Landis retires, Armstrong reels.

Landis retired from pro cycling.

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.

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  • Sam

    Hmmm…it was way past time for this whole chapter, maybe Lance included, to be gone, past, done, overwith. Unlike a good book where I don't mind re-reading it a few times to marvel at how it makes me feel, this is something I have re-read way too many times and disliked for any number of reasons on both sides. So…let's be done with it.
    I am not saying that we should bury heads in the sand and deny that there is an ugly truth somewhere in all of this, but Landis will fade away into obscurity and I don't think anything will stick to Lance. There may be a stain on things related to Lance, but I think he will continue to do things in his life time that will be bigger than all of the accusations that have never been proven. Novitsky may prove me wrong, but right now I don't see it coming down on Armstrong like people might think or even hope.

    • Sam, I think the only thing Armstrong cares about is his Legend and once Sports Illustrated comes out with such comprehensive and damning evidence then regardless of what Novitzky does, the verdict is already in and that legend is destroyed. I'm a huge fan on Armstrong and his doping doesn't disappoint me in any way. He's done so many wonderful things for the sport and raised multi-millions for cancer. The man will always be a hero and I think to a large measure he'll be forgiven. The myth is over and yes, it's time for us all to move on. Matt

  • Sam

    I guess that with a readership of 23 million or so, Sports Illustrated has some impact, but having read the article, it sheds no real new light on any of this. It is all stuff I have read on cyclingnews.com, Pez, and in Velonews. No new revelations for me from SI, which is disappointing given the splash about it on these same websites.

    • Sam, everybody agrees it's mostly a summation piece but there are some truly damning possibilities with Caitland and US dope testing. And the sheer weight of testimony in one place from the most well-regarded sports magazine in the US is a killer for LA. Forget what happens with Novitzky, the court of public opinion is deciding a verdict this week and it doesn't look good for the Legend of Lance. Do misunderstand me, Lance will always be an inspirational hero for me, doping or not.

  • Bill Rupy

    What if Landis doesn't 'fade away into obscurity'? What if his initial doping defense (don't discredit it simply because he wasn't able to keep his TdF title, it exposed huge shortcomings in that matte painting backdrop of cycling known as lab testing), and his subsequent email that steered Novitzky toward LA, is one day considered to be a watershed moment in the eventual tearing-down of the great cycling exploitation machine (Teams, UCI, WADA, etc), which after the dust settles leads to simple, pure, cycling competition? Wouldn't that be something!

    And even if none of the above ever comes to pass, if Floyd ever showed up at my doorstep, I'd invite him in for a few cold Nastri Azzuri. And if Lance ever showed up, I'd shut the door on him with a 'whatever, Dude' and call the Comune di Mestrino and have all his Suburbans towed from my street. I mean, c'mon – who would you rather hang out with?

    And please don't try to read anything into my above comments about doping, who's guilty, who's right or wrong. I'm just talking about dreams and beer here.

    • Bill, you grasp the essentials: beer, leading to dreams or simply dreams of beer. Yes, a few cold ones with Landis would be my preference but I'd also do some champagne and hit a few strip clubs with Lance. That's a party I wouldn't want to miss. Matt

  • Magnifico

    This book's only partly written — and we've read the first chapters over and over again but that doesn't change the interest in the "rest of the story" as they say. "BigTex Inc." is on the way down and perhaps after this, cycling and cyclists will realize if the biggest fish of them all can't get away with cheating (though he's made millions along the way) then perhaps it's not worth the risk?

    • Magnifico, Lance is the final piece in the puzzle, the biggest fish, as you say. Once he's sentenced in the court of public opinion, the sport moves and a new era begins. I'll miss Lance and Floyd, for all their faults, they were the best of the best. Matt

  • James307

    Brother, Matt: The comparison to Kid Rock is the best. Bravo, sir, for a great farewell to Landis. I liked him, too. Now, I know why he didn't get on the mountaintop and shout his innocence, like I suggested he should all those years ago. Simply stated, he was like all the rest, but easier to like. Oh, Wise Man, you nailed this one.

    • Thanks James. compliments from the professionals are always the best. Matt

  • Mick

    Cycling fans will read the SI story and yawn..
    yeah they heard much of it before… but SI brings 23 million people into the loop…[ & of which, & I'll be generous here… only 0.2% have their finger on the pulse of cycling]

    In my day to day contact with people outside the insulated cycling world, all anyone seems to know about LA is TDF (but not even how many), Yellow bracelets, & he beat Cancer's ass….the doping (allegations), the pettiness, the crass side of him & his story are complete unknowns…and often unwelcome tidbits to their rosy world view of the carefully crafted miracle story.
    Their exposure is the pablum spoon fed to them via their annual exposure to VS's TDF coverage (if you can call it such), Livestrong, and LA's media machine. The non cycling public never gets anything that contradicts the image that has been so carefully crafted and vigorously (& maliciously ) defended.
    Lance is more than a cyclist, he's a business, an icon, a deity…
    It's nare impossible to now separate these images in the eyes of the general public… There is a renewed urgency to maintain that image… a hell of a lot is on the line…HUGE $$'s are riding on LA's legacy, ask Livestrong (dot com especially), Trek, Nike, Oakley, to mention a few… He's been the golden goose.
    He & his people have used the "best defence is a good & (tenacious) offence" to great effect…just ask LeMond, Landis, Basson, Simeoni, Walsh, Andreau…and on…
    These nights LA must dream about the good old days when he only had to come up with ways to malign Kimmage or Betsy…
    cuz…
    Unfortunately for LA, once the the feds get involved shit gets real…

    Exposure of LA's world outside of the carefully crafted image and sound bites will be a step in the right direction to expose the greater problem of doping, cheating, and omerta…As noted LA is at the top of the pyramid, so needs to be the target. Bringing this story to 23 million people is a step in the right direction.

    Oh yeah…I'm gonna miss Floyd… an original

    • Mick, I appreciate the long copy. An era is about to end, the King is dead and cycling hopefully moves on to a cleaner world. Only cycling nuts care about Novitzky, but once SI gets involved the casual fan knows all and that is the final destruction of the myth.

  • Julian Sweet

    Given Floyd's Mountain Biking roots perhaps he should have stuck to the Mutzig in Morzine rather than the testosterone?

    • Julian, I still haven\’t forgotten that fabulous dinner at Clin d\’œil in Morzaine. I\’ll be back at the tour this year and can\’t wait. Not a bad idea for Floyd to go back to Mtn Biking. DOn\’t need a team for that. Matt

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  • ryan61

    This post is rich. To say that Lance and Landis are the same and that Landis would have won seven Tours is absurd. He was never as dominate a rider as lance- just look at his time trialing in the 2006 Tour. Look at today's riders- Alberto and Andy- no way Landis could dominate either of them. You to realize that he stands to benefit financially from the Lance investigation, don't you?

    The guy is a fraud and no team would hire him. He was forced to bow out of cycling. If I have a career and upset everyone in my industry to the point that nobody will ever hire me again, well yeah I would retire too. And where was this Mennonite moral code when he got people to contribute to his defense fund. It makes one wonder why Landis is not brought up on fraud charges himself.

    Oh and Floyd was broke, jobless and in debt way before he blew any whistle.

    • ryan61

      Okay Matt, several Tours then. I would still argue that wouldn't be possible for Landis given the talent that come onto the scene in 2007 and beyond. In 2006, if other riders like Ullrich or Basso would have been allowed to compete, Landis wouldn't have even won a single Tour, let alone several.

      I have read the SI article. That's the problem with the media and bloggers- you're all trying to make that "two hundred bucks" and you have him convicted without a trial. Remember- innocent until proven guilty. Last I looked articles in mags and blogs don't satisfy the burden of proof- even if they have 23 million weekly subscribers.

      • Armstrong has the best lawyers in the country and the best pr people — better than most fortune 500 companies. He's shut down a lot of stuff and forced plenty of people into silence who couldn't afford to play the legal game all the way to poverty. I firmly believe the game is up and Novitzky will deliver the final goods — as for proof, I think we're way past that– how much do you need? I'd also argue that whatever Novitzky does or not has no bearing on the larger verdict — the one in the court of public opinion. Lance Armstrong lost that decision this week when SI hit the news-stands. Lance always played to the biggest stage, not just the small minority of pro cycling fans. I'd guess the majority of those 23 million people are going to change their minds about Lance and the myth, the legend, will be damaged forever. That's the only loss and the only punishment that Lance wanted to avoid. Too late. Matt

  • Hoffman

    Nice read, great tribute – in a twisted kinda way. Admirable words for the mad mennonite, cant disagree with anything you write. He has and may continue to go through a rough time, but when it all comes out in the wash, he will walk clearly with a clear conscious and head high – and at the end of his life he will know and feel that he chose the correct path. Armstrong on the other hand, notwithstanding all his success, on the road, socially, materially, will be tormented for the remainder of his time on this planet, unless he clears his conscious, and considering how deeply embedded his pathway is, can't see that happening; but who knows. Karma's a bitch.

    • Right you are, karma is a bitch. Armstrong should be spending plenty of time thinking about his I doped speech. I suspect that the great unwashed would be more than willing to forgive and largely forget if he handled this the right way. But that is so against his core nature that I don't see it happening. He's still a hero in my book, inspirational and worthy of great admiration for his accomplisments on and off the bike. I see Floyd Landis as our Pantani — tremendously talented but uniquely flawed and his loss and our loss. Thanks for writing, Matt