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Floyd, Could You Pass the Coffee, Please?
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 4/18/2006
Floyd, Could You Pass the Coffee, Please?

What could be better than sitting down for a little breakfast with Floyd Landis? How about sitting down for breakfast with Floyd Landis and Robbie Hunter? Yeah, I thought that sounded better too, so Monday morning at the Ford Tour de Georgia I joined the Phonak riders at a round table coffee klatch and enjoyed a half hour of race talk with Floyd, Robbie, Team Director Rene Savary and Phonak's media mogul Georges Luchinger.

For the 2006 Ford Tour de Georgia, Rene has put together a team with the primary focus of supporting Landis in his efforts to win the GC. Coming into this race with two wins already under his belt (Tour of California and Paris-Nice), Floyd told us he is feeling good and thinks the team can have good results in the overall. "I am feeling good. We would like to win this race. We have a strong team and I think we'd like to try to control the race from the start."

DS Savary is optimistic about the team's chances this year: "We hope the time trial goes well again this year. And with the position we hope to have after the time trial we can do better than last year and help Floyd defend the jersey. " Noting that the stages at the end are a little bit shorter this year, Phonak hopes they will be in a strong position to defend and take Floyd home as the winner. Pointing out that Hunter has Aurelien Clerc to help take him to the line, DS Savary hopes Hunter will find the form to win some early sprint stages before Floyd does his magic on the time trial course.

The subject of favorite Classic races came up, and Robbie shared with us that he preferred some of the one day classics as opposed to the stage races. "There is just a whole different feeling for the one day races. A race like Paris-Roubaix is such a hard race. By, or I should say if you get to the finish, it's so emotional to be able to get to the end of the race. That's one of the races I really like, for some reason. Hopefully in the next couple of years I can get a good result in that race. Stage races, I do like them, especially since you have more opportunities to come by a win. During the one day race if you lose you just go back home."

With Floyd winning the Time Trial in 2005 at Tour de Georgia and then winning that stage again at the Tour of California, I asked him if he was doing anything different now on the bike.

"My time trial position is not so different from last year, it's just that people seem to be noticing it more. And I don't know why! It's not a particularly normal position but it works for me. My arms are together, before they weren't as close, so maybe that is why people are noticing it more," Floyd commented. At this point, the ever-amusing Landis received a call on his mobile. Looking at the screen display and noting it was his wife, he said, "That's my wife. Maybe she has a question about my time trial position!"

Floyd has found something that works for him even though it might be different from others. I commented that since he's winning with this unusual position now it is getting more attention, to which Floyd laughed and said, "They are welcome to use the same position. I do not have a patent on that position." Savary included the information that Floyd's position was tested in the wind tunnel to be sure he could still deliver the power to the pedals when going at a high speed. "It is difficult to ride in that position. If someone tries it, they will probably quit (using it) before they get to see that it works. It took me awhile to get comfortable. A lot of the weight is on my arms, so it took awhile to get used to that."

This year's Time Trial stage is on a new course, is longer than in previous years, and possibly much harder. Asked about checking out the new route prior to the stage, Floyd hopes to find the time to ride it in a car, but realizes this might not happen. "I've checked out courses before when I felt I could have put my time to better using training somewhere. Others time I've not looked and won the stage. Sometimes I've looked at it and not remembered what I saw! So, we'll see how the time factor plays out." Robbie commented that with a 40km time trial he didn't feel the margin would be just a couple of seconds that made up the difference in the final. Floyd seized on Robbie's belief that the gaps would be larger, and said, "So, if I don't go see the course and I do lose by just a couple of seconds, I'll have a good excuse!"

One journalist present was from the Lancaster, PA area near where Landis grew up. However, she was wearing a t-shirt from Georgia, so Floyd was surprised that she came from his home area. "Shouldn't you be wearing something with an Amish person on the front?!" This guy is funny; we were laughing a lot. Landis cited the great riding available in the area where he grew up and his parents strong work ethic for him getting into the tough sport of cycling.

Regarding racing in Europe, Floyd feels "It's more stressful there. There is higher intensity because there are more Pro Tour teams. Personally I would race here (in the US) every week if they would like to have races for me!"

Savary likes to ride with his boys

Someone wondered how the riders feel about the Tour de Georgia. "It's a very difficult race by every standard. The course, the competition. Other races might have more prestige, but the only person who can say it's an easy race is the guy that won. If you didn't win, don't talk! It's not an easy race. It's plenty hard, said Landis. Robbie noted that while the entire race is not made up of ProTour teams, the American teams "come hugely motivated to get a good result. And you see them winning against the bigger teams and they race as hard as they can to get good results. People fight more in the smaller races to get results."

With the addition to the Tour of California to the race calendar in North America, Floyd was asked about the state of cycling in the United States. "We hope that there is momentum in the sport. Obviously having Lance around for seven years has done a lot for the sport. Whether it continues, I guess is up to us. It's difficult to replace Lance. He has a human interest story that would be hard to fabricate. As far as cycling goes, hopefully people that came because of him fell in love with the sport and will stay."

I was curious why the Giro was off Floyd's program now and asked him about the decision to not race in Italy. "I've never done the Giro and I would like to. But it's difficult to go to a race and just use it for training when you're in good condition. I have very good condition right now, so it would be hard for me to go to the Giro and ride in the back. I would rather not be there. I don't know the very best way to prepare for the Tour, but I've done it a certain way these past few years and think it's worked very well. So I won't risk changing it now."

Asked about the short list for his Tour team, Floyd said with a straight face, "Yes, we have a list of twelve potential riders for the Tour. I'm on the list." We all laughed and pointed out that it is his list so he's probably at the top. He looked at Rene and said, "I am on the list, right?" to which Savary picked up his pencil and asked, "Your name again?" Continued Landis, "We have very good riders and twelve people who deserve to go to the Tour. It's not easy to tell people they aren't going to the Tour when they are good enough to go. I will let some one else do that part, but we will do that in June."

Talking about crazy crowds on the stages in Europe, Robbie claims they don't really add to the stress of the race. "It's a part of cycling that's been there for as long as cycling has been around. It's all part of riding and we just deal with it. It adds to the atmosphere to the race." With many fans in Europe camping on the climbs for days and days, the party atmosphere might seem to get a little more out of control than we see in America. "I think American's are as enthusiastic, " commented Floyd, as we discussed the possibility of taking a busload of Basques to the top of Brasstown Bald to liven things up a bit.

I said to Floyd that last year he was almost a reluctant leader of the team but this year he seems to have embraced the role. I asked him to talk a little bit about his confidence level and how that has changed for him this year. "I am in better shape so I don't mind taking responsibility when I am confident I can win. I don't want the whole team working for me when I'm not going to win. I feel confident now. Last year I had never been a team leader before, so that was also part of the process. The entire team has gone through this process. It wouldn't be wise for me to suddenly demand that I'm the leader. The whole team has developed with me. It's not just me that changed. Hopefully we can continue growing this way."

The time to leave was getting close so it was time to talk about the Tour. "Do you consider yourself a pre-Tour favorite? And in the back of your mind does any of this surprise you, that you've found yourself a top contender for the Tour de France?" I asked Floyd.

"A top contender..." Landis ponders for a moment. "I would say, yes, I do. I do consider myself one of the favorites. And no, I can't say I'm surprised to be in this position. It was a dream of mine for a long time. It might surprise other people! But I'm confident, whether it's this year or later, that I can make it to the top."

After Georgia, Landis will race the Dauphine and then the Tour, with no real plans for the fall classic races. "Hopefully I can win the Tour and then go on vacation! I don't like one day races. If they would pave the roads maybe I might show up! I've done Paris-Roubaix a couple of times. In fact I've done the first half a couple of times, so that counts as doing the entire race once!"

Joining Floyd and Robbie from the Phonak squad are Florian Stalder, a second year pro who is gaining experience riding in Pro Tour races, and Johann Tschopp, a young Swiss rider who had a bad injury last year that kept him from racing for five months. This young man comes to Georgia super-motivated to do a good job, claiming he will "sacrifice himself completely to work for Floyd," Savary told us, making a slashing motion across his throat. Also in Georgia are Luis Fernandez Oliveira, a climbing specialist, Aurelien Clerc, who could be Hunter's lead out man, and the hard-riding Spanish brothers Enrique and "Nacho" Gutierrez.

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Tour of Georgia - Phonak Team Profile

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