Stage 20: Antony (Parc de Sceaux) - Paris Champs-Elysees

Hushovd gets another stage win as he edges out McEwen. It was fitting that Hushovd closed out this year's Tour after he surprised everyone by winning the prologue and donning the first yellow jersey for this Tour, a yellow jersey that ended up being worn by many riders: Hushovd, Hincapie, Boonen, Gonchar, Dessel, Pereiro, and Landis.

Floyd Landis has won in Paris today and I'm happy for American cycling. I never thought after seeing Floyd in yellow at the Tour of California that he would have such an affinity for it this season. With the exception of the Dauphine, Floyd was pretty much in the yellow jersey from the start of his season to it's Tour de France conclusion. He won both of the American Tours, Paris-Nice, and now, the hardest and biggest of them all, the Tour de France. There is no asterisk for this Tour -- it was too good of a race for that. I just hope Landis will come back next year with his super hip and win again so the press can speculate whether or not his hip replacement is performance-enhancing. Landis has had one of the best seasons for a Tour winner in recent memory, biased by the fact that Armstrong has for the past seven years raced with full focus on the Tour, often with no wins anywhere else. Landis gave us an entire season to cheer through, especially for the American fans that saw him win twice on American soil. I'm really looking forward to the next Tour of California -- the Landis effect should be amazing.

I never thought Landis would win. I thought he would crack because of his team, and he did, but then he delivered a stunning comeback that said, "I am an Army of One." I also never thought Pereiro would be on that stage, but like many of the other top five riders, he managed to occupy leap into the overall spot of an absent leader, in this case Alejandro Valverde.

Operation Puerto was the start of this Tour's story, then it was followed by the crashes of and abandons many of the remaining contenders -- Valverde, Julich, Mayo. With so much damage to the top of the field, the story of the Tour switched to the lieutenants that stepped forward: Sastre, Kloden, Dessel, Moreau, Zubeldia, Rogers, and finally Pereiro. If you look at the top five, and swap in the names of the riders for their expected team leader, you'll see a top five that looks a lot like what people expected before the Tour; the lieutenants and teams really rose to the challenge.

And then of course there was Landis, who despite defending the efforts of his team, built his lead entirely on efforts done by himself: two time trials and the long solo mountain stage. Landis contributed two stories of comeback to this year's Tour. At the first rest day, we learned of his 2005 comeback and future adversity as x-rays of Landis' hip flashed across our TV screens. Perhaps that bode well for Landis, as it now seems a necessary element of the American cyclist champion that he overcome major health obstacles to stand atop that podium in France, whether it be shotgun shots, cancer, or dead hips. Then came the other comeback, the one that followed a ten-minute collapse, where previously Landis had seemed invulnerable on any mountain.

The only surprise for me was the absense of Discovery, which may have fallen victim to one too many captains, but really just seemed not in the right condition to compete. Levi Leipheimer was also more off-form than expected, but showed a resiliency and determination that was fun to cheer on. The American cyclists didn't do as well as expected, especially in the time trial, but it only takes one atop that podium to hold the banner of American cycling high.

Now I'm looking forward to next year. We may get to see Tom Danielson race his first Tour -- we'll definitely get to see his second Vuelta soon enough. Who knows what team Landis will be on. Will George finally get his Paris-Roubaix? The second Tour of California -- I'll be there -- and the Tour de Georgia -- will I be there as well? American cycling has never been more fun to watch.

Prediction check: * Prediction: Robbie McEwen, though with so many sprinters out of the competition a breakaway has a good chance today. Not much sense in trying to pick a breakaway rider, so I'll stick with Robbie. * Actual: Hushovd first, McEwen second

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related articles: Tour de France 2006
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Comments (2)

Eric:

Well stated sentiments.

Speaking of Danielson, I'm looking forward to seeing him at the Vuelta. He seems to be pretty fired up about being the team captain for it. I'd love to see him pull off a podium finish. There's still plenty of racing left this year!

Like you though, I can't wait to see these guys on American soil again. Tour de Georgia for me though.

Cheers!

kwc:

Eric: If I head out to the TdG I'll drop you a note. Most everything is in order for the trip, I just need to confirm that I'll have enough vacation days for the adventure.

Thanks for the Danielson/Vuelta reminder. Now I just need to figure out how I'm going to watch it. I've got a cycling.tv account now, so I hope it will end up there at least.

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