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Floyd Landis is riding the Tour (and currently holding second position in the GC, one scant minute off the lead, as the Tour heads into the mountains) with a severely degraded hip joint, the result of a training crash in 2003.

Landis and Kay had been dealing with this hip since January 2003, when Landis fractured it in a crash. But since July of that year, the story line had been his gutty, two-surgery comeback to help his U.S. Postal Service teammate Armstrong win the 2003 Tour de France. Seemingly fully recovered, Landis had followed it up with a breakout 2004 season that saw him join the top ranks of the sport. But that story ended with the radiologist’s blunt report: advanced osteonecrosis, 25 to 50 percent femoral head collapse, with superimposed osteoarthritis. It was a textbook case: cut off from the blood supply, the femoral head was withering into a cauliflower-shaped knob that was already grating away at the remaining cartilage.

(Something about the phrase “grating away at the remaining cartilage” makes me wince each and every time I read it.)

If you haven’t been following the Tour, it’s not to late to start — as I said, it’s just starting to get into the exciting stages, it’s wide open as far as who might eventually win this thing, and there are a number of people — Landis and Robbie McEwen in particular — riding with great skill and greater joy.

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