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Landis coming to Teva Mountain Games

Ian Cropp
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Floyd Landis, 2006 Tour de France champion, will compete in this year's Teva Mountain Games. (AP file)
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VAIL – Floyd Landis will be riding his bike in Vail come June.

Landis, the 2006 Tour de France winner, has accepted an invitation to this year’s Teva Mountain Games.

Event organizers confirmed that Landis will be competing in the road biking and mountain biking portions regardless of the outcome of the investigation into Landis’ testing positive for above-normal levels of testosterone after the 17th stage of last year’s Tour.

“The ongoing case won’t have any impact in his participation in the Teva Mountain Games,” said Ian Anderson, a spokesman for the Teva Mountain Games – a private event outside the sanction of U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

According to The Associated Press, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency will test backup urine samples from Landis. Landis and his lawyers are protesting the validity of the original tests last summer and the credentials of French lab where they will be analyzed. Landis’ lawyers said they prefere that the backup tests be done at the UCLA lab that handles much of USADA’s testing. The UCLA lab is under repair and won’t be ready before the tests are to be run.

Landis, who had his hip replaced in September, will be racing at the Teva Mountain Games as part of Team Athletes for a Cure, a program for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Along with Landis, Tao Berman and Simon Guitierrez will comprise the team taking part in the Ultimate Mountain Challenge, a new two-day, four-event competition new to the Teva Mountain Games.

“The thought here was that finding an athlete with more mainstream name recognition will help generate more … recognition as a whole,” Anderson said.

Athletes for a Cure, which partners with Teva, approached Landis about competing.

“I have a relationship with (Landis’ attorney) Howard Jacobs and have met Floyd casually a few times,” said Scott Zagarino, managing director of sports marketing for the Prostate Cancer foundation. “(Floyd) said, ‘If there’s any way I can help, I will.'”

Zagarino said there were some internal questions as to the decision to tap Landis.

“There was a lot of back and forth on whether or not to do it,” Zagarino said. “But I told them I’m banking my reputation on Floyd’s character.”

The Teva Mountain Games, in its sixth year, will be in Vail from May 30-June 3.

Pro riders expecting to compete in the two events – the mountain bike race on Vail Mountain and hill climb up Vail Pass – were excited to hear about Landis’ entry regardless of how they feel about the his investigation.

“That’s pretty cool – to race against a guy like that,” said Ross Schnell, who took second in last year’s mountain bike race. “It’s awesome getting those type of people there. It bumps up the level and overall vibe of the race when you’re lining up next to a Tour de France winner.

“Whatever the outcome of all the court proceedings, it’ll be great having him there.”

In all of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge events, which also include a 10-kilometer trail run and downriver kayak sprint, amateurs will be able to race against professionals.

Former World Mountain Biking champion Mike Kloser remembers racing against Landis years ago.

“I raced against him a few times before I retired from the circuit,” Kloser said. “He was quite young … and I do recall beating him a few times … I think it’s awesome to have him out there, and we’ll see what he’ll bring to the event from publicity to a participation perspective.

“I think he’s going to kick butt on the road (race) and mountain bike (race). It’ll be interesting to see how some local boys stick up against him.”

Locals will get another to race against a Tour de France winner later this summer, as seven-time champ Lance Armstrong will be competing in the Leadville 100, a NORBA-sanctioned mountain-bike race. The Teva Mountain Games races are private, unlike National Off-Road Bicycle Association races, and anyone, regardless of possible suspensions, can enter.

Before his success in road racing, Landis made a name for himself in mountain biking. Landis was the 1993 junior national champion, and after full-time training as a mountain biker, he switched to road cycling in 1999. Even with his recent hip replacement, Landis is still set to get back on a mountain bike.

“He was a little iffy on the mountain bike course,” Zagarino said. “But he’s game for the hill climb.”

Landis recently noted on his blog at floydlandis.com that he has no pain in his replaced hip and that he’s been able to mountain bike without fearing the risk of a big fall.

Although Zagarino said Landis isn’t quite in shape for a long tour-style event, he expects Landis to do well in the hill climb.

The hill climb, which used to be known as the Coors Classic Hill Climb, has seen its share of famous riders, including Greg LeMond and Bernard Hinault. The course record of 26 minutes, 33.43 seconds still belongs to Giro d’Italia champion Andy Hampsten, set during the 1987 race.

While recovering and training, Landis has been spending a lot of time making appearances and raising money for his Floyd Fairness Fund and working with his lawyers on his defense.


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