Defrocked 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis, 32, will make his return to professional cycling after a two-year suspension with the team currently sponsored by Health Net-Maxxis, under a new title sponsor for 2009, sources confirmed with Cyclingnews. The team, run by Momentum Sports Group, has also re-signed many of its current riders, including two-time National Racing Calendar (NRC) champion Rory Sutherland, current USA cyclo-cross champion Tim Johnson and Karl Menzies.
“I cannot confirm or deny it,” said Momentum’s sponsorship director, Thierry Attias, regarding Landis’ signing. However numerous other sources familiar with the team confirmed that the agreement is in place, with the new title sponsor’s agreement forthcoming. Sources have said the new sponsor is from the health care industry. This aligns with current speculation that Smith & Nephew, makers of Landis’ artificial hip and sponsor of his mountain bike endurance racing, is a possible title sponsor.
Landis did not return multiple requests for confirmation. Sutherland and Johnson did confirm they have signed contracts with Momentum. “I have re-signed a contract with Momentum for the next two years,” Sutherland told Cyclingnews. “I have been guaranteed there is title sponsor money there. I don’t know who the title sponsor is but it’s not like it’s a big myth, saying there is money when there isn’t. I trust Thierry on that.”
Landis is currently serving a two-year suspension for a positive test of exogenous testosterone from stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France. Landis went on to win the overall, but was stripped of that title after his appeal of the US Anti-Doping Agency’s suspension was denied by the American Arbitration Association. Tour organizers Amaury Sports Organization (ASO) and the International cycling Union (UCI) named runner-up Oscar Pereiro as the official 2006 Tour winner soon after.
Landis lost his final appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in June, but the CAS did uphold that his suspension should run from when he officially stated his voluntary non-compete status – meaning that Landis will be free to race again as of January 30, 2009.
Rumours circulated early in 2008 that Rock Racing owner Michael Ball was interested in Landis, either as a racer or team director. Landis confirmed he was “advising” the younger riders and was seen with the team.