They can say anything and you can't do anything about it. It would be senseless to do my own testing because they've shown that transparency leads to nothing."
Ruibal asked about Armstrong and other riders' posting of their internal testing results online, to which Landis scoffed.
"People can make them up just like USADA does," the American said. "I'm not on a mission to make some kind of statement. I enjoy bike racing and being around a team that fights hard for each other. I'm not saving the world."
© BikeRadar & AFP 2009