Floyd Landis wins stage 17 of the 2006 TourHats off to Floyd Landis, who today achieved one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history, on stage 17 of the Tour de France.

Landis recovered the yellow jersey on Wednesday, but then blew up on the final climb yesterday, grinding to a near-halt with suspected heatstroke, losing over eight minutes, and plummeting from first to eleventh place. Even Landis admitted yesterday evening that his chances of winning this year’s Tour were probably over.

But then today, Landis made an astonishing 128.5 km solo break, starting on the first big climb of the day, working his way past the rest of the field, and holding his lead right the way up the murderous Col de Joux-Plane and down to the finish line to win the stage. More importantly, while he didn’t recover the yellow jersey from Oscar Pereiro, he moved up into third place and is now only 30 seconds off the overall lead. His time-trialling abilities give him an excellent prospect for winning the Tour – unless something else extraordinary happens, of course.

A privilege to follow it on the live online report, and then to watch the highlights tonight (brief video highlights available here). Wonderful stuff (and not a headbutt to be seen!).

Interesting also to hear the commentator’s remarks on Landis’ background and upbringing. He was raised as a Mennonite in Pennsylvania, and would ride 100 km each night in secret, after finishing the additional chores given to him by his parents to try to distract him from his love of the “worldly” pursuit of cycling. Sounds like a robust doctrine of vocation would have come in useful there.

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