Landis aims for great send-off

After helping Lance Armstrong to a record sixth Tour de France win, Floyd Landis is moving on at the

After helping Lance Armstrong to a record sixth Tour de France win, Floyd Landis is moving on at the
PICTURE BY TIM DE WAELE Already coveted by a number of teams as he prepares to move on from US Postal, Floyd Landis' asking price can only have been boosted by his early leadership of the Tour of Spain and the talking up he is currently being given by rival team managers. Described by Illes Balears' team manager Eusebio Unzue as "a great rider" and by Saunier Duval's Fernandez Matxin as "a rider of great quality", the 28-year-old Pennsylvanian would be a welcome addition to the roster of either of these Spanish teams, but seems almost certainly destined to join Tyler Hamilton at Phonak. After three years and three Tour de France rides in support of Lance Armstrong, it seems Landis wants the chance to ride the major events for himself, in a similar fashion to Hamilton, who left Postal three seasons ago. Speaking to Spanish paper AS, Landis explained that his desire to move on "has been a personal decision that has nothing to do with the team. Lance and Johan [Bruyneel] have treated me with a great degree of generosity. The proof of that is the fact that Johan chose me as the rider to wear the first race leader's jersey." Denying there was any problem between himself and Armstrong, Landis admitted that his decision to leave came down to a simple desire to fulfil some goals of his own. Before then, though, there is the not insubstantial matter of defending the Vuelta title won by Roberto Heras for US Postal last season. "Last year I came to this race with huge ambition but I had trained too much after the Tour de France. This year I have taken things more carefully and spent some time with my wife and son in California. We will soon see whether I have got the preparation right this time, but for now I feel as good as I did at the Tour," Landis explained. Although most eyes may be on Olympic time trial champion Hamilton as the most likely Vuelta contender from the US, several riders are all too aware of Landis' capability having seen him close up at the Tour in July. 2003 Vuelta runner-up Isidro Nozal said of the American: "At the Tour he was almost as strong as Armstrong and if he reaches that level again it will be very hard to unseat him." Italy's Stefano Garzelli was of the same mind, saying: "If he goes as well as he did in the Tour it will be very difficult to close the gap on him." Although Postal may have achieved their main objective of the season by winning the Tour, their recent record at the Vuelta is far from shabby. They finished third and fourth in 2001 thanks to Levi Leipheimer and Heras, the Spaniard was runner-up the following year, and took his second Vuelta title last year. Landis now looks well set to keep that great run going and deliver the best possible send-off as he prepares to leave Postal and Postal prepare to bow out of cycling.
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