By Andrew Hood
Floyd Landis isn’t one to take things too seriously; be it himself or the often-intense business of racing bicycles. The 29-year-old enters this year’s Tour de France anxious to prove to the world he deserves his shot at being a team leader, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun along the way. After a strong ride at the Dauphiné Libéré, Landis rolls into Fromentine this Saturday knowing his form is on target for the season’s big test. Phonak officials are quietly confident their man can deliver a top-five result, perhaps even claw his way onto the podium. VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood sat down with Landis during a break at the Dauphiné Libéré earlier this month to gauge his mood ahead of the Tour. Here are excerpts from that interview: VeloNews: Will Phonak enter the Tour trying to imitate Discovery’s Tour plan of attack?Floyd Landis: There are only a couple teams who have a guy strong enough to race like Discovery does with Lance. He’s won the last six Tours and they need the guys to help and it would be stupid to do anything else. T-Mobile is kind of like that, but they also have a few leaders. It’s better if you’re not doing all the work to have a couple of options to get in breakaways or whatever. There’s less pressure on everybody. Since we’re not the ones with the responsibility to control the race, we can take other chances. VN: You seem happy about the switch to Phonak?FL: It’s good. A couple people have asked if there’s more pressure. My answer is that there was a lot of pressure racing for Lance, also. You couldn’t be there and not be part of helping him win the race. I can’t say there’s more pressure with people working for me than it was racing for Postal Service. I’m as relaxed as I can be. The fact that we have two other guys who are also leaders makes it less pressure for the team. Everybody around here is relaxed and does their job. It’s a great atmosphere. It couldn’t be better. VN: What’s the difference between Discovery and Phonak?FL: I can’t say I wasn’t happy where I was, it’s just a different atmosphere. It was always chaotic with Lance around. Just the fact that there are so many people, so much press…. Things are just easier to function. We don’t have that extra element. VN: What are you expectations for the Tour this year?FL: I’d like to think I belong among the favorites, but it honestly won’t take long to figure out. I honestly don’t know because I have never raced for myself there. I won’t make any predictions. Obviously, I hope for the best, but it’s just one day at a time. That’s all you can do at the Tour. VN: What’s the biggest difference between your new position as team leader?FL: Physically, I did my work at the beginning of the stage rather than at the end. It’s not as simple as that. There is a difference in speed from doing the work at the beginning of the stage than at the end. I’ve never done that so we’ll see and take it as it comes. VN: Have you changed your training very much?FL: It’s completely different in terms of my racing schedule. Last year I did maybe 40 races and this year I’ve done 20. The training part between the races, I wouldn’t say I train much different. VN: Is this year’s Tour course good for you?FL: It’s hard every day no matter where you go. There are no flat stages, because there are no flat roads in France. There are no easy mountain stages. As far as I can tell, there’s the same amount of time-trialing, because last year, the Alpe d’Huez time trial really wasn’t a time trial. It’s a climb, so in the end it’s the same as last and every other year after that; it’s hard. VN: Did you expect to be in this position as a Tour team leader?FL: In terms of a timeline or schedule for my career, it’s just like the rest of my career, it’s just one big adventure. You never know what’s coming next. I’m not going to try control things that I cannot control. The things I can control – the training, the preparation, the rest – I will, but for the rest, take it as it comes. Sure, I’m disappointed when I don’t reach my goals and I’m happy when I do. This point I’m wise enough to realize there’re a lot of things you can’t control. VN: You must be excited to reach this point of your career, to be a team leader for the Tour?FL: I had thought about it and I had the same dreams then about getting here. It certainly didn’t think it was a probability, just a dream at that point. I’m sure hundreds of other people have had the same dream as me but just weren’t as lucky. I’m certainly happy that things have gone the way they have. VN: How did your experience with Armstrong help you as a rider?FL: I learned a lot about training and race tactics, obviously Lance and Johan have been doing it for a long time. Experience is big part of knowing what to do in the critical moments. Having been around them and seeing the way they do things was probably the most important thing I learned. VN: What was the deciding factor for leaving the team?FL: It was time for a change – we’ll leave it at that. VN: You seem like a happy camper.FL: Really, couldn’t be better – I’m the happiest guy around. VN: Will racing against Armstrong give you an extra motivation?FL: No, I’m not motivated about any kind of spite or any kind of negative feelings toward those guys. I got a lot of the years I was on the team and I’ve got nothing but gratitude. I have nothing but respect for what those guys did and I’m not in any way motivated just to beat Lance in a bike race. VN: What’s been the biggest surprise since joining Phonak?FL: It’s been one surprise after another all winter, with all that went on with the team. The racing part has been the easy part. VN: Were you worried about the team’s problems in the off-season?FL: I’ve been every scenario, so I’m not too worried about anything at this point. I’ve been with teams that have imploded, I’ve been through every scenario. Nothing’s new. It wasn’t the ideal situation, but in the end a lot of worse things could have happened. I go to San Diego, it ain’t all that bad. VN: With Armstrong’s retirement, many think you could become the next big American Tour rider, what do you think about that?FL: I have no idea at all, first of all, if I can do that. I also have no desire at all to have all the stress and pressure that Lance has. I don’t need to complicate my life like that. That is nothing that I’m interested in. The question of whether I or anyone else will be, I have no idea. VN: So you’re more concerned about doing your job?FL: Sure, I worry about things when I have to, but, come on, man, at the end of the day, it’s just bicycle racing. We’re not solving the world’s problems here, are we? We might be actually creating problems, creating traffic jams and stuff like that, so who knows? VN: How is your form compared to last year?FL: Compared to June last year, I’m feeling better, but last spring I raced a lot more than I did this year. I took May easy, so June has been more on the upswing in my racing and training. This year has been a totally different schedule in terms of my racing and preparation, so it’s hard to compare. VN: What will you do after the Tour?FL: I’ll probably do the Vuelta, I’ve done that for the last few years and it’s a good race. It depends on how I finish the Tour, what kind of fitness and motivation I have. This year should be good for me because I didn’t race nearly as much as I usually do in the spring. Last year I had the yellow jersey, it was a very good for me.