Landis retires, Armstrong reels.
By some cosmic and comic irony, Floyd Landis retired from cycling on the same day Sports Illustrated dropped a piano on Lance Armstrong. Been a shit year for both of them: Landis out of work, Armstrong maybe out of alibis.
Landis has been on a death spiral since he set off the dope detonator on the seven-time tour winner. From the Tour of California on, the mad Mennonite has tried without success to find a team to ride for but all doors slammed shut.
Squads desperate for talent like Saxo Bank steered clear even when they lost the majority of their top riders and Alberto Contador was caught up in a tainted meat grinder.
No domestic team was willing to take a chance on Landis despite the fact he still had the talent to race well. He’d crapped on too many doorways, told too many ugly truths and burned every bridge from Garmin to HTC-Highroad. He was persona non rider.
Rahsaan Bahati’s team is long dead and not even crazy people like Michael Rasmussen and his Christina Watches outfit made a phone call to the ramshackle cabin Landis calls home in Idyllwild, California. Idle about sums it up, on a permanent basis.
As Landis said, all he now owns is his pride and a clear conscience. “Maybe I just want to be able to live with myself,” he told Cyclingnews. Yes, it’s a long game of solitary for Landis.
Armstrong on the other hand, is still pedaling furiously, hoping to ride out a storm that gets worse and worse. Maybe special agent Jeff Novitzky fails to incriminate the Texan or drag him into court. But when the biggest sports magazine in the country, with an estimated readership of 23 million people a week, builds the case against Armstrong, the jury is already headed for a verdict. Even Mr. Nikbag and the crackheads from the hood know the score.
The only real punishment Armstrong fears is the destruction of the Legend, the Myth, the greatest sports story ever told! Now it feels like round 12, a beating where the aging ex-champ doesn’t get off the floor.
As crazy as it might seem, Twisted Spoke will always consider Armstrong and Landis two sides of the same coin, brothers, kindred spirits, an Able and Cain. Lance had one ball, Landis one good hip.
They shared a hard upbringing, discovered a way out on a race bike and never looked back. They were both driven, angry, hyper competitive, immensely talented athletes who saw the world in black or white, friend and foe. There’s no doubt in our mind Landis was capable of several more Tour de France wins if his testosterone hadn’t reached suspension levels.
If you’ve read Armstrong’s War, the masterful account of the Texan’s 2004 Tour de France campaign, you know that Armstrong looked on Landis as a younger brother, the oddball one, who wasn’t as polished or willing to play the game to his advantage. The Boss took Floyd under his wing, showed him the ropes and that’s what made the betrayal all the more biblical.
Floyd Landis never wanted the Armstrong life, the ranch, the jet, the Hollywood girlfriends, the art collection, the sponsorships, the cult of adulation, the billion dollar lifestyle. He only wanted to race his bike against the best. That’s what made him so angry every time he looked at Armstrong’s incredible good fortune. Floyd’s lie was low-rent crap and Armstrong’s story so bullet-proof.
We will miss FLoyd Landis tremendously. As the old saying goes, they broke the mold after they made him. He was willfully contrary, idiosyncratic, a genuine wild man, a scorched earth kinda guy. He wasn’t much for half measures, it was always all or nothing. We know what happened with that dice roll.
Perhaps in yet another irony, Landis will take a page from Armstrong and un-retire. (Maybe an assumed name would also be a good idea.) We’d pay to see Landis loose in Europe again, Kid Rock blasting, his silly crooked grin, dishing out the pain to those stuck-up euros. Sadly, ain’t going to happen. The trolls are finally bringing Armstrong down, Floyd did his own hatchet job.
He’d buried his Mennonite moral code pretty deep but it came back with a vengeance. Landis was a anti-doping kamikaze that slammed into the biggest target in cycling: Lance Armstrong.
Floyd Landis goes out like most whistleblowers do: jobless, saddled with debts, misunderstood and alone. Pride counts for plenty but doesn’t pay bills or child support. We wish him the best and miss him already.