After his disastrous climb up La Toussuire on stage 16, fallen yellow jersey Floyd Landis entered his team car at the finish line without a word to the media. Asked by OLN commentator Frankie Andreu if he wanted to explain what happened to the viewers back home, Landis said simply, “No.”
But a few hours later, word trickled through the press room that Landis was holding an impromptu press conference at 7:15, just two hours after he’d lost not only the race lead but any hope of winning the Tour de France. The decision was viewed unanimously as a brave move, and one that even his wife Amber thought better of.
Sitting in the doorway of his alpine chalet, flanked by team director John Lelangue and mobbed by TV cameras, the Phonak team leader faced the press, explaining what happened and how he’s dealing with it. Here’s the transcript:
Floyd Landis: First of all, I want you to now believe me when I say I respect you guys, because this is the last thing in the world I want to do. Anyway, what are the questions? I think I can guess, but let’s hear it.
Q: What happened today?
FL: I had a very bad day on the wrong day. My team did a good job in the beginning. I suffered from the beginning, and tried to hide it, but at the end I couldn’t. I couldn’t go. That was the best I could do.
Q: How do you explain it?
FL: Sometimes you don’t feel well, and sometimes it’s on the wrong day. Today was not a good day to have a bad day. What can I say?
Q: Where do you go from here?
FL: Stage 18, or whatever it is, 19. [stage 17, ed.]
Q: Was there a time on that final climb where you gave up?
FL: Maybe mentally I gave up.
Q: Mentally you gave up because saw that you were struggling and definitely losing time?
FL: No, it was the most I could do. I was struggling even on the climbs before that. I tried to hide it, but I wasn’t good, and then on the last climb there was only a certain speed I could go, which wasn’t very fast.
Q: Did you bonk? Were you simply out of sugars, or maybe not enough drinking during the stage? You were so strong on the other mountain stages; this was definitely not normal for you.
FL: I don’t think it was a problem of not eating enough. I just wasn’t good from the beginning, like I said. A lot of times I feel that way and I come around at the end. There was never a flat part for 15 minutes where I could recover. I think I would have been better off, but that’s how it goes.
Q: I’m sure this is a day you would like to forget. How difficult is it for you to come out here and even talk about it?
FL: Well, ignoring it doesn’t change anything, so I thought I’d come out and at least and smile for you all.
Q: Have you thought about tomorrow at all?
FL: Yeah, it’s another hard day, and things change. As you saw, [Oscar] Pereiro was 30 minutes down, and now he has the lead again. I don’t expect to win the Tour at this point, it’s not easy to get back eight minutes, but I’ll keep fighting. It’s not over yet.
Q: What do you think of Pereiro being in the yellow jersey now after you gave him 30 minutes?
FL: I’m happy for him. He’s a friend of mine. That’s the way the Tour went. I’ve said several times that it doesn’t matter what the other guys do, I’m focused on what I do, but seeing Oscar in the yellow jersey doesn’t disappoint me in any way. He’s a good person and he was a good teammate.
Q: How do you deal with this from a mental standpoint?
FL: I don’t know. Drink some beer? That’s what I’m thinking about now. I don’t know … it’s not so bad. I never assumed the Tour was won at any point. I said many times that at any time you can have a bad day, and that’s why I was trying to race conservatively every day that I did feel good. And yeah, a bad day came at the wrong time.
Q: If you to try to turn this around on a positive note, can you appreciate what you’ve accomplished here at the Tour already? Or are you just thinking about what might have slipped away from you?
FL: Yeah, it’s a little of both. I am happy about the way it went, and I’m proud of my team for standing behind me the whole time and risking everything on me. That’s not easy to do. On the other hand, yeah, I’m disappointed, and I’d be lying if I said I could just forget about it.
Q: It had absolutely nothing to do with your hip?
FL: No, that was not a factor.
Q: Would you tell us if it was?
Q: Were you acting yesterday?
FL: No, I felt very good yesterday. If you think back to the Tours of the past, we’ve seen it happen to many different people. You have a good day and you have a bad day. If you can arrange it so that the bad days are on the easier days, that’s the best thing to do, but you can’t really predict it. I’d just as soon forget it, but that’s the way it is.
Q: Is this the first bad day you’ve had at this Tour, or have you had others?
FL: No, up until now I’ve felt well. I’ve been consistent. On the easier days, you don’t know how bad the day is if you don’t feel good. You find out quickly on a day like today. But no, until now I think things went well. Today did not go so well.
Q: Do you have any regrets for not taking some of the opportunities that you may have had that you didn’t make more of?
FL: No, I think I did everything that I could do to be the best I could be at this Tour. I would change today if I could, but I don’t know what I would have done differently, so I can’t say I regret anything that I did.
Q: Did you feel a lot of pressure to win this Tour?
FL: No. It was a goal of mine to win, and we said from the beginning that we wanted to win. Pressure from the outside didn’t affect me, and I don’t think that had anything to do with today.
Q: Do you think, given what happened to you today, is it possible that after tomorrow things could change and the situation could be very different for you?
FL: Yeah, it could change for a lot of reasons and for a lot of different people. My chances of winning the Tour are very small at this point. But I’ll keep fighting because you never know what’s going to happen next. But I wouldn’t say the odds are good.
Q: Who do you think is going to win the Tour now?
FL: It looks to me that [Andréas] Klöden has a very good chance, and [Carlos] Sastre was very strong today, but it will be hard for them to get time tomorrow, it’s not as difficult a stage as today. And Pereiro was also quite good today. It will come down to the time trial, I imagine. With the top few guys, the gaps aren’t so big.
Q: Did you know when you were dropped that the yellow jersey was gone?
FL: I knew I felt very, very bad. I didn’t expect to stay close to the leaders. I did what I could. I kept fighting, but I didn’t have much left. I did everything in my power to stay close, but you saw what happened.
Q: Is there anything you can learn from today?
FL: I’ll learn to forget.
Q: Does this change your long-term future, your goals, the way you’ll race?
FL: No. Bicycle racing is a big part of my life, but it doesn’t change anything about who I am or what I’ll do next. I regret the way it went today, but I don’t regret anything I did, because I don’t know what I could have done to change it, so I wouldn’t say I would change anything now. Thanks, you guys.