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Hangin’ In There: The Floyd Landis Journal
During last year’s Tour, Cyclingnews welcomed Floyd Landis as a diarist. The talented, gutsy, 26 year old former mountain biker had ridden his way to a start in the Tour as a key part of Lance Armstrong’s USPS squad, and went on to distinguish himself as an important member of the 'Blue Train' at the Tour. Floyd also endeared himself to Cyclingnews readers for his unique take on an American rookie's life in the Tour de France peloton.
For the 2003 Tour, Cyclingnews is pleased to welcome Floyd back with his exclusive journal.
Hi Cyclingnews readers,
A week has now passed since the finish of the Tour de France and I finally have the desire to sit down and think about my experience and how close we came, so many times, to having bad luck take away the Yellow Jersey. There were just too many times when George Hincapie (who was my roommate for those three stressful weeks) and I sat in our room after a Tour stage and asked each other what was going to happen next.
The Tour de France is hard enough without having to deal with things like riding through fields, or worrying that your brakes were dragging all day because someone was trying to sabotage the team. Our bad luck began on Stage One when Lance crashed, for the first time in five Tours, in the last kilometer with 50 others rounding the last corner.
Now, I find it very annoying when someone looks at bad luck and says it could be worse, because of course, it could always be worse but that's all there was to say after every single incident. In Stage One, for example, Levi Leipheimer went home with a broken bone in his back, Tyler cracked his collarbone and we were reminded how close we are at every moment to having everything change in the Tour De France.
While we don't have time for philosophy in the middle of a bicycle race, we all need to keep in mind that the same danger and fear that makes the race hard are the same reason it is so compelling to the millions of people cheering on the side of the road.
This Stage One incident was followed a few days later on Stage 8 to l'Alpe d'Huez. On the downhill after the Galibier, I looked back to see Roberto Heras crashing and Lance riding in the ditch between the road and the rock wall trying to stay on his bike. Once again, luckily, things could have been worse and the stage went somewhat well from there only to learn as I lay, exhausted, on my bed at the Club Med on top of the mountain that Lance's rear brake had been rubbing on his wheel the entire stage up to the near crash.
At that point began the paranoia that someone was trying to keep us from winning by sabotaging our bikes before the stage. This may sound far fetched to anyone who has not personally witnessed some of the crazy fans who yell threats and insults about Americans, but it would not surprise me at all if some less than sane person tried something far worse than adjusting our brakes.
So while it may have been a mistake, we had to be more careful and also inspect our own bikes before the start and in the race, try to avoid riding near the spectators who, as they proved later can intentionally or unintentionally alter the outcome of the race. This time it was clearly accidental but never the less almost took away Lance's last chance to gain time on Ullrich before the final time trial. But luckily, Lance and his bike continued to function and in a display of determination that I have rarely seen other than in a few cheesy movies, he still managed to win the stage and in the process the Tour de France.
Well, there is more to this story, but you get the idea, and although there were times I wished I was only watching the whole drama on television it made the whole experience that much better (only because we won) after it was over.
So now, after a week of relaxing at the beach with my wife and daughter , I will repeat the process all over again and prepare for the Vuelta a España but this time with more experience and hopefully the wisdom that comes with it to guide me.
Until Next Time
Hey you guys! Welcome to my diary! We've been having Peet's Coffee in the team bus this year! I don't know who arranged that but it's a good thing! [Quick, doc, a sedative for Floyd, he's overdone the coffee again... - Ed]
Once the mountains were over, it was good. My job on the team has been a little different this year, as we have more guys for the mountains like Triki Beltran. So I was doing work before the mountains and early in the stages. There is just less pressure that way. Things went well all through the Pyrenees stages. On the last mountain stage, we had eight guys out of the 90 left in the group. So we're happy with the vibe on the team now. Lance was probably a little nervous leading up to the time trial but I know he's been as confident as ever.
After I had a lousy day after rest day last year, everything went a lot better this year. I didn't have any days like that this year, maybe because I'm a little wiser and don't spend so much energy when I don't need to. Nonetheless, the Pyrenees stages were really hard. At the Tour de France, there is little time to rest and relax. It's always one thing after another at this race. Plus I had a lot of stress and uncertainty leading up to the Tour. Finally my hip got fixed and then I had to train for the Tour and I found out a week before that I was going to ride the Tour. Wow!
The transition stages leading up to Saturday's TT were pretty uneventful and what we expected. People would still want to ride hard for at least the first hour until a break would get away. We had to ride hard to keep things together but then the race would settle down once the right break got away.
Yesterday's time trial was a bit stressful for us to watch but we knew Lance could do it. The weather was terrible and I didn't go hard at race pace and I crashed anyway. There was an underpass and a left turn with about 15km to go and I went down. I wasn't even going hard and it was really slick and dangerous. Luckily I didn't get hurt.
I'm really happy the Tour De France is over, happy that Lance won again. A lot of strange, weird stuff went on this year, but everything worked out. After the stage today, we have a big sponsor dinner and then I'm going to bed! No partying for me and then tomorrow I head back to Girona to my wife Amber and daughter Ryan.
I'll be riding the Vuelta a España this year, so after the Tour, I'll be hanging out at home with Amber and Ryan. We'll go to the beach and I'll do Burgos and get in some training before the Vuelta. So thanks to everyone along the road and Cyclingnews readers for your support this year!
Until next time
If I see any more pasta in the next couple of weeks, I'm gonna lose it! We have Chef Willi and he makes great food but I get tired of the same old stuff to eat.
Today, Pat Mac and Kiko from Oakley came by the hotel and gave us special engraved Oakley watches. They've got our names on the back and commemorate our TTT win on Stage 4. That was really nice of Oakley. I guess I'll need an extra suitcase for all the free stuff that we get, like those lions we got. My daughter Reilly was wondering how many she was going to get this year.
The last few day in the Pyrenees have been mentally stressful for Lance and all of us. He and our team knew the whole time that our team were going to race the same way we always do, regardless of whether we are going to win the Tour or not. Lance has never shown any sign that he was going to get beat; he's always had the same confidence about him. From my two Tours, there has been a lot more pressure this year. Last year we had eight minutes lead before the end and now there is just one minute and change.
After Stage 15, the atmosphere at the dinner table relaxed a lot; we're more at ease. We didn't doubt Lance, but it was a close race and Jan Ullrich's a strong guy. We just had to keep doing what we do and the Tour de France is not over yet. I hear that this is the best Tour in 20 years; I'm sure it's outstanding to watch, but it's not like that when you're in it. It's stressful!
Wednesday is a tough day; we're in a good position and we are in a good position now. We should have enough guys to cover any moves so I believe that the Tour will come down to the time trial. But who knows? We're hearing a lot of Americans again this year and when someone yells at us in English it's great.
Stage 14: US Postal's own laughing bunch
You might have wondered why we were laughing on TV on the front during this stage.
We were just riding slow on the front and Johan said on our radios, "this is good bicycle poker; we're calling their bluff." We cracked up and then Johan called back and said, "hey I can see you guys laughing on TV". We just said if Bianchi wants to let Triki win the Tour we're going to let him do it. It was a long hard day for everybody, but I imagine there were people hurting more than me. Luckily we didn't have to do too much work on this stage since the Bianchi team is riding like they want to win the race. I hope they keep on doing it. We expected Bianchi to ride tempo because we had Triki up front, so they had to ride. If they want to win the race, great, but we can call their bluff. They have a pretty strong, motivated team so when you have a chance to win the race, everybody gets a second wind. I dropped my chain on a steep part of the Col de Mente; it was a pretty bad spot! Roberto had a rough day on Sunday. I don't what's wrong with him; sometimes if you just get over one of the climbs, you can get better...The weather was a little better; at the top of the climbs it's cooler than before but down in the narrow little valleys, it was still pretty hot. It was finally bearable.
Stage 15: More chaos
I was really relaxed before this stage. When I woke up in the morning, I felt good and I just decided not to stress. I just wanted to do my job to help Lance out and pray that he wins the race. Nothing else is going to change. Lance is still my friend and we're still the team and we have worked together to do the best we could. I decided I was going to do my job and that was the best I could do. I knew that after Stage 15 to Luz Ardiden, we would pretty much know the outcome of the Tour. The two stages before things were not as clear... for a few days in a row, we didn't learn anything. I was working on the Aspin and the early part of the Tourmalet. We try to keep it so Lance doesn't have to do any accelerations and to keep him out of the wind.
There is a lot of emotion in this Tour. Last year, we pretty much stomped everybody but this year, there's still a lot of pressure. During the stage, I wasn't sure what was going on up the road. I heard Johan say on the radio that Ullrich was dropped and he was saying to Lance "go, go, go!" About thirty seconds later, I heard Johan say to Chechu "wait," and he sounded stressed for some reason. I didn't know why Chechu would be waiting. He would have normally been dropped before that.
Then Johan said, "Lance, recover a little bit," and then soon after, "he's dropped, he's dropped, go go!" I just didn't know what was going on. I never assumed that Lance crashed; all I thought was that Lance got caught or something. All I got were pieces of the story because Johan stops to help Lance and he doesn't have to talk into the radio. Halfway up the last climb, Dirk De Mol came along and told me Lance had crashed but I didn't think too much of it. Afterwards I saw it on TV and Lance didn't even see it coming. Luckily I didn't have to watch it... "what the?" But this Tour has been chaotic; so many strange things have happened.
Thanks For Reading
So far my second Tour has been a better experience than last year. I didn't do as much racing so I started fresher. The first few days it was tough to get going, but I'm feeling good now. Since we're at the halfway point, we have probably four more hard days to go in the Pyrenees. The spirits are pretty good on the team and we're not too stressed as some people might like to imply. Hopefully after the first time trial on Friday, Lance will gain more time on Vinokourov, who is in second place.
Thank God the mountains are over for now. Stage 9 was chaos at the beginning as we climbed the Lauteret. Everybody ganged up on us there, but we knew already before the start that the attacks would be numerous and often. Oh boy! Yeah, it got ugly in the beginning but we kept our heads and it got better as all of our guys went over the second climb of the Izoard together.
We've done all the coming mountain stages and they are all hard. You never know which will be the toughest; I thought the stage to l'Alpe d'Huez would be hard, but the day after was just harder when those guys attacked from the start. When we were going up the Lauteret, I thought we would just ride up that climb, but people ganged up on us. People had no right to be attacking us, and for that matter, how they were attacking us! Some of those guys were back in the grupetto 15 minutes after they attacked. It just didn't make any sense to me.
It was a few days in a row that our US Postal Service presented by Berry Floor team has been doing all the work on the front as Lance has the yellow jersey now. Yesterday, a big group of guys got away early and we let them go since none of them was a threat to Lance. The guys from Cyclingnews asked me if I felt at home on Stage 9 to Gap since the roads and terrain look kind of like where I live in Southern California. I told them that I wasn't paying much attention since it was so hard in the beginning of the stage on the Col de Lauteret and then was just happy to be with the group up the Col d'Izoard and be able to help Lance. It was a miserable day for me.
Stage 10 to Marseille was really hot. But every year they say "it was the hottest Tour de France ever" or "the hardest Tour..." when it was at least as miserably hot last year too! The first part of Stage 10, it wasn't so bad and we just had to keep it under control until the break went. Then when they started racing hard in the last 20km in Marseille, you can't really drink anything and it's miserable again. Thank God it wasn't a field sprint in Marseille; it would have been dangerous. Pavel (Padrnos) had some little incident where he crashed but he's okay.
I don't know what they were thinking with that finish.
The protesters wanted to free José Bové, the activist who's in prison for driving his tractor into a McDonalds. What an idiot. The protesters were just sitting on the road and the cops just drove them off the street. They weren't putting up with any of it. I don't know where those cops came from when they removed those protesters...all of a sudden there were 20 cops beating on these guys. They were not being nice; they were kicking them and then picked them up by their legs and dragged them off the road. You wouldn't do that in America.
The transfer by bus from Barcelona took three hours or so since we were stuck in bad traffic getting out of Marseille. But the rest day was pretty good; we had a two hour ride and kind of got lost, but we got back to the hotel okay. Then I had a massage and a two hour nap... it was nice. We had a good rest day this year, better than last year since we didn't have to fly.
I've been keeping in touch with my wife Amber and daughter Ryan every day. She's down in Girona and it's hot there too. With no Tour TV on rest day, they're trying to entertain themselves. It's hard to shout out to my friends in the States since I'm so involved with the race; there's the time difference and we don't eat until 8:30. So hi to everybody in California and Pennsylvania. As for the time trial, I'm going to take it easy so my legs are good for the Pyrenees. Lance is feeing good; he's in a good mood and his family was here for a visit.
I'm going to ride the Vuelta and most likely my role will be to help Roberto. Hopefully I'll still have the fitness to help him win. But for now, it's all Tour, all the time, 24/7
Gotta go eat some of Chef Willi's pasta, so thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Saturday July 12, 2003
The last couple of days have gone perfectly for me and for the team. Everybody's happy... in fact, we couldn't ask for a better situation. As the mountain stages begin in the Alps, Lance has 30" on Beloki and 40" on Ullrich. We've been very fortunate that the rest of the riders didn't make us work since Fassa Bortolo has been pretty confident supporting their sprinter Petacchi. We decided not waste the energy to defend Victor's Yellow Jersey; there was really no point because we're here for Lance.
I'm feeling good and my hip is fine, so with the hard days in the Alps the next few days, me and all the guys in the team are happy and excited. Things have been just about perfect so far. I haven't thought much about winning the Team Time Trial stage the other day but eventually it will sink in. This year at the Tour, I'm accustomed to doing more - like more pasta, all the time! We eat really good food, but it's just a lot of the same thing.
My job today was work for Lance. Eki, George and I were doing a lot of work to start with today. There was a lot of racing in the first 35km before the break went, so the beginning was hard. We were riding pretty hard tempo all day with the break out front to keep things together, just waiting to see what happened on the last climb. My job was over when we got to the Cat 1 climb of the Col de la Ramaz so I just rolled in. It was a long day in the hot sun today and everything went according to plan.
Since we have to wear helmets all the time, the team got a new Giro helmet when the Tour started. I've always have liked Giro helmets and this one is really light and has great ventilation. (That's enough of a plug, thanks Floyd! - Ed.) I haven't heard many Americans this year along the road because we've been going so fast and I'm so focused.
Tonight we are staying at a decent place that has pretty good food in Morzine. We've stayed here a few times so we know them and they know us. It's not super-deluxe but the rooms have balconies.
Virenque was really strong today; we didn't chase hard after him since he's not a GC threat to Lance. I wouldn't want to be him tommorow!
I talked to my Mom back in Ephrata, PA just before the Tour. She wished me luck and told me she would watch me on TV. Amber and Ryan are at our apartment in Girona; today the stage was on all day on Eurosport so they got to see me.
Thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Tuesday July 8, 2003
This year's Tour has been completely different, both my role and the whole race.
Last year, we started in Luxembourg and there were non-stop attacks for three hours before a break would get away. This year, on the first two days, the first break goes! It's fine with me though; it's just as well that I can ease into this Tour De France. I haven't had to do any work yet, which is good.
My role will be to help in the mountains, but since we have enough climbers to support Lance, I don't necessarily need to be there on the last climb. That's good for me because there's less pressure. 'Triki' Beltran is good; he's fitting in well so far. As for me, my hip is great and my legs are good and getting better every day, so I'm hoping for the best.
Hopefully, the team time trial will go well tomorrow. That's our major focus for now. We're going to start last on the stage since the sprinters' teams wanted to keep everything together yesterday. It really helps to know the split times of the other teams if you go last.
The prologue in Paris was beautiful, but I wasn't there to win the prologue. It was quite an experience to race through one of the biggest cities in the world like that. I was suprised at how many Americans there were out here yelling my name... maybe I just hear them because I recognize the English, but it was great to have so much support!
The mood on the team is great; everybody's good and everybody's excited to be at the Tour de France. Lance, George and Eki crashed in the finish on Sunday on stage one, but we know that the first week is the worst for nervous, crazy racing where anything can happen. You can't do anything about it; you've just got to get through it. But if we can just make it through the next few days without problems until the mountains, that will be great.
I talked to Brad McGee who lost the yellow jersey today. He was happy as hell to start the Tour that way! And I've talked to my wife Amber and daughter Reilly every day, they're down in Spain this year instead back home in California. They are doing well, but Amber tells me it gets boring without me around, which is good to know!
No new musical theme yet this year in the USPS-Berry Floor bus; someone gave us an '80s heavy metal tape with Def Leppard and Guns & Roses, but you never know. This year is an entirely different experience for me at the Tour de France; there's a lot less stress since I know what to expect, and the race has been a bit slower so it's easier for me to relax. Lance is good; he's always so calm and focused. Gotta go have dinner now, so thanks for reading.
Until next time,
Tuesday July 1, 2003
I'm leaving Spain this evening to fly to Paris for what will be my second Tour de France start. Along with many other people, I hope it will provide a similar outcome to last year with Lance winning again and equaling the record of five straight TdF wins currently held by Miguel Indurain.
After a few weeks of uncertainty for me following the Dauphine Libere, I was finally informed a few days ago that I've been selected for the USPS-Berry Floor Tour de France team to help Lance Armstrong attempt to win his fifth consecutive Tour! But that final day in Paris is a long way off; right now is the time to stay focused on the job at hand and take each day as it comes, and pay attention to every detail.
In a three week race the little things that are taken for granted every day add up to big differences in the end. For example, it is critical that any and all time off the bike should be spent recovering in the best available way. That means as little walking and standing as possible; whenever we are not eating or riding, we are lying down or at least sitting. Fortunately, just like the team of friends and doctors, who made it possible for me to be here six months after my broken hip, our USPS-Berry Floor team has a crew of support people - who the public never sees - who worry about every single detail so we can focus completely on the race.
This year's Tour de France will be different in several ways from last year's. Most importantly, I now know what to expect at the Tour so that makes things somewhat less anxious for me. But on the other hand, there is a bit of added pressure on me to perform when the team has enough confidence to include me on the squad after what I've been through in the last six months. I've only raced 19 days this season so Saturday's start will be a challenge. I've now trained as much as possible and I've spent the last catching up with my wife and daughter who I hadn't seen between my arrival in Spain two months ago and last week.
I'm ready to go. See you in Paris!
Until next time