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Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Two
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 10/30/2006
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Two
 

Continued from Part One. We pick up our conversation with Amber Landis on the day after Floyd's bad day on Stage 16, in which he seemingly lost his chances to win the 2006 Tour de France.


On to Stage 17. Where were you on that day?

David (Cathcart) and I were driving, just taking our time, we knew there was no reason to try to get there in a hurry. We stopped for coffee and got the paper and were reading all the bad things written about Floyd! I decided we should call Robbie (Ventura) and see how things were going. He immediately said Where are you? Are you watching this? He told me we needed to get to the finish NOW! At this point Floyd had attacked the peloton and the group was still up ahead of him. We were freaking out; we had figured he'd only do something on the last climb. We were trying to get there as fast as we could. I'm not sure at what point we got there, but he still had a long ways to go. We stayed at the OLN trailer and tried to not get too excited. It was a long day.

OLN showed you a lot on TV that day.

I know! I hated that! I hated it when they did that; it drove me crazy.

2006 Ben Ross

It was a neat human touch, though. You looked really nervous.

I was! Mostly because there were downhills coming up and I hate downhills. He's fully capable of doing them, I just hate watching them. We just kept trying to not get excited. But every time he'd catch somebody we would go crazy. We were trying to get a pass for me so I could get to the finish. It's just impossible to get anywhere at the Tour. So we went to the finish and there was this big huge guy standing there that would not let me through. I kept telling him I was Mrs. Floyd Landis, that I was married to him. I showed them my phone because there's a picture of him on my phone. I showed them my driver's license that said Amber Landis and I just kept saying, Please let me through!!

I didn't get to see his salute or anything at the finish line, because I was trying to get to where he would be, and they kept telling me I could see him after doping, after doping. Finally someone from the team came over and got me through. So then I saw him and he wasn't happy, because the race wasn't over yet. He came for one reason and the race wasn't over. He'd had a good day but it wasn't like he was excited or relieved, he was just thinking It's not over yet. At the end of the day he was third, but he didn't come to the race to watch someone else win: I came to win and I had one bad day. You know, at first we kept saying he had a bad day on the wrong day. Everyone has a bad day. But by the end of Thursday we were saying he had a bad day on the most perfect day ever! In a sense he'd had a rest day the day before since he couldn't go any more--he couldn't even will himself to go any more. It was all he could do. Not a real rest day, but not an all-out day. So he had a bad day on the best day.

I hadn't heard anyone say that before, only comments like: "He had a bad day on a bad day" and "He picked a good day to have a good day."

No, he had a bad on the wrong day but a bad day on the best day for him.

I did finally get to see him, but he wasn't happy yet. He was happy that he had proved something to everyone. I guess he told everyone he was going to go. They had a saying or something, I think the guys were saying they were going to Go apeshit. He told his team to take him as far as they could on that first climb and he would do the rest. Then he went through the peloton and told them what he was going to do. Azevedo told him he was crazy, Don't do it, wait until the last climb and do something there. Kloden said No way. I guess Kloden was with him when he attacked and Floyd told him If you want to win this race you'd better come with me now. Because I'm going. Kloden said he couldn't, and no one else believed he could do it, either, it was too crazy.

But everything worked (in his favor) that day. No one wanted to work in the peloton that day. I don't think they thought he could do it. He knew what he needed to do that day. Until he got nine minutes at one point I don't think he even believed it would work. But he just wanted to have his stamp on the Tour: I was here, no matter what happened, I was here. He put on a good show that day. Later that night I got to see his salute and I loved it; it was perfect.

Two days later he took the leader's jersey after the Time Trial and he was sure to win the Tour. Can you tell me what this meant to you?

We sort of knew after Thursday he could win the Tour, but we were still trying to not get too excited. Saturday was a nervous day. I'm better than I used to be, but it makes me nervous to watch him race. I used to be a wreck. I couldn't function, I couldn't talk to anybody. I'd just pace. I'd be sick all day. This Tour I was really great, no nerves, no throwing up. He wanted to win the Time Trial, but he was tired from Thursday, so he knew he just needed to hear Oscar's times and beat those. That's all he cared about in the end. It was crazy and none of it was sinking in.

Did it seem surreal?

Absolutely. Even watching him on the podium on Sunday, it was like he'd won the Tour of California and I was watching him. I just knew that once I came home and I could say My husband just won the Tour de France and look at all the pictures it would then be real. Come home and have our party and celebrate, I knew that's when it would all sink in. But it never really has sunk in what he accomplished.

You met up with Ryan on Sunday. Where were you while Floyd was celebrating out on the road as he was riding in to Paris?

We got to watch from the Presidential Box. I was so tired by then. I had to go to a Phonak breakfast for wives, so I didn't get to see all the toasts from the road. I missed that. I still haven't seen any of that; we haven't watched the Tour. We just kicked it on Sunday waiting for the race to finish. Ryan knew she was going to be on the podium and she was scared out of her mind. She was so scared (nine years old). Once the race finished, I guess this was on TV, Floyd came up to give her a kiss and she was just repulsed by him, he was all sweaty and gross! People told me they saw it on TV and she was just making a face and moving away from him! All the chaos back stage was crazy. She said to me Mom are you going to come on the podium with me? I said Do you see any other mom's up there? No! It's going to be all you, honey! She was so nervous. We just stood there and watched him, trying to soak it all in, but it was very surreal. Very, very surreal. It was nothing that I could comprehend at the time.

But Ryan did it. She went out there on the podium and she was adorable.

She did it. We took pictures. Floyd looked like such a little boy up there. He looked like a baby.

Phonak had a party that evening?

Yes, yes, and Ryan, my mom and David all came. We had a really good time, we were celebrating something so unbelievable. They showed a video of the race and it was our first time to see some clips of Stage 16. I just stood there with Floyd and watched it. It was so exciting.

There is great footage of Andy (Rihs) in the car at the Time Trial. He's pounding on John (Lelangue) exclaiming, We just won the Tour de France! We just won the Tour de France!

Yes, Andy was so excited. He cried every time he talked about it. He was so, so happy; thrilled like a proud papa. It was unbelievable.

You and Ryan came home the next day?

No, I was supposed to, but I decided Heck no, I don't want him to stay here and celebrate without me so I stayed, and was planning to go home on Thursday. Ryan went home with my mom. We stayed at the Presidential Suite and he was supposed to do the post-Tour crits. I was going along with him, Robbie Hunter's wife Claudia was there and we get along great, so it was going to be fun, really, really exciting. We were in the Netherlands for the first crit. It still hadn't sunk in, but we were staying in these nice hotels. Every once in awhile Floyd would say I won it! I did it! I DID IT! So it was fun. We were just hanging around enjoying it.

When did the phone call come and who called you?

John called, he was at the crits with us. We were just hanging out in the room with Robbie and Claudia, I guess I had slept in. John called and said he needed to talk to Floyd. Our hotel room had an office in it so he went in there. Floyd came back in the room and he was really quiet. I remember I was joking with him but he wasn't finding my jokes remotely funny. So Claudia and Robbie left and he told me. But at the time he didn't know anything except that he had a positive test. I think we were both hoping it was positive for cortisone and that it had not been recorded properly (in his medical book). We just thought it had to be that because we didn't understand how it could be anything else. I think I just laid there (stunned) all day, asking What the hell is happening? I don't remember when we found out it was testosterone. I think maybe we didn't know until the next day. We were trying to come up with a plan what to do. He was supposed to race a crit that night, but we didn't know who knew, we didn't know if word had gotten out, we didn't turn the TV on.

Once he was told, he couldn't race?

I think maybe he could have, but we just didn't know who knew. We left and went back to France that night. It was just the most horrible thing I've ever experienced. Here I am with the Tour de France winner and we're in hiding. We went back to France that night and we were in hiding. Floyd wore his hat down low and we didn't go anywhere for three days. We stayed in our room. We had meetings with lawyers, trying to figure out what was going on. We had no idea how this could be possible. Or what to do.

Thursday we got a phone call from his sister asking what was going on. She said there were cameramen everywhere, they were not leaving his mom alone. Immediately they were bombarded. I called a girlfriend there that owns a bike shop down the way (they got Floyd into cycling) and I said You get there now. I don't care what you tell them but this is from me: You hit, you kick, you get those people off of her property now. Wednesday night when we were in Paris I was looking out the window at the beautiful view, and I kept wondering How am I going to tell Ryan? And Floyd said How do I tell my mom? Thursday he talked to her and that was a real emotional time.

Everything was coming at us so quickly. We had no idea if we were coming or going. So he said Fine let's do a conference call on the phone. That was the first time he had talked (about it). People are still giving him shit for it. Mostly he did it for people to leave his mom alone. We didn't know what was going on so we didn't know what to say. People were trying to help us, calling here and there. We just said everything and tried to grasp at everything, trying to make some sense. That was Thursday.

The next day we had to leave Paris and go to Madrid. If I thought Thursday was bad just walking through a hotel, Friday was...I can't even put into words what it was like. We were just in hiding. Here was the guy that should be enjoying the most happy time he's ever experienced and again we're in serious hiding. You know, in Europe they just have the papers lined up and you don't have to buy them and every single one has Floyd's face plastered on the front. He has his hat down low, he's walking behind me, his head is down. At one point we're sitting in the airport and he says, Fuck it, fuck it. Let them come to me. He sits up, turns his hat around, and I instantly start crying. I said I don't know what these people are going to be like to you and I cannot deal with it. I can't let people be mean to you. So turn your hat back around. That made him sad.

So we got to Madrid. It's funny how different the countries are. The customs guy looked at his passport and said Floyd Landis and asked for his autograph. People there could have cared less. At the hotel we were still in hiding, but we were with Floyd's teammate Perdi (Perdiguero) and when we checked in the desk clerk recognized him. We had to tell him we were with Floyd Landis and he didn't care at all; he upgraded us to a suite!

Photos by Ben Ross, copyright www.benrossphotography


In the third and final part of the interview Amber talks about coming home, telling Ryan the bad news and living her life in the public eye.

 
Related Articles
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part One
Amber Landis: The Interview, Part Three

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