I've had it in the back of my mind for quite awhile that Amber Landis would have
a lot to say about her life since husband Floyd's Tour de France win in July. I
was curious to hear how a doping charge affected an entire family.
Too often the athlete is cast aside as though his life no longer has value once
positive tests are revealed, and it has always bothered me that there was more to
the story that wasn't being revealed, a more human side to the drama.
sat down with Amber at her home in California on October 2, just a few days
after Floyd's hip surgery.
We talked. In fact we talked a very long time. Amber's view is fresh
and personal, honest and enlightening.
She held back nothing in the telling of her story.
If you're here to read
about scandal or numbers, you won't find any of that here. This story
is not about the science; it's about the heart.
Daily Peloton: To start with Amber, I'd like to get a brief overview of how you met Floyd,
how long you've been married, just broad strokes of your life.
Amber: We've been married for 5-1/2 years. We met in San Diego.
across the street from the school where my mom and I worked at together.
Floyd's roommate was David, who was my mom's age. David started dating my mom
and about a year later they introduced me to Floyd.
Photo c. Cathy Mehl
Daily Peloton: Is Floyd Daddy to Ryan?
Amber: Yeah, yeah, he is.
DP: When you first got involved with Floyd, did you have any idea or concept what
it would be like to be involved with an elite athlete?
Amber: No, no, I didn't know anything about cycling. I had no idea what I was
getting myself into. The first time he left (for a race) it was only for two weeks, if
that, for Malaysia. Then it got longer and longer each time he was gone.
DP: So you said, Oh, this is what we're doing!
Amber: So this is how it works!
In terms of dedication to training and racing, how difficult was it to adjust
to living the life of a cyclist's wife?
The biggest adjustment was just being by myself. That was really it.
Except when he was home he would have to watch what he eats and he was always training
constantly. But mostly it was just him being gone for long periods of
You and Ryan had to adjust to that?
Well, we didn't have to adjust too much because it was just the two of us
before we met him. He had to get used to us!
Photo c. Ben Ross
When Floyd made the move to Phonak to race with Tyler Hamilton, I presume
that wasn't too big a deal because he was just changing teams. But when he
became the leader of the team, were you concerned about the new role he would be taking
No, not concerns really. I knew he could handle it. It's was what he was
shooting for. It just came earlier than we had expected, so I guess the
concern was that he was stepping into a role he wasn't ready for. Nobody
at the team knew how to accept him that year. He wasn't supposed to be the
leader but he ended up being the leader. So he was careful; he didn't want to step on
Did you feel the elevated status and responsibility was something your family
was ready to handle?
We weren't worried. I don't think that would have necessarily changed
the way we work. It was his job.
As it became evident that Floyd was going to make a sincere effort to win the
Tour as the team leader for Phonak, how did your family life change to
accommodate his new training schedule?
This is going to be a really boring interview because it didn't really affect
things! He always trains a lot. He always trains a lot. He was
actually home more this year than he'd ever been. But he always, always
trains. That's his job and that's what he loves to do. If it's a
sunny day and he's not on his bike, he's not a happy guy.
We'll talk in a little bit if he's hard to live with right now! Come on
Amber, let's go have a margarita and really talk! (We both laugh.)
In 2006 when Floyd was training hard and getting his wins at Tour of
California, Paris-Nice and Tour de Georgia, were you starting to believe that
his dream of a Tour win could come true this year?
Yeah, we always knew that it would happen, we just weren't sure in which year
it would happen. Stuff always kept happening, like his broken hip. But the hip was
working and everything was going as planned.
Did the two of you talk much about his Tour ambitions?
It was just a known thing. That was always his goal. That's why
he did this. I guess that is every cyclist's dream. It was scary.
He'd had really good races, but then the Dauphine came and he wasn't feeling
it AT ALL so that was a little scary. I think that was the most scary
part. Otherwise it was just a known thing that this was what he was going
for, this was what he was doing. It had to be his year. We didn't
know where the hip was going and we pretty much figured he'd have to have
surgery right after the Tour was over. We didn't know after that if he'd
be able to continue, so it had to be this year.
What role did you play in Floyd's quest for the win? Would he bring
his doubts and concerns home and talk to you about them? Or would he
only talk to his coaches and trainers?
It depends how giving he is that day. He doesn't like to talk about things
too much. I have to pry things out of him.
Floyd: The problem is that I feel like I've been talking about everything.
It's all just in my head and I don't realize I never said anything out loud!
Amber: That's the thing! He's always thinking it in his head, and he thinks
his head talks to my head!
Daily Peloton: Wow, busy up there!
Well, nothing's getting done!
Amber: Every once in awhile I can get something out of him, like about the hip
and that it
was hurting. Otherwise I wouldn't know unless it was a bad, bad day. I
finally had to tell him I wasn't a mind reader and he needed to tell me when the
hip was hurting so I could adjust to that. He doesn't communicate so much!
In the lead-up time right before the Tour, was Floyd already in Europe?
Had he stayed there after the Dauphine?
No, he came back. It was a big secret, but he came back. It was
unheard of for a top Tour contender to come home right before the Tour, but he
wasn't good (in the Dauphine) over there. I don't know what he was
thinking. He went to Switzerland and it was yucky weather there and he was
on his own. It needs to be nice weather when he trains. If it's gray
and cloudy and rainy it just doesn't work for him. So he came home for ten
days and then went back the week before the Tour.
Was Ryan's life affected much by this lead up time? Was it kind of
chaotic here at home getting ready for the Tour?
She's kind of oblivious to it. And for as long as she's known Floyd
that's always the way our life has been with him. It was nothing
different, except he was home more this year. That was the difference.
When did you get to the Tour?
I got there the last rest day, on a Monday (July 17th). I followed each stage from
there. It was a little tricky with Ryan because I'm cheap. I didn't
want to buy a ticket for her if he wasn't going to win, and I didn't want to
jinx it either by buying it too early. I go over every year so it was no
big deal for me.
You weren't going to be the jinx, only Ryan?
Right, I go every year so that wasn't going to be a problem. So we bought a
ticket and then he had his bad day, so I cancelled the ticket that night.
Then obviously he had (good results) Thursday so I had to re-buy the ticket
again. It was kind of hectic because at one point when I was trying to
re-buy the ticket there was only one first class ticket available for $5000!!
And my mom and her husband were going to travel with her, but I didn't want her
to sit in first class and they sit in coach plus I said I was not spending
$5000! Luckily they did find a ticket at the last minute. They left
on Friday and traveled all day, so they got there on Saturday. They
arrived in Paris and they stayed in Paris, so actually I didn't get to see her
until Sunday and she left on Monday, so they were only there for two days.
They only came to see him win.
Describe for me your feelings when Floyd first took the yellow jersey, before
you had gotten there. (Stage 11)
It was exciting, but we knew it wasn't going to stay. So it was
exciting that he had it and no matter what the Tour had been a success, but we
knew he wasn't going to keep it.
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
What was Floyd's attitude about having it?
I think he was excited. It's a big deal for an American to have the
jersey. I think we knew the team wasn't the strongest from the get go, so
we knew it wasn't going to be permanent. So, yes, it was exciting, but you
just have to keep focusing on the race. A lot more racing to go.
You were there then for his Bad Day. Can you walk me through that
We had a bit of a drive and we were going to the finish. I was with David
Cathcart of Saris. I knew it was going to be a hard day and I had talked to
him right before he left just like I always do: Have a good day, kick
some ass. My normal stuff I say to him. But he sounded a little
worry, I'll be fine. He just wasn't fine, so I think I was worried.
I think sometimes he hates that I say that stuff to him everyday, so
he doesn't get too excited about it. We got to the finish and had
passes to watch from the OLN camp. I could tell right away he wasn't okay.
I think some people were thinking he was faking it, but I knew it wasn't going
to be a good day. Then he got dropped and the second I saw him get dropped
I was done. I couldn't watch anymore.
Photo c. Fotoreporter Sirotti
So I stood behind the trailer,
couldn't hear anything. I was thinking to myself, Are you kidding
me? I cannot believe this is happening. I cannot believe his
dream is over. But then someone told me he was back on so I came back
in to watch some more and almost immediately he got dropped again. I could
not watch him go through that. SO I have no idea what the rest of the day
looked like! I just
sat there and kept thinking ,What am I going to say to him? What on
earth am I going to possibly say to him that's going to make it ok?
And I had no idea what I was going to say to him. I want to say that I
composure, but people tell me they saw me crying. I think I held it
together until I knew he'd finished, and then I walked to our car and I think I
started crying there.
I couldn't find him, but I did know where his
hotel was. All I wanted to do was see him. I finally found his
hotel and I planned to hold it together, I was going to hold it together, and
the second he opened the door I lost it completely. I just laid on the
bed with him, and told him it was ok. I told him I wasn't going to love
him any less because he wasn't winning the Tour. I think he told me he was
sorry. I said, What on earth do you have to be sorry about? I mean
yeah, it would've been rad but it doesn't change our relationship. I just
hung out with him for a little bit and he told me he was going to do a press
conference. I said, What, are you crazy? Just stay here with me!
But he just knew people would keep asking and asking and asking what happened so
he wanted to get it over with and stop dwelling on it.
I sort of stuck around for the press conference. I didn't realize it
was going to be such a big deal that he was having a press conference. We
were coming around the corner and all these cameras started going off, so I just
tucked myself out of the way. I couldn't really hear anything. That
was it, so we left. There wasn't any reason to keep dwelling on it, and we
had a long drive. I told him to have a good day the next day, try to get a
few minutes back and then deal with the rest in the Time Trial on Saturday.
At least maybe get on the podium. But we weren't too hopeful, at least I
wasn't. He wasn't counting on it either.
Stay tuned for Part Two: Amber discusses Floyd's best day on a bike, and
perhaps the worst day of his life.