Sunday, July 23, 2006

Floyd Landis, Man Of Simple Ways

Tour de France winner Floyd Landis hails from Farmersville PA, just 58 miles from where I live in the Allentown area, so it wasn't surprising that the Allentown Morning Call had a feature story on Landis and Farmersville this morning in the Sunday paper. The quality of the story was surprising, however; it's a simple but great and emotional "read."

The writer, Brian Callaway, got himself down to Farmersville Saturday morning to watch the all-important final Time Trial on TV with Landis's parents and their community members. Farmersville is a real community, a Mennonite "hamlet of a couple of hundred people in Lancaster county," according to Callaway. Paul Landis (Floyd's father) and his family don't even own a TV, so they had to hoof it over to some friends' home to watch the Tour. TV is not a life essential to Paul Landis. "You see things on there that you think you have to have, that you can't afford, so that you can impress people you don't like," he said.

That's a killer quote, my friends! From a man who's thought long and deep about the role of TV in modern life.

Of course, when your son is winning the Tour de France, you've gotta cheer him on somehow.
"This is your mom, pedal harder," Arlene Landis implored Floyd through the TV screen. "Drink more water. Listen to your mother."

When things started looking good for Floyd, the heavy celebratin' began. Everyone started chugging "Farmersville champagne," otherwise known as lemonade.

The owner of the local bike retailer remembered the day Floyd, then an early teen, dragged his dad into the shop to buy him a bike. "His dad was not happy. It was an expensive bike, about $300." In his first races, Floyd wore long sweat pants, following the Mennonite custom of covering up pretty good.

The story of Floyd's eventual push into bigtime cycling, which forced a major change from his Mennonite ways, has been well covered by the media. There was a time when youngster and parents didn't see eye-to-eye. That was many years ago. These days, they're all fans of each other's choices.

That's why I was a little surprised by Paul Landis's final quote in this article. "I'm proud of his accomplishments," he said. "But I think someday what we taught him will come back."

As I watched Floyd Landis ride the Tour, with all its ups and downs and endless days and incredible pressures, with his arthritic hip and his disastrous bonk, I saw nothing if not his Mennonite background. Call them what you will, I don't think any endurance athlete can succeed without a simple approach and unswerving dedication to the most basic values.



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