June 18, 2009 (Lachine, QC) – We caught up with Floyd Landis (OUCH Pro Cycling Presented by Maxxis) at the Pro Bike Pool Kuota tent just before the June 16 Mardis cyclistes race in Lachine. The man who stood on top of the podium at the 2006 Tour de France – only to have everything stripped away from him after a positive doping test – walked into the tent and shook hands with all of the other riders.
He immediately came across as humble and approachable. He also looked incredibly healthy and relaxed considering his daunting ordeal of constant public scrutiny, two-year suspension, and lengthy legal battles. Yet he seemed reflexive and non-committal during the interview on subjects where you’d expect him to be strongly opinionated.
Is your current nickname still ‘Master of the Mountains’ – perhaps ‘Comeback Kid’ is more appropriate?
FL: I’m not sure (chucking as if he approved).
The past three years have been a traumatic time for you both personally and professionally. Now you’re racing again – where did you find the strength to do that?
FL: Well, I take one day at a time. The past three years have not been the favourite time of my life.
Your efforts to fight the charges were in vain but can you talk about the good that came of your efforts to try and beat your doping charge like the Floyd Fairness Fund? [the Floyd Fairness Fund raised money for Landis’ defence with the possibility of continuing to assist other athletes. In doping cases (disciplinary law), athletes are often considered guilty until proven innocent].
FL: Only time will tell. Who knows? It would be good if the USADA (U.S. Anti-doping Agency) and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) could follow their own rules. By the way, the Floyd Fairness Fund is no longer operational.
We’ve heard various numbers bandied about your legal defence – can you tell us what the ultimate cost was or will be?
FL: I don’t know. But it was too much….
How is the Floyd Landis of today different from the one who finished first at the 2006 TdF?
FL: Well I have a new hip (smiling)!
Are you still suffering from osteo-necrosis or was that resolved with your hip resurfacing operation in September 2006? [this condition put Landis in great pain during the 2006 season, making his TdF victory even more impressive]
FL: I forget that it’s even there. There’s no longer any pain; the problem is completely fixed.
During the trial you made a joke about eating donuts instead of training while serving your suspension. How does it feel to be back on the bike again given your former strengths as an all-round rider?
FL: Well I feel good. I’ve had a few months of training and I feel healthy.
Were you satisfied with your 23rd place at the 2009 Tour of California?
FL: I could have done better, but I did as best that day that I could. So, yes, I’m satisfied.
Tell us more about your new team OUCH Pro Cycling Presented by Maxxis with two top Canadian riders Andrew Pinfold and Cam Evans.
FL: We have a lot of strong riders. Evans is very strong and will be around a long time. Pinfold comes with a lot of experience. They both are a great asset to the team.
What are your hopes for this season?
FL: I don’t know (smiling).
It’s exciting for race fans to see you and your team come to Canada to compete at the Mardis Lachine series. Have you raced here before, how did this all come about, and if you podium this evening will it be a Canadian first for you?
FL: I have raced mountain bikes at Mont-Sainte Anne in the 1990s. I also competed at the Tour de Beauce in ’98 and at the Road Worlds in Hamilton in 2003. But this is my first time in Montreal and I haven’t yet been on a podium in Canada.
You’ll be turning 34 this year – how long do you plan to keep riding?
FL: I will keep racing as long as it’s still fun. I must have a few more years [left].
Thanks for your time and good luck in the race this evening!
Landis, wearing orange and black with bib number 16, could be seen in the middle of the pack for most of the race and finished there. Official results only list the top 10 riders and the top 38 in terms of points earned and Landis featured on neither list. Many bystanders including other journalists approached us during the race asking, “Which one is Landis?”, the unassuming man who finished first only three years ago at the Tour de France.
Many consider the TdF to be the ultimate challenge in the world of sports, but for Landis it was only a warm up to taking on the USADA. Nobody can ever doubt that Landis is an extremely determined man, but what makes him tick remains an enigma.