After Floyd Landis took the yellow jersey on Tuesday with a calm, almost passive ride up l'Alpe d'Huez, the French newspaper Aujourd'hui accused him of racing without "panache." The insult must have stung on Wednesday, when Landis cracked and fell from first to eleventh in the general classification - seemingly out of contention in the race. Then came Thursday's Stage 17. In it, Landis made one of the all-time great attacks, first using his team to grind the peloton down in the early kilometers, then audaciously soloing away on the first climb of the day. With the peloton in ruins behind him, Landis hunted down every member of an 11-man breakaway, and rode alone over the colossal Col de Joux-Plane to Morzine, where he won his first-ever Tour stage and vaulted himself into third place, exactly half a minute down to the leader of the tour, Oscar Pereiro. Executed avec beaucoup volonté et panache, the ride was immediately recognized as one of the great "escapades" of the Tour de France - perhaps the greatest. And it puts Floyd and his ruined hip back in the right place for Saturday's decisive time trial. I'd be rooting for him even if I weren't bionic thanks to Phonak: today he put himself among the pantheon of the Tour de France and of endurance athletics.

email: christopher at tassava dot com