By Andrew Hood
American Floyd Landis has overcome a fractured hip to be named as the ninth and final rider to round out the Tour de France lineup for Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team.
Landis was on the bubble to make the Postal selection after falling on his hip in a training accident in January, but rode strong enough during June’s Dauphiné Libéré to edge out Luxembourg rider Benoit Joachim to nab the ninth spot.
Earlier this month, U.S. Postal’s sport director Johan Bruyneel announced eight of the riders. Seven of the eight riders from Armstrong’s winning team last year are back, including fellow American George Hincapie, who also overcame setbacks this spring to make the team.
“After missing the spring due to illness, George has come back very strong and showed us at (the Tour of) Catalunya that we can count on him,” Bruyneel said in a team press release Monday. “Floyd is in the same situation as George. He was out for the spring with his hip fracture, but worked extremely hard and proved at the Dauphine that his form is still improving.”
Armstrong said last year’s Tour team was his best in four years and each are back save Joachim as Armstrong makes a run at a record-tying fifth Tour. Newcomer Manuel Beltran gives Armstrong even more firepower in the mountains to go along with Spanish mountain goats Roberto Heras and Jose Luis Rubiera.
Other riders include Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov, Pavel Padrnos of the Czech Republic and Colombian Victor Hugo Pena.
“This is more or less the same team as last year, except for Beltran replacing Benoit,” Bruyneel continued. “It’s a real shame for Benoit because he’s been displaying great condition now and certainly deserved his place on the team. The choice between him and Floyd was very difficult, but I’m confident that this year’s team is our strongest possible line up.”
Bruyneel said Armstrong looks to be on form to win, which would tie him with Spain’s Miguel Indurain as the only riders who’ve won five Tours consecutively.
“In my opinion, he’s at least as strong as last year,” Bruyneel said. “His last race, the Dauphine Libere, was a confirmation that he’s on track. He did a strong time trial and defended in the mountains.”
U.S. Postal Service for the TourLance Armstrong (USA)Manuel Beltran (ESP)Viatcheslav Ekimov (RUS)Roberto Heras (ESP)George Hincapie (USA)Floyd Landis (USA)Pavel Padrnos (CZE)Victor Hugo Pena (COL)Jose Luis Rubiera (ESP)