Floyd Landis, the Harley-riding Mennonite
from California by way of Pennsylvania, looks like assuming Lance Armstrong’s mantle as the maillot jaune
in Paris on 23 July.

Last night on the mythical Alpe d’Huez he
managed to distance most of his opposition and now he holds the yellow jersey
with a two-minute lead over his main rivals. A Leno/Letterman looming off-season
will be interrupted by walking frames and rehabilitation as his hip is
deteriorating from avascular necrosis requiring hip replacement surgery.

Luxembourgish Frank Schleck of CSC won the stage in a long
breakaway with a small group who never threatened the top overall classification
positions and were allowed leeway by the peloton.

There are two mountain stages and one long
time trial to go, which could conceivably dynamite the general classification;
however Landis looks so strong it seems only the podium places are still to be
determined.

German Andreas Kloden was the runner-up in
2004 and should finish on the podium again. He won the bronze medal in the
Sydney Olympics road race, yet he was in the wilderness for years.

Cadel Evans lost 99 seconds on the stage to
Landis and must be discounted from an overall victory, yet he can still
be on
the podium with a good performance in the crucial stages remaining.
Only 44
seconds separate fourth to seventh on the classification, and these are
effectively second though fifth as the current podium holders were
gifted time in breakaways and
are expected to fade. Menchov and Sastre are Evans’s main opposition
for the final
spot.

Michael Rogers rode a solid stage and sits
at eighth on general classification, and he will probably finish somewhere
around the top ten. He will have a hard time dislodging the two riders
who gained time
in the breakaways, and defending his place from the more competent
climbers
looking over his shoulder.

Robbie McEwen’s main rival for the green
jersey, world champion Tom Boonen, pulled out today, which means McEwen would
have to fail to finish to lose the maillot vert. The silkscreeners in Paris are already
putting the logos on his third green jersey.

Peter Fray

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