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Landis considers return to Tour de France
NEW YORK |
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Back after a two-year doping ban, Floyd Landis is trying to decide whether to follow fellow American Lance Armstrong's example and ride again in the Tour de France.
Landis, whose 2006 Tour title was taken from him after he failed a dope test, says he will decide soon whether to take aim at the 2010 Tour.
"I will take a few weeks of peace and quiet to assess what I want to do with the next years of my life, if it leads me to want to do the Tour de France again and all the chaos that surrounds a bicycle race," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I would have to make a decision by the time this Tour de France came around.
"If I went back to the Tour de France the objective would be to win it again," Landis said. "And the objective would be for the resulting win to give me some time to enjoy it rather than the way it played out last time.
"I would like to win the race and go home and spend time with everybody that supported me and enjoy it rather than spending the next couple of years defending how I won it."
Landis, the first rider to be stripped of a Tour victory, has continually denied any wrongdoing and spent much of the last two years trying to prove his innocence.
A 10-day hearing in Malibu, California, and a five-day hearing in New York by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected his assertion that his positive test for synthetic testosterone was due to procedural mistakes by the laboratory.
"I'm disappointed with the result, about the way it went, but I don't regret any decisions I made," Landis said about the losing battle to clear his name.
He is, however, upbeat about his return to cycling last month, especially after undergoing a hip-resurfacing procedure that eliminated pain in his crumbling right hip that had plagued him since a training accident in 2002.
"It's like new and it doesn't have any limitation at all," said Landis, whose ban ended on January 30.
He thinks he is already close to reaching top form. "It doesn't feel far at all. I would just need to know it was a goal. If I want the Tour de France, I would focus on spending a year on training on it. It doesn't feel out of reach for me."
In the meantime, Landis likes seven-times champion Armstrong's chances of grabbing more glory this July on the Champs-Elysees, after he made his comeback in January following more than three years in retirement.
"Anybody that knows him knows that if he's racing he's going to try and win something big and he stated his goal is to win the Tour de France," Landis said. "He looked as good as ever."
Landis, 33, saw Armstrong firsthand on his own return to racing last month at the Tour of California, where he finished 16 spots behind Armstrong in 23rd.
Armstrong, 37, has said he is returning to competition to try to raise money and awareness for cancer research, after surviving testicular cancer himself.
"I was as surprised as anybody that he wanted to put himself back out there. He's trying to get back to the top I think," Landis said about his 2002-2004 team mate.
"I wouldn't think he'd come back if he didn't know he could do it, wasn't prepared to do it."
Landis said he had been energized by his young OUCH team mates and by the reception he received from his home-state fans and rival riders at the Tour of California.
"The reaction of the fans after being away for that long, it was overwhelming. I was kind of caught off guard by how happy everybody was to have me back. I was touched."
Landis followed with a 40th-place finish this month in the Tour of Mexico, but said he was pacing himself just as Armstrong had done in the Tour of California.
"The Tour of California was not his main focus. He was strong there but it's not entirely wise to be the best you could be in February," he said. "He looked like he was on track the way he normally did it, the seven times that he did it."
Landis said he was aware that a 2010 Tour campaign would not resemble his 2006 experience.
"It'll be a different scenario this time. The last time I was able to do it without a whole lot of attention outside of the cycling world.
"There will be more of everything now. More press, more pressure, more of everything that makes it a more difficult race. But I certainly don't dread it."
(Editing by Clare Fallon)
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