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An interview with Floyd Landis, November 17, 2003
Downtime in California
By Tim Maloney, Cyclingnews European Editor
On a mid-November Saturday morning before taking his daughter to soccer practice, European Editor Tim Maloney managed to catch up with USPS-Berry Floor rider and Cyclingnews columnist Floyd Landis.
A little weary - and possible a touch cranky - after coming back from Los Angeles the night before to see a documentary produced by the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) about children with cancer, Floyd chats openly about Lance's new book, his pent up feelings with Mercury and the UCI, and trying to accomplish something for himself in 2004.
Cyclingnews: Hey Floyd, how are you this morning? You sound cranky?
Floyd Landis: No, I'm just tired... we were with Lance in LA and we got home at 2:30am. I never stay up that late, maybe once a year, so I guess that was my one time! Lance is doing all right - he likes to be busy - Lance doesn't like to relax too much and he's trying to get all his commitments out of the way before he starts training.
CN: Have you had a chance to read Lance's new book "Every Second Counts" - you are in it quite a bit?
FL: Yeah, I read a little bit of (Every Second Counts)... it was good. The way I was portrayed in the book comes off kind of like I'm just a dude that happened to get there by accident, which isn't the case, but I'm not offended by it... Lance's book is just for entertainment. And at that time, I was angry at cycling and just wasn't that focused. But I was surprised that he wrote so much about me.
There was more to the story than just the one day where I drank too much coffee... the whole year before that (2001) was stressful for me and I wasn't very focused or relaxed in the beginning of my time at USPS in 2002 - I wasn't really even into bicycle racing, honestly. I had a job and I was happy about that, but 2002 wasn't really like other years where I actually had some goals or anything. I was on the team and I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after the Mercury experience, so there were a lot of things (going on), but the cappuccinos didn't help. When Lance heard about that, he probably decided he should tell me I should relax a little!
CN: So did all the open issues with John Wordin and Mercury ever get resolved?
FL: No, nothing with Wordin and Mercury and the salary me and other riders are owed have been resolved and you can go ahead and add the UCI to that list. They don't care about the cyclists, they do nothing to protect the cyclists. Any time there is an issue where they have to take a stand on this kind of issue, they just stay away.
CN: As I understand it, the UCI has explained that if anyone could come forward with proof of a legal judgment, they could resolve this issue and that the Mercury bank guarantee is still on deposit by the UCI, yet many riders still haven't been paid.
FL: It's hard to prove you didn't get paid... when the guy [John Wordin] says to the UCI he paid you. Normally, when somebody pays you, there's some kind of document... you don't give them something. So the guy is saying that he paid his riders is fine, but why doesn't Wordin have to prove that he paid us?
CN: Such as a cancelled check or record of a bank transfer?
FL: Yeah... but he didn't pay us. And the UCI doesn't care, they just want to keep the money and collect the interest.
CN: This reminds me of our first interview at the Dauphine Libere in 2002... you sound even more pissed off now about the Mercury situation than you did then.
FL: I have no respect for the UCI... they won't take a stand on anything. They don't guarantee anyone pays you... you have depend on the honor and word of the people who you sign with. And I don't think the UCI will ever take a stand on this... I'm still left with the fear of what might happen in the future.
I still have to decide which team I trust, what my options are... to go to a team where I'm taking a risk again. The teams have to post a bank guarantee but it means nothing to the riders. It's just money for them. Cycling just isn't run like a very good business - the UCI has a huge marketing potential with some of these races. We just won the Vuelta and there was only $35,000 for first place! It's pathetic...
CN: The UCI does have minimum regulations about prize money...
FL: Come on! That's for first place in a three week race... it's ridiculous - that's like $1,500 a day.
CN: So what have you been doing since your last race of the season?
FL: I've just been ignoring everything else! I've been watching the news to see if anything is happening, but it looks pretty much the same. I've been hanging out with my family and drinking like 40 coffees a day... I had my nine gallons so far this morning so I'm good to go!
CN: Have you been riding much?
FL: Right now, I'm riding an hour or two a day, nothing longer. It's fun to just go out and ride and just enjoy it at whatever speed I want and not have to do specific training. A couple of places where I ride between here and San Diego have big black burned patches from the recent fires, but this is a desert climate without a lot of vegetation anyway. Now the weather has changed and last week it was raining, so things should start to come back.
CN: I heard from your wife Amber that your first meal back in California from Europe was at In N' Out Burger?
FL: [Laughs] Yeah... we went there for lunch... it's really popular in California and I hadn't had a good burger in about five months. I've also been having good Mexican food, too. I've been eating well since I got back from Europe and gained a few pounds, but that's OK.
CN: How was your World Championships in Hamilton?
FL: It went well, my morale was good because I was home for a while from Spain before I went to Canada. I expected it to be harder but it wasn't. The course wasn't dangerous, it was just big, wide roads. From the profile I saw before, it looked harder. So there were a lot of guys together at the end, it seemed like we raced at one speed all day long.
So with 80 guys together in the last lap, that's an easy race... the World's is always a strange race because the guys on the [teams] aren't used to racing together. But we worked together and tried to help George [Hincapie], but he wasn't feeling so good. The race was extremely difficult when you were at the front and very easy at the back. Van Petegem [Floyd's former Mercury team-mate] is a master of that, being at the front just at the right time. Van Petegem was strong that day at the World's but didn't get lucky in the final.
CN: So what are your plans until the end of the year?
FL: We're going to stay here at home in California for Thanksgiving, then there's a team training camp in early December in Austin. We'll get to know the new guys, do some road riding and mountain biking with Lance and start some planning for next season. As for my 2004 program, I don't know yet which races we'll be doing until I sit down with Johan in Austin. But no vacation plans, just staying home is a vacation for me! My daughter goes to first grade so Amber and I get the day to ourselves at home.
CN: How is your hip feeling these days?
FL: No problems at all with my hip... it's been fine since I recovered from my second surgery at the end of April. So thankfully that stress is gone.
CN: Did you have a chance to look at the course for next year's Tour de France yet?
FL: Yes, and it's strange! I don't know what the Tour de France organizers are trying to accomplish with the route. But the Tour is the Tour and the strongest guy will always win. So if they are trying to hurt Lance, well, it's actually better for Lance next year with the two TTs at the end. Plus the Tour organizers are going to have to change the time cut on the mountain TT stage. By that point in the Tour, there are a lot of guys who can lose a half-hour on L'Alpe d'Huez.
The winning time will probably be about thirty-five minutes... and usually by that point of the Tour, there are only two guys that are still good, so half the field might be outside the time limit. If the cut-off is 20% of the winner's time, that means a guy has to ride like forty-two minutes to not get eliminated... it'll be hard, but I seriously doubt that they will eliminate 50 guys. But only half the field will make it up within 20 per cent of the winner's time on that stage.
CN: You must have some satisfaction at the end of your up and down season from being on the winning team in two grand tours this season - that doesn't happen very often.
FL: Yeah, it was a fun season this year and it was good to be on the winning team. Both races were fights to the end, and stressful that way. If I had the 2003 season the way I wanted, I would have been in some races I picked for myself, to focus on that and try and get my own results.
But considering I had the broken hip and the fact that there never was really a break where I could come up with my own goals, I was always training as hard as I could just to get in shape. There was never a point where I actually felt well and could... you know... I just didn't know how long anything would take so there was no point deciding that I was going to focus on this or that race. I just had to take it one day at a time. So it wasn't my first choice of how the season would go, but that's life like they say in France. I'll be able to start next season from zero and I'm glad I was able to do two Grand Tours, so I think I'll be stronger in the long run.
CN: The point you made is that you've been on the comeback trail practically all season, with a lot of pressure to perform.
FL: Yeah, doing the Grand Tours the way [US Postal] do them is the hard way for sure, there are no days when you can just sit at the back and hang out and just get dropped. Racing for Lance, you always have to be in the front and the way it ended up in the Vuelta, we always had to be in the front there to keep Roberto [Heras] there the whole time. So it was a successful season, no two ways about it.
CN: When you talk about picking some races for yourself to focus on and get your own results, what races do you have in mind?
FL: Oh, stage races maybe, like the Dauphine [Libere] or Paris-Nice... yeah, single day races... there are a lot of good races. I didn't do that many races this year, at the Dauphine I wasn't really in shape, then we did the Tour and the Vuelta. I'm good at stage races so I want to focus on that.
CN: If we go back to the last Friday in the Vuelta, Stage 19 from La Vega de Alcobendas to Collado Villalba, you were in the race winning break with 50km to go and had to drop back on the Alto de Navacerrada to support Roberto Heras. You were really strong that day, but I'm not sure that many people who might have been watching the Vuelta saw that.
FL: A lot of the work I do is before the television comes on, you know, so... it's not just me, it's the whole team. We work for Lance, we work for George at some races, Roberto, whatever... there are eight other guys on the team other than the guy that wins and most of the time, nobody gets to see what they do. So it's not just me, I just happened to be there at the end of the stage.
It was good strategy that day in the Vuelta but I can't say that I wasn't a little bit disappointed. I would have liked to win the stage myself, but I kinda knew that was the way it might work out. I knew that if Roberto came up from behind, I'd wait for him. But it's no problem, we won the Vuelta so you can't argue with that!
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