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An interview with Floyd Landis, April 25, 2004
Plenty of races besides the Tour
US Postal Service's Floyd Landis plays his cards in the Ardennes classics
After solid performances in the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne in the past week, American Floyd Landis will help lead his US Postal Service team once more in the Ardennes hills as he tackles the fifth round of the World Cup, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. Taking on a greater leadership role, with team captains Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie tearing up the roads at the Tour de Georgia, Landis has relished the opportunity to play his own cards in some of the biggest races of the spring, as he told Cyclingnews' Chris Henry.
Landis spoke to Cyclingnews after Amstel Gold, after a difficult trip from Spain to Belgium for the Ardennes week, and was happy to catch up on the spring season before "la Doyenne" on Sunday. The racing has gone well for Landis, including strong stage race efforts at Paris-Nice, Critérium International, and the Vuelta a Pais Vasco. Not to mention his early season victory at the Volta ao Algarve in Portugal. All this prior to Paris-Roubaix, an entirely different kind of race. It's been a good spring on the road, even if all the travel is not without its pitfalls.
"It's good once you get there," Landis said of his journeys in Europe, having arrived at the team's hotel for the week in Liège. "Except at the hotel you just sit around and eat all day. That's not exactly conducive to the lifestyle of a professional cyclist."
Landis' roommates can face challenges of their own, as Ryder Hesjedal found out in the early hours one day. "This morning I had the alarm set on my iPod and I forgot... At 5am Led Zeppelin came on and Ryder had to turn it off."
Hesjedal offers a vocal correction in the background...
"What's that, 3am? Now it's getting earlier," he laughed. "Well, it didn't bother me, I didn't hear it!"
As for Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Landis hopes for a race which will suit his talents more than the Amstel Gold Race, which despite its 31 climbs he doesn't consider a climber's race.
"Liège is kind of the same [as Flèche Wallonne]," he said of the next big appointment. "The climbs are a little longer. We have a good team there... Triki [Beltran] is coming down, we have a lot of strong guys."
Landis also spoke about the week's other big event, the Tour de Georgia in the United States. He expected it would be an exciting race, and he wasn't wrong. All the better that Armstrong took two stage wins in one day, setting himself up as the man to beat for the overall title.
"They made it harder," he said of the Georgia parcours. "It's the real thing, not just a criterium. Our team has to be motivated because we have an American sponsor and Lance is there."
Landis, like most Americans, would have been happy to race in Georgia, however he has no complaints about his opportunities in the height of the European spring classics period. "As an American it's always good to go home, but I'd still rather be doing these races," he said.
While he enjoyed the designated support of several riders at the Amstel Gold Race, Landis also recognizes the importance of other riders on the team being given their own chances. In Flèche Wallonne, young Belgian Jurgen Van Den Broeck showed himself in a late race breakaway on a day when the team opted to focus less on a particular leader and more on a collective effort. Most of all, he insists the team has goals outside the month of July.
"People have a strange perception team, they think it's all about Lance," he explained. "But there are plenty of other races besides the Tour. Everybody gets a chance."
After Liège, Landis will get a break from competition and return home to California for two weeks, coming back to Europe for the Tour du Languedoc-Roussillon in May. A trip home mean's just one thing for Landis and the family. "Just sit there in my house," he laughed. "There's no place like home."
With no talk within the team yet of who will make the selection for the Tour de France roster, Landis is making sure to worry about March and April before he worries about July.
"The Tour is always in the back of your mind... But for me Liège, then a break, that's the perfect plan. I don't have to save anything. If you can be good in the Tour, you can be good early too."