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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 July 2006, 18:28 GMT 19:28 UK
Armstrong lauds successor Landis
Lance Armstrong at a charity golf day recently
Armstrong's retirement left the Tour wide open
Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong saluted fellow American Floyd Landis after he succeeded him as Tour de France champion.

Landis was a key part of Armstrong's US Postal (now Discovery Channel) team for three years before moving to Phonak.

"I'm proud and happy for Floyd," said Armstrong, who watched the finish on TV from his hotel near the Champs-Elysees.

"He proved he was the strongest, everybody wrote him off. I'm very proud that an American has won again."

Armstrong joined his Discovery Channel team, of which he is a part-owner, at the beginning of last week before the Alpine stages.

I kept fighting, never stopped believing

Floyd Landis
And Armstrong said he would be happy to welcome Landis back into the team.

"We've always been interested in Floyd, he's a damn good rider," Armstrong said. "We would take Floyd back. We have pursued him for some time now."

Despite Armstrong's all-time record of seven consecutive wins, Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc hailed Landis' ride as "the best performance in the modern history of the Tour".

Landis' Tour hinged on three remarkable days in the Alps last week.

In Tuesday's stage 15, he reclaimed the leader's yellow jersey despite a relatively conservative ride up the infamous Alpe d'Huez.

Floyd Landis
Landis celebrates his victory on the podium in Paris
But on the following day he suffered a spectacular collapse on the final climb up to La Toussuire, in which he lost 10 minutes to his rivals in the final 10km.

He blamed that on what cyclists call "bonking" - failing to eat enough during the stage to keep up energy levels.

And on the following day he clawed back all but 30 seconds of that lost time with a remarkable solo break, leading for 120 of the 200km to Morzine to evoke memories of Eddy Merckx, arguably the Tour's greatest ever winner.

"I kept fighting," Landis said, "never stopped believing."

Discovery's highest finisher in Armstrong's absence was Portuguese Jose Azevedo, 19th in the overall classification, 38 minutes adrift of Landis.

Veteran Discovery rider Vyatcheslav Ekimov, the oldest man in the race at 40, announced during the final stage that his 15th Tour - the second most of any rider - would be his last.

"I wish to do more - but I think it's pretty much done," said the Russian.

"I've never had a feeling like I had today. It's a super hard race; you can't compare it with anything else can compare.

"If you want to consider yourself a professional rider you should finish it at least once."

Awesome Landis takes Tour crown
23 Jul 06 |  Cycling
Outlandish Landis
23 Jul 06 |  Cycling
Armstrong backs favourite Landis
18 Jul 06 |  Cycling

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Cincinnati Enquirer Landis' victory a revival for event - 14 hrs ago
Rutland Herald Landis perfect tonic for post-Armstrong race - 18 hrs ago
TheDay.comA Tour To Remember - 20 hrs ago
Mansfield News Journal Landis' gritty win proves race has life after Lance Armstrong - 21 hrs ago
Pioneer Planet Landis serves up enthralling first Tour in post-Armstrong era - 23 hrs ago
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