Landis Claims Yellow Jersey; Menchov Wins Stage 11

Jul 13, 2006
Outside Magazine
Floyd Landis, Tour de France

American Floyd Landis claimed the yellow jersey Thursday for the first time in his career.

PLA-DE-BERET, SpainFloyd Landis, degenerative hip working fine, became the sixth leader of this year's Tour de France on Thursday when the Phonak rider from Murrieta, California, placed third in a three-rider breakaway finish to the largest ski resort in Spain.

Denis Menchov (Rabobank) of Russia won the 206.5-kilometer (128.2-mile) 11th stage that included five mountain climbs, in six hours, six minutes, and 25 seconds.

Landis, who finished ninth in the Tour last year and was fifth overall entering the stage, gained eight seconds of bonus time, the exact margin he now has over previous race leader Cyril Dessel (AG2R) of France. Menchov is third overall, trailing by 1:01.

"It's always nice to win a stage," said Landis, who earlier in the Tour announced he will soon undergo hip replacement surgery for his degenerative condition. "But there was more value to get time on the final climb, so the winning a stage wasn't my objective."

Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner), a pre-race favorite who badly faltered in the seventh stage individual time trial, rekindled his Tour hopes and finished second in the stage.

Leipheimer, whose sixth place last year in the Tour was the highest of any rider in this year's edition, tried to match Menchov in the final sprint, but was a bike length back.

"I wanted to get to the last turn first," said an emotional Leipheimer who improved from 58th overall to 13th, trailing Landis by 5:39 as the only other U.S. rider now in the top 20. "But I just misjudged it a little bit. Menchov got a pretty good late kick there."

The leading trio emerged from an earlier 18-rider lead group with about four miles left. The large group formed between the fourth climb and final climb and included all of the Tour favorites.

The leaders had already climbed the ascents to Col du Tourmalet, Col d'Aspin and Col de Peyresourde, three of the race's most legendary mountains. Dessel sprinted to finish in front of a five-rider group in 18th position, 4:45 behind.

Like Leipheimer, Landis has never won a Tour de France stage. But he's now the fifth American to wear the race leader's yellow jersey, joining Greg LeMond, Lance Armstrong, David Zabriskie, and George Hincapie.

Hincapie, who took the race lead for one day after Stage 1, began the day 19th overall. But he faltered in the 11th stage, placing 40th, and fell to 40th overall, trailing by 23:01.

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