Lance says Team Discovery wants to sign Landis
PARIS -- Lance Armstrong says the Discovery Channel team has been so impressed by Floyd Landis that they want to sign him.
With Discovery struggling at this year's Tour, with only one rider in the top 20, Landis could be the leader Discovery is looking for.
"We've always been interested in Floyd, he's a damn good rider," Armstrong said Sunday. "We would take Floyd back. We've pursued him for some time now."
From his room at the Crillon hotel in Paris, Armstrong watched Landis step onto the winners podium -- the third American to win the showcase event, a year after Armstrong's seventh and final title.
Armstrong and Landis rode together for three years when the team was called U.S. Postal. Landis, seeking a new challenge, left in 2005 to join Phonak.
Armstrong, who is part-owner of the Discovery team, said he and team director Johan Bruyneel would love to work with him again.
"We believe he's a good rider. We wouldn't be interested in taking him otherwise," Armstrong told The Associated Press. "He's balanced, and I think he's smarter tactically than people think. He knows tactics, and he knows the flow of the race."
Landis has raced with an arthritic hip, injured in a 2003 training crash. He plans to undergo surgery this fall.
Armstrong is hopeful of the outcome.
"I worry a little bit about the hip," he said. "I don't know the whole story about the hip, but we would still be interested."
Before the race, Discovery team director Johan Bruyneel was confident George Hincapie, Yaroslav Popovych and Jose Azevedo would perform well, having had ample time to prepare for Armstrong's retirement.
But Hincapie, tipped to shine in Armstrong's absence, finished 32nd overall, and Popovych, the 2005 Tour's top young rider, was 25th. Azevedo had the highest finish -- 19th.
As soon as the race hit the Pyrenees in the second week, Hincapie knew he was in trouble.
"I saw the other riders go, and I couldn't continue," Hincapie said. "I didn't even want to ride any more. It was very deflating and disappointing, hard to continue at that point."
Because Discovery had several cyclists hoping to become the leader, Bruyneel said the team's focus was as blurred as it was evident under Armstrong.
"We need to be focused on having just one leader," Bruyneel said.
Discovery team highlights were rare at this Tour: Hincapie wore the yellow jersey after the first stage; and Popovych won stage 12, pulling away from a group of breakaway riders in the final stretch.
Bruyneel tried to look on the bright side Sunday, saying "we don't go home empty-handed."
Hincapie was more blunt.
"Everybody wants to know an excuse, but we just don't have one," he said after Sunday's final stage on the Champs-Elysees. "Things just don't always go the way you want them. We worked really hard. ... I don't know what happened."
Viatceslav Ekimov, 40, completed his 15th and final Tour on Sunday.
He predicts more change is likely for the team.
"Discovery Channel won't be without a big guy for long, that's for sure," Ekimov said. "Every big rider would be happy to join us, because every rider sees we don't have a leader. So, it's a good spot. There will be changes."
Armstrong agreed a signing a big name is crucial to fulfilling the team's ambitions and insists Bruyneel is the right man to rebuild Discovery.
"Johan's committed," Armstrong said. "He's frustrated enough to make it right."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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