Awaiting Hearing, Landis Continues 'Tour' to Clear His Name
After eight days and 700 miles on a bicycle, cyclist Levi Leipheimer from Santa Rosa was declared the winner of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. Last year's Tour winner was also a California residen
After eight days and 700 miles on a bicycle, cyclist Levi Leipheimer from Santa Rosa was declared the winner of the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. Leipheimer - who rides for the Discovery Channel team - took the yellow jersey in the Prologue in San Francisco. He held onto it all the way to the finish in Long Beach yesterday.
Afterwards, Leipheimer said winning is really something special.
Leipheimer: Because it's exactly what I wanted to do with my life - I love to race my bike - I love to ride my bike and it's what fulfills me.
Last year's Tour winner was also a California resident: Floyd Landis - of Murietta. As KPBS Radio's Andrea Hsu reports, Landis was at this year's race, but not riding.
Just around the corner from the finish line of Stage 5 in downtown Solvang, a crowd has formed in front of a tent. The signage on the tent reads "Smith and Nephew" -- a medical device company. And on a table - a model of the company's hip resurfacing system. But under the tent - no one is talking about hips.
Instead - Floyd Landis - who last fall got the Smith & Nephew device to repair his fractured and deteriorating hip - is greeting fans and signing autographs.
Babies are handed over to Landis to hold.
Landis: What's this guy's name? Nico. How old is he?
One girl wants him to sign her cheek.
Landis: You think that's a good idea?
And while one passerby mutters scornfully, "What's he doing here?" - This is otherwise an overwhelmingly supportive crowd.
Fan: Good luck with the case - we all love you.
The case being doping charges against Landis that surfaced after his stunning victory in the Tour de France last summer. Landis faces a two-year suspension and loss of his Tour de France title if he loses his appeal. His case will go before a public hearing this spring.
Meantime, Landis has launched a vigorous and very public c38aign to defend himself. He's posted documents on the internet showing numerous testing errors. He's also calling for changes to anti-doping procedures he says are unfair to athletes. Later, I asked him about that -- and why if that's the case - other riders haven't joined him in his efforts.
Landis: They're not in a position that they have to do anything, they don't realize the jeopardy. I don't think they understand what it's like once you're in the system. So I don't expect them to help, but I'll do it without them, that's fine.
How is your hip doing?
Landis: The hip's doing very well. It's been five months now and for a couple months I did some rehab and then it's pretty much back to 100 percent. I can ride as much as I want. Physically I'm fine, but I jus don't have the time to do it. I've got all this other stuff, but I've done a couple 400 mile weeks, so that's good.
Here in Solvang, Landis is hard to miss. He's smartly dressed in a black suit, blue shirt and silver tie. It's quite a contrast to the colorful spandex jerseys worn by the pro riders. Landis says it's not so great being at the race and not on a bike.
Landis: It's not something obviously that I would have chosen, but we're doing the best we can to fix it... and I'm still smiling.
It no doubt helps to have fans like Gloria Castro and Alex Trejo.
Catro & Trejo: He's a true ch38. He's very humble, he's very good to his teammates, and we want to see him ride again. And we were there to witness his Tour de France win and we're only waiting for them to validate that he will be the Tour de France ch38ion.}
Landis makes it clear he has no intention of giving up that title -- or losing his case.
What's your plan if you end up suspended for two years?
Landis: I'm not going to.
His public hearing is scheduled to begin on May 14th.
For KPBS, I'm Andrea Hsu.
(Photo: Floyd Landis signs autographs for fans at the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. Andrea Hsu/KPBS ).