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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Armstrong backs favourite Landis
Lance Armstrong at a charity golf day last week
Armstrong's retirement has left the Tour wide open
Seven-time winner Lance Armstrong says he would be delighted if fellow American Floyd Landis succeeds him as Tour de France champion.

Landis, a crucial part of Armstrong's Discovery Channel team for three years before moving to Phonak this season, is the favourite to win this year's race.

"I would love to see the jersey stay in America," Armstrong said.

"Floyd Landis is doing very well and I think he is still the favourite. I would be happy with that victory."

Armstrong was speaking before Tuesday's 15th stage, in which Landis finished fourth to reclaim the yellow jersey after deliberately relinquishing it on Sunday.

Armstrong joined his Discovery Channel team, who have struggled in his absence, during Monday's rest day, and plans to stay with them until the finish in Paris on Sunday.

"I still believe in them," he added. "I know it has been a difficult year relative to what we were used to, but they are still a great group of guys and great riders.

"This is a transition time so it is not the time to be critical or say 'what is the problem?'

"I still believe in them and I still believe we have some of the best riders left in the field. I think the race is still wide open."

Yaroslav Popovych, the Ukrainian rider, is Discovery's leading contender in 13th place, but is seven minutes and 36 seconds behind Landis after Tuesday's stage.



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