Landis Moves Back into Yellow; Honchar Wins Stage 19 Time Trial

James Raia

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MONTCEAU LES MINES, France — Barring catastrophe, Floyd Landis (Phonak) of Murrieta, Calif., will become the third American to win the Tour de France after he placed third Saturday in the 19th stage individual time trial. Sergei Honchar (T-Mobile) of the Ukraine captured his second dominating time trial win of the Tour, winning the 34.9-mile (57-kilometer) technical stage from Le Creusot in one hour, seven minutes, and 45 seconds at an average speed of 31.36 mph.

Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile) of Germany finished second, 41 seconds behind. Landis was next, 1:11 behind. Former race leader Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d’Epargne) of Spain was fourth, trailing by 2:40. Landis began the day in third position overall, trailing former race leaser Pereiro by 30 seconds. Carlos Sastre (CSC) of Spain was second, 12 seconds behind.

But Landis, the third-to-last rider on the course, finished 1:29 ahead of Pereiro, and he will hold a 59-second margin entering Sunday’s concluding ceremonial stage. Kloden is third overall, 1:29 behind.

“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy with the yellow jersey at stake,” said Landis, who finished ninth at the Tour last year. “Considering I did a four-hour time trial (his solo 17th stage win) a few days ago, I wasn’t sure. But I woke up feeling OK. I was still beaten by a considerable margin by Honchar and that was impressive. But I did what I needed to do.”

David Zabriskie (CSC), of Salt Lake City, placed sixth in the stage as the next-highest of six Americans in the race. Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner) of Santa Rosa, Calif., is the second-highest American overall, in 13th position, 19:22 behind.

The remaining field of 140 will conclude their three-week journey Sunday with a 95.9 mile (154.5- kilometer) ride to Paris. The stage includes two short Category 4 climbs (Cote de Gif-sur-Yvette, (.86 miles with a 5.6 percent average grade) and Mont-Valerien, (.62 miles with a 6.4 percent average grade). But the brief uphill efforts are minor compared to the spectacular eight concluding laps on the most famous street in France.

Amid the enthusiastic crowd, each four-mile circuit will take approximately ten minutes. Various riders will take their turn at the front, but the race will likely finish in a mass sprint and with the field’s best sprinters again emerging.

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