Champion Floyd Landis of the United States hoists a glass of champagne during the final stage of the 2006 Tour de France. ((Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images))

American cyclist Floyd Landis pedalled into Paris and down the famed Champs-Elysées on Sunday to capture his first career Tour de France title.

Landis, 30, became the third American to win the prestigious three-week cycling race, joining seven-time champion Lance Armstrong and three-time winner Greg Lemond.

The 2006 Tour was the most wide-open and competitive in years since Armstrong retired in 2005 after winning his seventh consecutive title.

The 20th and final stage was little more than a coronation for Landis, who positioned himself to win the race by reclaiming the overall leader's yellow jersey with a strong third-place showing in Saturday's time trial.

Spain's Pereiro lands 2nd place

Landis entered Sunday with a 59-second lead over Oscar Pereiro of Spainand the American rider held on to win by 57 seconds over the second-place Spaniard.

Andreas Kloeden of Germany finished third overall, one minute and 29 seconds behind Landis.

Sunday's ride into Paris was one of the only anticlimactic moments in a competitive Tour that saw seven different riders sport the yellow jersey at some point — one short ofthe record.

Thor Hushovd of Norway won a wild surge to the finish line to capture the 154.5-kilometre 20th stage. Hushovd edged sprint specialist Robbie McEwen of Australiato capture his second stage of the Tour.

Hushovd also started the Tour on July 1 by winning the opening stage.

Landis prevails despite hip injury

But theoverall glory belonged to Landis, who managed to cruise safely into the finish area for the victory.

Landis managed to win the gruelling bike race despite lingering pain in his arthritic right hip. He was slated to undergo surgery in the fall to alleviate discomfortfrom theinjury sustained during a 2003 crash.

"I'll fight as hard as I have in this race to come back next year, or the following year — whatever it takes — to be here again," Landis said Saturday.

With files from the Associated Press