Worried but optimistic

Floyd Landis took a bold career step earlier this year when he signed with Phonak for 2005 after...

An interview with Floyd Landis, November 24, 2004

Floyd Landis took a bold career step earlier this year when he signed with Phonak for 2005 after three years with the US Postal team. In that time he developed from super-rookie to Lance Armstrong's first lieutenant and a podium threat in the grand tours. But with Phonak's participation in the UCI ProTour under threat after the Hamilton and Perez doping cases, Landis might find himself looking elsewhere at the eleventh hour. Kristy Scrymgeour caught up with the ever-ebullient Landis to find out his take on the situation.

By any standards, Floyd Landis has had a remarkable year. By working tirelessly for team leader Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France, then spending 11 days in the leader's gold jersey himself at the Vuelta a España, Landis demonstrated that he was a rider to watch in future grand tours. In August Landis made the decision to sign for Phonak for 2005 but recent developments including the possibility that Phonak may not make the Pro Tour have put his plans slightly up in the air.

Despite the obvious concern, Landis is still in good humour when Cyclingnews catches up with him by phone at his home in San Diego. "I've been a bit worried about everything that's been going on," he says, "but I've been through this once before [with the Mercury team in 2001]. I'm just hopeful that it works out this time."

As for the latest update on the situation and how things are looking at the moment, "I read Cyclingnews. That's where I get my information," he laughs. "I've talked to the team and they're doing their best to meet the criteria for the ProTour. I hope for the sake of cycling that they can come to some sort of an arrangement with the UCI. It would be a shame to lose such a great sponsor."

On November 13, the UCI announced that the Phonak squad would not be granted a ProTour license following the positive tests of two of their athletes Tyler Hamilton and Santiago Perez for blood transfusion. In addition, Oscar Camenzind tested positive for EPO and left the team in August, while Phonak team doctor Iñaki Arratibel has recently resigned. The UCI's licensing commission led by Swiss judge Pierre Zapelli criticised the team for not paying closer attention to the riders who were found to be doping.

After announcing their surprise at the decision Phonak's management issued a statement saying that they will appeal the decision. "The matter is being taken extremely seriously," they said. "The participation in the ProTour is of existential significance to the team's future and vitally important to Swiss cycling in general. Participation in the most important races has to be guaranteed and is the principal sponsor's condition for providing funding."

The hearing took place November 22 and the final decision by the UCI will be made on December 3.

Exit clause

If Phonak doesn't get a ProTour berth, that will be a bit of a problem for Landis, who would find himself looking for another team at a very late stage in the transfer season. "I have an exit clause in my contract but I can't leave until I know for sure whether Phonak is in the Pro Tour, so there is no point in looking yet," he says. "I really don't want to leave Phonak. I signed with this team for many reason and I'd like to stay. I think the other teams out there know that I would be free at that point if it comes to Phonak being excluded from the Pro Tour, but I believe the UCI will make it work.

"Obviously I'm not in the ideal situation to have a relaxing off-season after a hard year and I'm having a tough time trying to set goals. I really hope the team works it out because there are a lot of good people who don't deserve to lose their job."

Despite this source of unneeded stress, during the off-season Landis is trying to keep himself motivated with other things. One particularly good motivator is the great season he has behind him. "I had a good season this year," he says. "In every race I was feeling good and the Tour was definitely the highlight. It was great to be a part of that and exciting to be a part of what Lance did."

The question is have we seen he best of Floyd? He laughs, "Well, the way things are going you might not see me again... No seriously, I hope you haven't sent the best of me yet. I'm working on continuing to improve and I'm focusing on that now and crossing my fingers."

Team leader

Backing up a strong season like that is a hard task but a new team and the chance to be a team leader definitely helps. For 2005, Landis hopes that this will be the case. "I'm hoping that there will be a couple of races where I can be the designated leader," he explains. "Whether it's the Vuelta, the Giro or even the Tour, I'm not sure yet. It all depends what happens with Tyler. One thing I'll do for sure is start a little slower. This year I was fit in February but if you want to be really ready for July the better plan is to take it a little slower."

Another thing that is keeping Floyd focused and motivated is the camp he is leading in January with the support of his sponsors CycleOps, Zipp, Speedplay and BMC. "The camp will be fun and it's helping to keep my mind off the whole situation. We'll have 25 guys [members of the public/cycling fans] come along to the training camp and I'll give them my experiences on training and racing and an idea of who I am. We'll also have Allen Lim there who is the head physiologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He's done a lot of work on training with power. It will be fun.

"Anyway as far as my situation for next year you'll probably find out before I do," he laughs again. "The good thing is that I've been through this before. The only thing I really learned was to keep my mouth shut.

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