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Tour de France Fails to Capture Widespread Public Interest


Another American has won the Tour de France for the eighth year in a row. Floyd Landis of Pennsylvania has succeeded seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong in capturing the coveted yellow jersey. But this years race failed to capture widespread public interest.

Once again, the U.S. national anthem was played at the Tour de France awards ceremony on the Champs Elysees in Paris. Race winner, Floyd Landis accepted the congratulations of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe - along with a bouquet of flowers and a stuffed lion.

It was a moment of triumph for 30-year-old Landis, who staged a spectacular comeback during the race, after a disastrous ride last week in which he dropped from first to 11th place.

It had been a rocky Tour overall. The French cycling race started with the dismissal of some of its best riders on doping charges. But the race itself has been full of suspense about who would ultimately win.

But all the drama has apparently not captivated the public. The 2006 World Cup soccer may have riveted French and other international audiences, but not the 2006 Tour de France.

Television viewership declined sharply in several countries compared to last year's Tour, when American rider Lance Armstrong captured his seventh, and last, straight win. In France, Germany and the United States the public was not tuning in - although France's Channel 2 TV reported a sharp rise in viewership to a peak of six-million viewers last week.

But the Tour remains a popular fixture in French summertime culture. In small towns around the country, people set up deck chairs on the side of the road hours before the cyclists whizz by. And the Champs Elysee was lined with cheering spectators at the finish.

Landis is the third American to win the Tour. Besides Armstrong, U.S. cyclist Greg LeMond won the race three times.

Tour de France director Jean-Marie Leblanc complimented Landis on his overall performance. In an interview on French radio, Leblanc said Landis was a good mountain racer, he was well rounded and he had paid his dues.

Even though his team was not particularly strong, the American managed to win the race, Leblanc said, and he deserved his victory.