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An interview with Floyd Landis, August 27, 2005

Chasing the maillot oro once again

After a strong performance in last year's Vuelta, Phonak's Floyd Landis is back in Spain for another crack at the maillot oro. With another Tour de France under his belt, and a powerhouse team behind him, Landis talks to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about his chances of 'wearing gold' in 2005.

Rolling into the sign on
Photo ©: Jon Devich
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2005 has marked a turning point in the career of Floyd Landis. The 29 year old rider went from being a trusted lieutenant of Lance Armstrong at US Postal to one of the team leaders at Phonak, deciding after years of riding in the service of the Tour champion that it was time for him to strike out on his own and starting winning races for himself.

Last year's Tour was undoubtedly a catalyst in that decision. Landis rode well throughout the race, performing strongly in the mountains, going close to taking a stage win and generally showing that he had what it takes to be a very solid Grand Tour rider. Winning the stage 3 time trial in the Tour of Georgia this spring underlined that point, and even though a strong Discovery Channel team wrested the race leader's jersey from his shoulders before the end, he had given a strong indication that a new mentality - and freedom - was paying off.

Following his return to Europe, good performances in the Dauphine Libčre showed that he was on track as regards his preparations for the Tour de France. And while Landis didn't set the race alight as he may have hoped, a good ninth place overall showed that he can realistically aim higher in the future. Indeed, he has a chance to take a strong Grand Tour result here on the Vuelta, with Landis' long spell in the maillot oro twelve months ago acting as perfect inspiration for an even more successful campaign this time round.

He's done things a little differently in the run up, in order to avoid the drop in form he experienced towards the end of last year's race. "I was okay for the first two weeks, but it [the Vuelta] was a bit long. I had raced hard since January. It is a long season, so... I don't know how this year will go, but there is less pressure than at the Tour. So I will just see how it works out.

"This time, I haven't done any racing [after the Tour]. Last year, I did the Tour of Holland, I believe.I think it was that race. But this year there is only five weeks between [the Tour and the Vuelta], last year there was six. With five it is no problem, it is better to go home and rest a little while."

In addition to his thoughts on this year's Vuelta, Landis also spoke to Cyclingnews two days before the race start about his Tour de France, missing the world championships, his sometimes-rocky relationship with the Discovery Channel team and his opinion on the Lance Armstrong doping accusations recently printed in L'Equipe.

Cyclingnews: Floyd, you've got some cuts and a bandage on your arm. What happened?

Floyd Landis: I had a bit of a fall out on the training ride today. I went round a corner too fast on a downhill... I made a mistake, nothing too serious. Just road rash, my hip is a little scratched, but nothing broken. I will be stiff tomorrow, I'm sure.

Pushing hard in TTs
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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CN: What is your form like?

FL: I think it is good, I did the same as last year in taking it easy after the Tour. I went back to California and rested. I did some small training. Normally after the Tour you have good form, if you're not too tired, so I think it should be all right. The team is good, the morale is good.

CN: You did really well last year, early on the race...

FL: Yeah, I was okay for the first two weeks, but it was a bit long. I don't know what to expect this year. I didn't race so much in the spring this year, so...

CN: You cracked near the end of last year's race. Do you think the problem was tiredness from the season?

FL: Yeah, I had raced hard since January. It is a long season, so... I don't know how this year will go, but there is less pressure than at the Tour. So I will just see how it goes.

CN: You have built up a little differently this time, with less racing. Was that planned, with a view to doing a good Vuelta, or is that just the way things worked out?

FL: Yeah, it is just how it worked out. We had some stress over the winter with the team not knowing if it was going to be the ProTour or not, so we kind of didn't know which races we would be doing. We picked them one day at a time and there was no real focus.

CN: You had a good ride in the Tour with ninth place overall. It was your first big Tour as a leader, or co-leader, on a team. Were you happy with how things went?

A top ten finish at this year's Tour
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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FL: Yeah, we changed some things here and there, minor things, but I think considering everything, I was satisfied.

CN: Obviously things have changed a lot since last year, because then you were riding for Armstrong.

FL: Yeah.

CN: So a lot of your energy went into that task. How do you think your form was this time round, compared to last year's Tour?

FL: It is hard to say. It is a completely different race when you ride for someone else and sit up on the hard climbs. I don't think it is impossible to compare, but I think my condition was relatively the same. I don't think it was much better or worse, either way.

CN: What was the experience like, going into at Grand Tour with the pressure of being the GC guy?

FL: It wasn't so bad. Actually, there was a lot of pressure racing for Lance, too, because you are expected to be the best team. So it wasn't a big change as far as the pressure goes. I wouldn't say, really, that it was any more difficult. This time, it was just a case of thinking about how the race would pan out. More mental energy would go into that, but otherwise, no.

CN: Doing the race as a leader for the first time is clearly a learning experience. What did you take out of the 2005 Tour. Were there any things that will help in future years?

FL: Yeah, but they are all minor things. I wouldn't say that there were any grand revelations. I think an important things was just knowing what it is like to have a team working for you, that kind of thing; that's something that will make it easier next year. It is nothing big and easy to explain [what he learned], it is just a collection of small things.

CN: You had a good ride in the Tour de Georgia, doing a really good time trial there.

FL: Yeah, that was a good day.

CN: I presume that is all part of building up your confidence...

Among the chasers
Photo ©: Sirotti
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FL: Yeah, I had a couple of good races. Georgia and the Dauphine Libere went okay, not spectacular but I thought the preparation was good. I think that if the season stopped now, I would be satisfied. Certainly my dream is to win the Tour, but considering everything that we went through, I think that the team should be happy with everything they have achieved. And I think they are.

CN: There were a couple of times during the Tour de France, and also in Georgia, where it seemed like there was a 'Discovery versus Floyd' thing going on. On stage 17 to Revel, for example, it looked like the Discovery guys were driving it when they didn't need to drive it. Was that effort on their part related to you missing the move, do you think?

FL: Other people have speculated on it... I honestly don't know. But if that is the way they [Discovery] feel, I feel sorry for them.

CN: If there is a problem there, do you think that is something that will be over now that Lance has retired?

FL: I would imagine that the source of it, if it exists, is Lance. As to whether it continues, that depends on personality of Johan. I don't know how things will go..

CN: What was your reaction to the L'Equipe story this week?

FL: Well, that is a whole different issue. Lance and I have had our differences, but I respect him for what he does. I think it is a disaster now, regardless of whether it [the article] is a lie or not. I can't say, I wasn't there. For that matter, I don't even know the details other than what I read the paper and that is only one side of the thing. So, for all of us in cycling, and for Lance especially, it is bad. I am disappointed that it has to happen. I really don't know. I wish it hadn't happened, that is all I can say. I don't know anything about it. In my opinion, I think it is a lie. That is all I can say.

CN: If he is indeed innocent, I guess he doesn't really have any real comeback.

FL: No, and they obviously waited until it was too late for Lance to be there to talk to everybody, waiting until the end [of his career] when there was really no point in doing it, anyway. It is disappointing and I feel for Lance because he doesn't deserve it. I am sure he doesn't deserve it.

CN: What have you done since the Tour, in terms of getting ready for the Vuelta?

FL: I haven't done any racing. Last year, after the Tour, I did the Tour of Holland, I believe. I think it was that one, but this year there is only five weeks between [the Tour and the Vuelta], last year there was six. With five it is no problem, it is better to go home and rest a little while.

CN: Theoretically, with that approach, you will be stronger towards the end of the Vuelta...

FL: Normally it should be that way, but you never know!

CN: Will you be leading the Phonak team, or will you have a co-leader status?

A leader at Phonak
Photo ©: Luc Claessen
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FL: We have a couple of guys that are very good right now. I think that Santos Gonzalez is good, Gutierrez is good, and Oscar [Pereiro], I don't know how motivated he is, but he looks fit. No, I don't think we are going to pick one person and say that we will work for them. There are other teams to control the race, just like the Tour. Discovery are here, and I think Roberto [Heras] wants to win, so I would expect that they will work. But the Vuelta is different, you have to be careful with the wind and so it is more a case that we have to stay together.

CN: So have you looked at the key stages of this race, and how they suit you?

FL: No, I haven't done any reconnaissance like the Tour, but I looked at the maps. Anyway, it is a case that if you're strong enough in the mountains, you can win the Vuelta. If not, you get dropped! There are seven mountaintop finishes, or something like that. So your strength is the most important thing.

CN: The prologue is seven kilometres, with a hill in it. Do you think that will suit you?

FL: No, for me it is too short. The last two time trials are better for me.

CN: After the Vuelta, what is your programme?

FL: I think I am finished.

CN: You think that the World's is too far away from now?

FL: Well, it is very close to the end of the Vuelta and it is also flat, flat enough that the most likely scenario is that there will be a sprint.

CN: But the time trial doesn't interest you?

FL: I don't know that I would even be selected. It is not easy when you are an American! There are quite a few good guys. I don't think I would do it, anyway - the guys who deserve to do it are those like Zabriskie and Bobby Julich. Obviously Lance, but I don't think that he is going to do it.

CN: Unless he has been doing some sneaky training!

FL: That is doubtful, I think he is done.

CN: So it looks like this is your last race of the year. It has been a long season, what will you do in the off-season, to relax?

FL: I haven't spent much time thinking about it.

CN: Yet a lot of guys have been dreaming about it for quite a while!

FL: (laughs) No, my season hasn't been so exhausting, it is not a case of that I can't wait until it is over. Obviously I look forward to it because of my family. It is nice to be home, but I am still excited to race. I am still motivated. That said, if you ask me in a week, I might tell you something different!

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