Controversial American cyclist Floyd Landis will return to contest the PowerNet Tour of Southland this year.
Landis, 35, will line up for the Orca Velo Merino team alongside Andre de Jong, Andrew McNab and Alex Ray, of Auckland, and Australian riders Samuel Witmitz and Will Tehan for the November 1-6 fixture.
Team spokesperson Richard McIlraith, of Auckland, said Landis was thrilled to be returning for the iconic Southland tour.
“He had a great time last year – he enjoyed the race, he enjoyed the people and he left with the absolute intention of coming back this year and doing even better,” he said.
The first rider to be stripped of a Tour de France title, Landis admitted earlier this year to taking performance enhancing drugs during his career and implicated other top international riders, including Tour legend Lance Armstrong, in the use of banned substances.
McIlraith said Landis’ reputation had not impacted on the team or its ability to attract sponsors.
“Everyone is obviously very keen to ride with him … it’s not a factor for us, it never has been and it’s certainly not this year either,” he said.
“For our part, we admire what he has done this year in admitting his own doping and setting about on a path of clearly doing what he can to help eliminate it from the sport in the future.”
The Orca Velo Merino team had not been built around Landis, who was actually a later addition.
“The team is certainly not just Floyd – we’ve got five other riders who are very talented and I think we’ll have quite a presence this year,” McIlraith said.
Tour director Bruce Ross said controversy aside, any rider of Landis’ calibre certainly added to the Tour.
“Floyd is keen to come back and the fact that he has admitted to the crime and in effect done the time and is cleared to ride, he now wants to make a statement on the bike instead of in print,” he said.