Thursday, July 20

TdF: Stage 17

Wow! What a stage! American rider Floyd Landis moved back into contention for the Tour de France title Thursday, winning the last tough Alpine stage in a heroic solo finish. Landis seemed to have fallen out of contention yesterday when he lost the leader's yellow jersey after struggling at the brutal uphill finish on the L'Alpe d'Huez. But today, he burst ahead of the main pack in the first of three tough ascents in the 17th stage. "He reacted like a great champion," said France's Cyril Dessel, who entered the stage in fourth place.

The American clenched his right fist in celebration as he crossed the finish and hopped off his bike after completing the punishing 200.5K ride in 5 hours, 23 minutes, 36 seconds. He cut 8 full minutes from his deficit and now only trails the overall leader, Spain's Oscar Pereiro, by 30 seconds.

With the tough Alpine climbs over, the individual time trial on Saturday shapes up as a crucial test to decide the winner of the first Tour since Lance Armstrong won a record seven straight titles. After 17 stages, the overall standings are now:

1. Oscar Pereiro (Spain)
2. Carlos Sastre (Spain)
3. Floyd Landis (USA)
4. Andreas Kloden (Germany)
5. Cadel Evans (Australia)
6. Denis Menchov (Russia)
7. Cyril Dessel (France)
8. Christophe Moreau (France)
9. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain)
10. Michael Rogers (Australia)

As for the other Americans: Levi Leipheimer is in 18th place; Christian Vandevelde is in 23rd place; George Hincapie is in 32nd place; Christopher Horner is in 62nd place; and Dave Zabriskie is in 79th place.