Cycling: Landis thanks parents for 'patience and persistence'

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The Independent Online

Floyd Landis hailed the patience and persistence that his parents instilled in him in his youth as he swept to victory in the Tour de France to become the first winner in the post-Lance Armstrong era.

The 30-year-old American came home 57 seconds ahead of the Spaniard Oscar Pereiro for one of the slimmest margins of victory in the race's history. Landis, though, had demonstrated all the traits of a winner when he dug in over the Alps for the final few days of the 2,000-plus mile race.

"My parents taught me that hard work and patience are some of the most important things in getting what you want," said the Phonak team rider whose parents raised him in the strict Mennonite Christian tradition in Pennsylvania.

"It took me a long time in my life to learn patience, but that, and persistence, are lessons I learned in this race."

Landis appeared to have blown his chances on stage 16 when he was left in the wake of his rivals in the Alps and was eight minutes and eight seconds adrift of Pereiro, who took the race leader's yellow jersey.

However, the following day Landis destroyed the opposition to win the 17th stage and close to within 30 seconds of Pereiro, whom he passed to reclaim the yellow jersey on Saturday.

There was little realistic danger of him losing the lead on Sunday in the hazard-free flat ride to the race's traditional finishing point on the Champs-Elysées, after which he received a congratulatory call from the US President ,George Bush.

Landis has had sometimes tense relations with seven-times winner Armstrong, but admitted that riding in his former US Postal team had proved a great learning experience.

He said: "I was fortunate enough to be here a few times with Lance and see how he did it and that helps but it's quite an experience to do it myself."

Armstrong said: "I'm glad a guy who came through our program has won. We can take a small bit of credit for helping develop Floyd."

Armstrong says the US Postal team, now called Discovery Channel, gambled on Landis when he joined from the Mercury team in 2001. "He had a mountain of debt because they [Mercury] didn't pay him," Armstrong said from his room at the Crillon hotel in Paris. "We're the one who gave him the opportunity. For us, there's a bit of a moral victory there because you gave a guy a chance to ride for you, to learn from you."

Landis plans soon to have replacement surgery on his right hip, which is afflicted by avascular necrosis, but he hopes to be back next year - when Armstrong hopes he will be racing for Discovery instead.

"He's a damn good rider," Armstrong said. "We would take Floyd back."