15 September 2008

My ride with a TDF Champ

Just because a couple of lawyers lack the mental capacity to understand the science doesn't mean that Floyd Landis is a doper. On the other hand, just because one lawyer does undertand the basic freshman physics behind the assertion that the test result was flawed, doesn't mean he isn't a doper. The point of this, is that ASO and the UCI/WADA/USADA not-withstanding, Floyd Landis is a Tour De France Champion, who won (in 2006) after unleashing one of the most incredible breakaways in Tour history to gain back most of an 8 minute deficit. What Floyd did that day (Stage 17) is bigger than 59-0.

Saturday morning, Floyd Landis joined the weekend version of the Tuesday Night Pain Train. I had the chance to ride alongside Floyd for quite a bit of the ride, we chatted and I listened as he talked with other people in the group. At one point, a rider came the other way and hollered, "is this the Landis group?" Floyd who was right next to me suppressed the urge to respond, "I think so".

We took it easy (the way we used to) out through the neighborhoods of Mountain Brook and Irondale. Floyd rode near the back of the group, and camly drank his Starbucks at 18 mph, while carrying on multiple conversations.

By the time we hit Ruffner Road, the coffee was gone, and the caffiene had begun to kick in as Floyd moved to the yellow line and went to the front. I stayed glued to his wheel as the pace continued to increase. Coming over a small (to me, most likely un-noticed by Floyd) rise in the road, I shot over to the left and went as hard as I could. Going down the other side, I looked back to see a small group of 6 riders chasing me hard, Floyd camly sitting in with them. Further back, I could see the effects of the stick of dynamite I had just tossed into the group, as they began to break up, some chasing the chasers, others deciding they were done, or couldn't follow.

I was caught and the sat in on Floyd's wheel again until the last hill on Ruffner, where once over the top, Floyd came past me like a G5 passing a private single-engine, and eventually I lost sight of him for good.

I rode along by myself for a few minutes as some of the other riders began to catch me while I recovered from an effort I hadn't put in for a looong time.

My biggest impression of Floyd is that he is a geniunely nice guy. I spent nearly 30 minutes with him talking and listening to him talk. He was kind and gracious to everyone who approached him. He offered compliments and positive comments to everyone. I contrast this with talk that I've heard about some of the other successful riders and "world-class" athletes, and some that I've experienced first-hand. I put Floyd even ahead of Mario Cippollini (with whom I've also ridden), who probably only suffered from a language barrier that made him seem a little pre-occupied.

Anyway, to sum up...I rode with Floyd, Floyd is a nice guy, Floyd is very fast. I hung with him as long as I could. It wasn't enough, I wish I could have hung longer, but it was fun anyway.


Anonymous said...

I met and spoke with Floyd a couple of times when he was riding (and winning) at the Tour de Georgia. He was very friendly. I like him. What a shame that stage 17 will never be considered one of the finest comebacks of all time.

Jon said...

So, why was he there riding with you guys? Was it just a coincidence? Amazing, I couldn't imagine how cool that'd be.

tkp said...

He was in town for the criteriums later that night downtown. Smith and Nephew brought him in and he decided to join up with a group ride.

In a way it reminds me of stories that I used to read about guys lining up for a local race and suddenly Lance Armstrong would shoulder his way up to the start.

Anonymous: I still consider Stage 17 to be the one of the greatest accomplishments of all time. Even if he did use the testosterone, we all know it doesn't work that way.

I rode with Mario Cipollini at the Tour De Georgia in 2004.

Jon said...

You rode in the tour of georgia? Man, you're holding back on me. I had no idea.

tkp said...

No, not "in"..."at".

there's a world of difference!

After the Brasstown Bald Stage that year, I rode back up to the top in time to spot M.C. and the Aqua-a-Sapone team leaving the finish area for the ride back down the mountain. I swung around and pulled in next to Mario, where he spent the rest of the ride down and across to the team camper alternately answering my questions, and waving at folks on the side of the road. I have, in fact, a picture of myself riding with them (him).

I've also ridden with Frankie Andreau, Tyler Hamilton, George Hincapie and Sean Kelly.