It's hard not to root for Floyd at the Tour

July 14, 2005|by ANDREW MASON


That's what the hat I found and purchased on the Internet last summer reads.

It's a rather unique hat. Floyd Landis is a rather unique professional athlete.

As much as I'm pulling for Lance Armstrong to win his seventh straight Tour de France, I probably am rooting even harder for Landis, who begins today's 12th stage in 11th place, 4 minutes, 16 seconds behind Armstrong, the overall leader.

Everyone in this area should be pulling for the 29-year-old Landis, who grew up not far from here in Lancaster County, Pa.

Blazing through the French countryside in the green-and-yellow colors of Phonak, Landis, the first-year leader of the Swiss-based team, certainly has traveled a long way from his upbringing.


The stories I've read about Floyd over the years are fascinating.

He was one of six children raised in a strict Mennonite family. His dad drove a dump truck, his mom was a homemaker and at their house they listened to Christian radio programs. They had no TV.

Floyd bought a bike when he was 15 so that he could get to his favorite fishing holes. Soon, he was riding more than he was fishing, logging countless miles daily, often in the middle of the night after he finished his job bagging groceries.

When his family would take trips to go sledding, Floyd would bring his bike and ride up and down the snow-covered hills. When he started to compete in mountain-bike races in the early 1990s, he had to receive permission from his church's minister to wear tight Spandex shorts.

When Floyd rode in his first Tour de France in 2002 as a teammate of Lance Armstrong on U.S. Postal, Floyd's mother went to a friend's house to see her son on cable television. She had never before watched TV.

"Coming from a Mennonite family, we think work ethic is an important thing in his life," his mother said in a 2002 interview with the Lancaster New Era newspaper. "I think being hired to basically be a worker for Lance, that is a servant spirit. A servant is exalted in time."

Floyd=Exalted on the podium in Paris.

Andy Mason is assistant sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every other Thursday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2334, or by e-mail at

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