A for Athlete




I just want to race, says Landis


American cyclist Floyd Landis says he just wants to bury the past and get on with doing what he does best.

Landis, 33, a starter in next month's Tour of Southland, with the cyclingnzshop.com-Biosport team, will be bringing a certain amount of notoriety along with him.

His Tour de France victory in 2006 was erased from the books after a doping test showed he had elevated levels of synthetic testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance.

Testing of his B sample also returned positive and he was subsequently sacked by his now-disbanded Phonak professional team and then banned for two years.

During his suspension, Landis, who maintains his innocence, underwent surgery to repair a degenerating hip and made his comeback in January this year.

Last month, he said in an interview he wouldn't wish what he had been through on anybody.

"I didn't do it and I'll never stop saying that. But I am not asking for sympathy. I am not trying to make a statement or anything by coming back.

"I just want to race. That's when I'm happiest in life - when I am on my bike."

In an e-mail to NZPA, Landis said: " I have said everything that I have to say about the past.

"I'm moving forward and focusing on racing."

He said he had felt welcome on his return to the sport.

"The response this year has been overwhelming.

"Everywhere I have been, the fans have been great. I've never been in a position where I get distracted by the fans, but all the support is really touching.

"It means a lot to me."

Landis, who won the Tour of California, the Paris-Nice one-day classic and the Tour of Georgia in 2006, has not come close to matching those highlights since resuming his career this year.

His best results were a 23rd placing at the Tour of California and a 41st in the Nature Valley grand prix.

He said he jumped at the chance to race the Tour of Southland.

"I have been racing my bike for most of my life.

"I get to travel to places I would not visit otherwise, and meet new people, I really enjoy that."

The fact that the Tour of Southland sounded like a well-run, hard race really appealed to him.

" I have heard really good things about this race. Last year's sounded like really hard - I hear you had some pretty miserable weather.

"That is good for me. I like it when things get really tough."

He felt the course of the five-day race was not best suited for him.

"I do a lot better when there are long climbs and 200-kilometre stages. But this is not an easy race, and the weather can change everything."

He was looking forward to some "good, hard racing" and expected to bring some form into the race.

He had taken some time off after last month's Tour of Missouri, "but I never stopped riding. There is really good training in California all year, so it has not been a problem". Ad Feedback

Landis ' Biosport teammates will be Auckland riders Nico de Jong, Nick Lovegrove, Jeremy Meech and Southland triathlete Jamie Whyte, all of whom will be racing their second Southland tour.

He had not met any of them but had been told they were all motivated and ready to go.