Q&A: Floyd Landis shares his experience at Big Sugar, his first race on earth

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Floyd Landis did his first gravel race last weekend in Bentonville, Arkansas at Big Sugar Gravel. In this interview, Landis talks about how the race went, including handling Ted King, who crashed and broke his elbow, and his thoughts on gravel racing in general, now that he took a liking to it.

At Big Sugar, Landis lined up in front and was impressed with how quickly the race started. He also noted how technical the course was and how the group dynamics play out differently on gravel than on the road.

Read also : Floyd Landis on not running, running and potentially ruining the gravel

In the end, Landis didn’t complete the 100 mile run, but it was for Good Samaritan reason, as he and TJ Eisenhart shifted gears to take care of King.

Now King is at home in Vermont and recovering, and Landis is signed up for BWR Kansas this weekend, where he plans to cross what will be his first gravel finish line.

VeloNews: So what happened with Ted?

Floyd Landis: The truth is, I was relieved that the poor guy was there so I could stop.

The race was difficult at the start. It’s like 7,000 feet of climbing, steep up and down, nonstop. The first 30 miles is not the kind where you can build up a lot of momentum. Drawing on the road is one thing; you expect people to point things out. But in the gravel, no one does; you just hope for the best. Nobody wants to let go of the bars, which I didn’t think about when I did that. There were things I thought I should point out, but I didn’t want to take my hands off the bars either.

I was maybe in the third group, when I saw TJ sitting with Ted. I didn’t recognize it was Ted, I just saw TJ and he waved to me. I thought, ‘perfect, now I can quit. He probably smokes weed or something. But Ted was rather annoyed. He hadn’t been knocked out or anything, but he had landed on his elbow.

I think hitting these rocks like that is worse than hitting boulders or the sidewalk, you get deeper cuts. On the sidewalk, you get scratched. He also had a bunch of rashes on the road, but his elbow was the worst.

TJ had taken off his swimsuit and put it around Ted’s elbow. He was bleeding a lot and it’s like, you just have to cover him up so he doesn’t have to look at him. His back was all scratched from the way he landed. Guess TJ had wanted to rub his back to comfort him, but he had a rash, so he was just rubbing his leg. It was 100 percent authentic; he wanted to do something to help and he didn’t know what to do.

You could tell Ted was just down and disappointed and didn’t want to talk. I was just trying to make sure he was okay and that there was nothing urgent to do. There was no cell phone signal where we pulled up, so TJ sent someone down the road. This guy found a guy who wanted $ 20 to take us into town because he didn’t have the money for gas. He finally said he would come and help, and I had to help steer him on the road, he had to drive against oncoming cyclists. And you know how people are when they run, it’s like they can’t see what’s in front of them.

The guy got out of the truck and he was limping. I’m like ‘what happened?’ And he said, ‘I was bitten by a spider.’

He put the three of us in the back of the truck and drove us a mile to where there was a road and cell signal. I called my guy back at the expo who had a van, but in the meantime a car with volunteers came by and we sent Ted with them. We waited with his bike until the van showed up. It was really early, we were back for departure at 9 or 9:30.

Read also : Gravel Safety 101 – Eight Suggestions for Race Promoters

NV: You joked before the race that if it was raining you didn’t show up. And you finally made it!

FL: I did, but the start was the worst! They go so hard at first and now I know why. The more people there are in the group, the more dangerous it is. But yes, at Ted’s spend i was a little relieved to have a chance to quit.

As I was going through my analysis it wasn’t a judgment or anything but it felt like it was a real thing which it totally is, there are a few things to make it safer . I think a safer way to do it would be – and this is not a review of the course – but if you could do the more technical things later in the race. Otherwise the roads were great and it didn’t take long for you to really be in the countryside.

At the end of the day, bike races are dangerous. If you give the Tour de France guys a straight line, someone’s going to crash.

Everything else was good but my legs were the weakest link of it, unfortunately.

VN: You were in front when the race went, like you were literally in front of everyone. How did it go?

FL: Yes, it was a mistake. They just started to go real hard [Neilson] Powless and all those other great guys decided they didn’t want a bunch of guys with them. I stayed with them for a few climbs until I tried to get to a more reasonable pace.

I did that until it was a bit selective, but once the bands split up like that it’s probably mostly decided at this point, right? Mechanics aside, at some point, tactics don’t matter if they’re this harsh at the start. Along the way, you often have tactics that are critical in the end. I think in these you make the selection at the start and then ride as hard as you can.

Landis raced in an Allied Able, on loan from the Bentonville-based brand.
(Photo: Betsy Welch)

VN: So you’re going to hang out at BWR for a bit this weekend?

FL: That’s what I’m saying, but I’m probably going to get turned on and go way too hard. You can’t help it, you’re with them and you just go with these guys.

Wait, that was good, come to think of it, I should say my strategy is to sit down, so when I’m let go I can tell it was intentional.

VN: Have you had the chance to ride with women?

FL: Wow, some women were really strong. When I sat outside the front group, there were maybe about 15 people left. I think there was still a woman at that time. And I think the first woman finished 12th overall, it’s really quite extraordinary.

This is so cool; it never existed in cycling where everyone starts together and you can actually see where the people are. I would never have known where a woman was. They must continue to make mass starts. This is what the sport needed. People like it. They can compare themselves directly to whoever they want.

The whole scene is really good. It’s good because these are all people who are cyclists and they came to be a part of the event and so they are just excited. It’s good energy and everyone is happy to be there. There was a need for a mass start program that everyone could be a part of and feel like a part of. The problem with professional races is that they are so exclusive. Cycling has no spectators who are not cyclists; everyone wants to do it.

VN: How were the Allies able? Which bike will you be on this weekend?

FL: These guys [at Allied] were kind enough to let me use the bike again this weekend. This way I can feel like a pro: I have a nice bike, and they will bring it to me to race. I’m going to reverse engineer so that I can be a pro again.

VN: Does that kindle a little flame that had fallen asleep?

FL: It does. And then I have to come home and sit down and think and it’s like, ‘OK, Floyd. I know how it goes: you ride a bike and nothing is done. I didn’t know if I would be completely indifferent. When I ride alone, I never ride so hard. Running is such a different feeling, and I hadn’t felt that in 15 years and I immediately thought to myself: “It hurts, I better be better prepared next time”. So I have to delete that. I just want to enjoy my bike. As fun as it would be to win a race again…

Yeah, that feeling came back and I wasn’t sure if it would. I have to keep it in a box.

Maybe next year I’ll be in better shape. Maybe that will motivate me to keep training all winter. See, I even call it training now.



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