Floyd's Pro Cycling became Worthy Pro Cycling last week for the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and although the race organisers and the team management were tight-lipped about the reasons why, team sponsor Floyd Landis told Cyclngnews the race demanded the name change.
"We were told the team could come to the race as long as no 'Floyd's' branding appeared anywhere," Landis told Cyclingnews by phone from Denver on Sunday afternoon.
When the Tour of Utah announced the initial roster of teams for the 2019 race, Floyd's Pro Cycling was conspicuously absent, given the presence on the roster of riders like Travis McCabe, Serghei Tvetcov and Keegan Swirbul. McCabe is a four-time Tour of Utah stage winner, while Tevtcov finished on the overall podium in 2017 and Swirbul was seventh last year.
Floyd's has had a productive first year on the UCI calendar as well, taking a stage win and the overall at the Tour de Taiwan with Jonny Clarke, who was also seventh overall at Utah in 2017. The team followed Clarke's Taiwan result this year with stage wins at Joe Martin, Tour de Langkawi, Tour of the Gila, Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay and Tour de Beauce.
Floyd's Pro Cycling has also had a solid run of victories in national calendar events in both the US and Canada. In national championship action, Tvetcov recently won the Romanian time trial, while McCabe won stars-and-stripes at the US criterium championships. At the time, the team was ranked second on the UCI America Tour and was the top Continental team in the world.
Floyd's made the second list of teams announced in July, but with a name change to Worthy Pro Cycling, adopting as title sponsor the Worthy Brewing company, a secondary sponsor owned by longtime Landis friend Roger Worthington.
Neither the race nor the team management provided a reason for the name change, but in a three-page letter from Worthington's law firm to the race owners, the Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment Group, in May, Worthington says the team understood it was denied entry for "'moral issues' with the corporate affiliations of the team's sponsor, Floyd Landis."
In his letter, Worthington said the team understood that the Miller family opposed Landis' Floyd's of Leadville CBD business. CBD, or cannabidiol, is derived from the hemp plant, a cousin of the marijuana plant, but it lacks the psychoactive THC element present in marijuana and is legal in all 50 US states. Although the federal government still considers CBD in the same drug class as marijuana, it doesn't usually enforce laws against it. Utah passed a law last year legalising CBD oil and other industrialised hemp products with less than 3 per cent THC content.
For his part, Landis believes the 'Floyd's' ban had nothing to do with his business and was of more a personal nature.
"Presumably it was personal," he said. "The fact of the matter is they let a beer sponsor in, of all things. So clearly it had nothing to do with my business. My business isn't even on the jersey. What they said to us is, 'You can be in the race as long as the word Floyd's isn't on the cars, the jerseys or the team equipment or anything else.'"
Landis said he once had a friendship with Greg Miller, but they had a falling out after he admitted to doping and also blew the whistle on Lance Armstrong and doping activities on the US Postal team.
"I was back in Utah in 2009, I think, and I stayed with Greg Miller and his family," Landis said. "From what I understand he's told people, 'Floyd looked me in the eye and told me he didn't dope.' So maybe he's still bitter about that. But if that's the type of thing that gets you worked up, maybe cycling isn't the sport for you."
Asked for a response to Landis' comments, Larry H. Miller Sports and Entertainment Group spokesman Frank Zang said only that the team was a welcome addition to the 2019 race.
"We were glad that Worthy Pro Cycling accepted our invitation and had the opportunity to race among the 17 teams in Utah," spokesman Frank Zang said. "Their riders were very competitive with multiple podium finishes, and their presence certainly added to the quality of the field."
In his letter to the race, Worthington pointed out the team's successful 2019 season and that the team had been invited to four previous Tours of Utah under former sponsor Silber Investment.
Worthington argued that snubbing Floyd's would deprive the riders of chances to earn UCI points that would increase their value on the contract market, and also that denying the riders and team the chance to earn points toward the UCI America Tour would corrupt those rankings.
Worthington concluded his letter by suggesting possible sponsor changes for the team at the race. The appeal worked, and the Tour of Utah invited Floyd's with the provision that the team would race under the Worthy Brewing banner.
The team ordered new kits, freshly wrapped their vehicles to reflect the Worthy brand, and set off animating the race in multiple days, with McCabe coming home with his third consecutive points jersey.
Will Floyd's Pro Cycling continue in 2020?
Landis' deal with team general manager and owner Scott McFarlane was for one year and involved the money Landis got from his whistle-blower lawsuit against Lance Armstrong. The sponsorship dollars came from Landis' personal funds and not from his Floyd's of Leadville business.
"Floyd generously gave specific funds to us that he really could have used for himself as he's growing his business, Floyd's of Leadville," McFarlane said. "So that was a one-time deal. Now we're in the process of renegotiating to see if we can continue to work with him.
"That was personal money that he really could have used that for himself, but he's been incredible to work with, so now we'll have to work with him to see how it could work out with Floyd's of Leadville."
Landis is understandably wary of spending money from his business' marketing budget to sponsor a team that may not be able to get into races because of his involvement.
"Look, I like supporting it," Landis said. "Part of it is that I feel like I should. I don't have to, but some of the best years of my life were in cycling. I loved it, and it got me a long way in life, so I feel like if I can do something for cycling I should do it.
"I wouldn't mind continuing to sponsor the team on some level with our brand, but, frankly, I can't be in the Tour of California because the team's not big enough, and I can't be in the Tour of Utah, it's hard to justify," he said. "This year it didn't matter because it wasn't the Floyd's of Leadville brand, but I'm running a business now, and if I'm going to use its resources for marketing I need some assurance we're going to get into races."
McFarlane said that with or without Landis, the team is hoping to move forward.
"You look at our season, and every time we race we're the best Conti team in the world, basically. So I'm really thankful for Floyd," McFarlane said.
"We're working actively with groups right now. Things are promising, and we're moving in the right direction. But this is a tough business and nothing is done until it's done, and even then you're not sure."
Landis is also at a crossroads, feeling disrespected once again by a sport with which he has had a very up-and-down relationship.
"I don't give a shit if my name's on the jersey or not," Landis said. "It doesn't matter to me. But it is pretty pathetic.
"If you think about it, it's absurd. They should have just reached out and told us what their problem with us was. They claim to have the best race in the US, but then they leave out some of the best US riders. It's not the first time it's happened in cycling. It happens all the time.
"Frankly, it's why there's no money in cycling. It's ridiculous. People are always complaining why there's no money in cycling. But instead of doing this objectively and looking at the team's value, their making decisions on purely personal vendettas. Honestly, I've had enough of that in my life."