Landis eyes comeback with nervous excitement
TEMECULA, California |
TEMECULA, California (Reuters) - With his two-year doping ban having almost run its course, Floyd Landis is excited and also a little nervous as he contemplates his return to the sport at next month's Tour of California.
The American cyclist, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title after failing a dope test, has missed the thrill of competition and is eager to bury the memories of his protracted bid through the courts to prove his innocence.
"I've certainly missed all of this in the last few years," Landis told Reuters after a training session with his OUCH cycling team mates.
"I have done just one thing the last 15 years of my life and even the last two years dealing with all the drama, all of that still revolved around cycling so I can't say it ever really left my mind.
"I almost feel a little bit nervous because it's been so long since I raced," added the 33-year-old, who turned professional in 1999 with the Mercury Cycling Team.
"I didn't think abut it too much because I was focused on other things but then I started planning and focusing on the races and visualizing what it was going to be like, and I am getting really excited -- more than I have been in a long time."
Landis, whose doping ban ends on Friday, believes he is in good physical shape for the February 14-22 Tour of California.
"My fitness now is comparable to other years in the wintertime," he said. "I have quite a few climbs here that I do in training and I would time myself and those are similar to when I was racing and preparing for the Tour de France.
"But there are some things about racing you can't simulate. In a race, the peloton dictates how hard you get to ride; you don't get to decide yourself when you are tired. So that part, I guess, will come with time.
"All things considered, it's as good as it could be right now. The races will come along and we will have to adjust things as we go."
TOUR DE FRANCE
Asked whether he had any plans to compete in this year's Tour de France, Landis replied: "I wouldn't rule out trying to get back to Europe at some point but right now I don't have a plan to do so.
"Whether I do or I don't, I am lucky I've been to the place in cycling where I was and to have experienced what I did so I am certainly not going to leave disappointed."
Landis tested positive for synthetic testosterone after winning the 17th and penultimate stage of the 2006 Tour, having produced an astounding comeback in the final mountain stage one day after a poor performance had all but knocked him out of contention.
He has consistently denied wrongdoing and blamed procedural mistakes by the French laboratory for his positive test.
For much of the last two years, Landis has been involved in a protracted bid to prove his innocence in courts around the world.
A 10-day hearing in Malibu, California in 2007 was followed by a five-day hearing in New York in March last year before the Court of Arbitration for Sport rejected his final appeal in June.
"It was a traumatic experience and I'm happy to have it behind me," said Landis, who was in a relaxed mood and wearing a tracksuit. "I'm happy to be focused on something positive moving forward."
Asked if there was anything he might have done differently, he replied: "I didn't spend much time doing that because at the time I really made my decisions based on what I knew.
"I don't really think it would serve any purpose for me to sit and reminisce about what I could have done differently. I'm certain there are some things and there is always hindsight but I don't think it has any value here."
Landis was delighted to gain the support earlier this week of seven-times Tour de France champion and fellow American Lance Armstrong.
"I was honored," he said of Armstrong's comments about his comeback at the Tour Down Under in Australia. "I know he is asked a million questions about everything but to have him endorse it goes a long way."
(Editing by Martin Petty)
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