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Lance says Team Discovery wants to sign Landis

7/23/2006

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."