LAST MINUTE PANIC FOR LANDIS

Moments before his 16:03 start time, Floyd Landis? concentration was shattered. His mechanic was wiping the rear wheel one last time before departure when he noticed a cut in the tyre. It was big enough to cause instant concern. The mechanic shouted to John Lelangue, the Phonak team manager, who was preparing to drive behind Landis on the course.

Lelangue picks up the story: ?I got out, saw the size of the cut and immediately instructed the mechanic to change the rear wheel. He could have ridden round with nothing going wrong but it was a big enough cut to make me worry it could blow on a corner. If that happened the Tour could be over. Changing the wheel would lose only a few seconds. We estimate he lost maybe eight seconds in total.?

Wheel changed, Landis hopped into the start house and rolled towards the line. The commissaire stopped him and made sure he was stationary before he set off ? even though the clock was already running. Rules are rules.

Landis was flying by the time he reached the finish and was ninth, only nine seconds behind Thor Hushovd. He could, perhaps, have been in yellow tonight but for that rogue stone or piece of glass he?d obviously rolled over on his way to the start line.

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Lionel Birnie

Sports journalist Lionel Birnie has written professionally for Sunday Times, Procycling and of course Cycling Weekly. He is also an author, publisher, and co-founder of The Cycling Podcast. His first experience covering the Tour de France came in 1999, and he has presented The Cycling Podcast with Richard Moore and Daniel Friebe since 2013. He founded Peloton Publishing in 2010 and has ghostwritten and published the autobiography of Sean Kelly, as well as a number of other sports icons.