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Floyd Landis Set to Win Tour de France

DON GONYEA, host:

American cyclist Floyd Landis today won the three-week-long Tour de France. With his victory Landis takes over as champion of cycling's premiere event after a seven-year run of victories by fellow American and former teammate Lance Armstrong. Reported Anita Elash joins us from the Champs Elysee in Paris. Anita, welcome.

ANITA ELASH reporting:

Hi, Don.

GONYEA: Describe the scene for us, if you will, at the finish line today.

ELASH: Well, all day long people here have been really cheering for Floyd Landis knowing he would win and so pleased for him. And so there was a lot of excitement when he crossed the finish line. And there was also an enormous amount of excitement the first time that he and his team came on to the Champs Elysee, because, you know, Floyd Landis has so often been in a supporting role and supporting Lance Armstrong, and I think people were just really thrilled to see him rolling onto the Champs Elysee being supported by his team this time and being supported by his team as he rode to victory.

GONYEA: It's interesting. Lance Armstrong was not very popular with the French crowds. What is it about Landis? Why do you think he is being so - so well received?

ELASH: Well I think there's a number of reasons. I mean, the first is just his incredible performance over the last few days. Of course, on Wednesday he was eight minutes behind the leader and people were saying that there was absolutely no way that he would ever even place in the race. On Thursday he put on an incredible performance and ended up 30 seconds behind Oscar Pereiro. And a thing like that has just never happened, so people admire that. They also, I think, see him as a more humble person. Lance Armstrong was always seen as arrogant and it was very clear that he was the leader of the team.

Floyd Landis is known as somebody who supports his team as well as being supported by them. And people also know that he's put on his incredible performance while riding with an arthritic hip and that in fact when the - when the cycling season is over this fall, he's going to have his hip replaced. So I think that they just can't help themselves.

GONYEA: We can still hear cheering and some commotion there behind you. I'm wondering, Lance Armstrong is gone from the Tour de France, but still here we have an American winning this - this very prestigious race. Is there any concern there at all that this traditionally European sport is being overtaken by the Americans?

ELASH: Well, of course everybody is aware that it's - the race has been dominated by Americans, that this is the eleventh time that an American has won the race in the last 20 years. But I don't get the sense that they're really concerned at this point, for a couple of reasons. One is that France has done very well this year. They've had two riders in the top 10 and that's the first time that that's happened since 2000, so it's been a very good tour.

The other thing is this race is really wide open up until the end. And it could just as easily have been Oscar Pereiro who was wearing the yellow jersey today. So there's a sense that this year, with the win by Floyd Landis, that there's -there's a new sense of excitement and that Floyd Landis has really helped to bring the tour back to epic proportions.

GONYEA: Reporter Anita Elias on the Champs Elysee in Paris where the Tour de France has now completed, with Floyd Landis the winner. Thank you, Anita.

ELASH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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