Riding Dirty, Coming Clean: All You Haters Hear My Confession

It's difficult being a cycling fan. Even in our finest hour--a three-man breakaway powering into Santa Cruz during the Tour of California, for example--we find our sport being pre-empted for hockey (otherwise known as "Canadian golf"). Then, just as the dinghy that is cyclesport seems to right itself, it is buffeted yet again ("buffet" is a verb meaning "to be serenaded by Jimmy Buffet") by the waves of scandal. I am, of course, referring to the woman who borrowed her friend's registration packet in order to race the Leadville 100:

I was alerted to this scandal by "BikeLemming," and clearly they don't cotton to that sort of thing out there in Collerady because the person who raced with the ill-gotten number, Wendy Lyall, is now being charged with a felony. Of course, Lyall's biggest mistake was breaking the first rule of borrowing someone else's race number, which is: "Don't Place." Instead, she did place--2nd in the 40-49 age group--which was particularly problematic since she was only 36. Now, not only has she been forced to return her substantial second-place prize (a "belt buckle, pendant and necklace"), but she may now have to endure the punishment for a Class 6 felony--which, in Leadville, CO, involves being tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.

Also, enigmatic Mennonite-turned-bike racer Floyd Landis has penned an "epic" confessional epistle in which he outlines years of systematic doping and claims that he was pressed into service as the US Postal Service team's blood monkey:
[Insert your "cold-blooded" or "sang-froid"-themed pun of choice here.]

In addition to Armstrong and Hincapie, in this letter Landis also implicates (among others) Dave Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer, Michael Barry, Matthew White, Dr. Allen Lim, and even someone named "Pepe."

As cycledom waits with bated breath (not to be confused with "baited breath," which is breath that smells like bait fish) for reactions to Landis's claims (UCI president Pat McQuaid and BMC team owner Andy Rihs already deny the stuff about them), it's worth taking a look back at the past four years and the surreally undulating brevet that has been the life of Floyd Landis.

[cue emotional Floyd Landis retrospective theme music]

[cut emotional Floyd Landis retrospective theme music]

It all started in 2006, when the fixed-gear fad had only just entered its "tarck" phase and fixed-gear freestyle was but a glint on the Aerospokes of the "fixerati." A promising former US Postal domestique named Floyd Landis was leading the Phonak team in the Tour de France, which he won after an "epic" solo breakaway on stage 17 to Morzine. Americans everywhere rejoiced. Mountain bikers and roadies joined hands. Mennonites and Amish people hugged and operated zippers together. Dogs humped cats. But then, tragedy--Floyd Landis tested positive for putting a testosterone patch on his "bean bag:"

Maintaining his innocence, Landis began a grassroots movement to clear his name. Not only did he write a book called "Positively False," but he also started the "Floyd Fairness Fund" in order to cover his legal expenses:

ITTET, it's hard to imagine that anybody would give a professional athlete money to help pay for lawyers, regardless of how innocent or guilty he might be. However, people were simpler and more prosperous back then, and give they did--to the smell of (I hate the expression "to the tune of") over half a million dollars. One shop owner in Dallas even gave Landis $25,000:

Jim Hoyt, the 59-year-old owner of Richardson Bike Mart in Dallas, matched $25,000 of his customers' contributions and says he "still feels good about it." He also thinks Landis shouldn't be blamed for his manager's actions. "I have 150 people who work for me and from time to time, they do things I don't know about," he says. "It happens."

In most bike shops, where the margins are thin and owners are forced to compete with mail order retailers, you'd be lucky to buy a bicycle and walk out with a free water bottle. Therefore, Jim Hoyt of the Richardson Bike Mart is either very charitable or, more likely, completely insane.

Meanwhile, Landis made wise use of these funds by orchestrating bizarre psychosexual phone calls to Greg LeMond:

He also may or may not have been hacking into the computers of the laboratory that produced his positive test result:

Shockingly, however, none of these shrewd tactics helped Landis, and he would up losing his appeal. This cost him a two-year suspension, from which he returned last year. He's since produced less-than-stellar results. Before "WeenieGate," Greg LeMond claimed he told Landis that he could "single handedly salvage the sport" by confessing, though he says Landis was disinclined to do so:

Now, however, bereft of results, public goodwill, and, very probably, money (he was selling his Phonak team bikes on Craigslist awhile back), he seems have changed his mind.

Unfortunately, at a certain point it becomes difficult or impossible to "come clean," and Landis may have reached this point. If his confession is true, then the shocking revelation is not the cheating, but the fact that he convinced his fans to bankroll his defense. This, and not the cheating, is the real betrayal. Indeed, I think the only way for Landis to truly "come clean" would be to return all that money--and this may be easier than it seems. In fact, by confessing, Landis has turned any memorabilia he still owns into a mountain of valuable irony, for today more than ever the truth is that Irony Sells. Just think of all the attention you'd get rolling up to the group ride in a maillot jaune autographed by Floyd Landis:

Also, Landis's book "Positively False" is now positively hilarious--and who wouldn't want to own an autographed copy?

But no piece of Landis paraphernalia will become more coveted than a "vintage" Free Floyd t-shirt, once sold by the proprietor of the "Floyd Landis is the Man" blog:

This piece of pop-cultural kitsch is the very pinnacle of irony, and it radiates irreverence with the power of a thousand 80s metal band t-shirts. Hopefully Landis, the Bernie Madoff of cycling, will be forced to sell his personal inventory in order to compensate the victims.

Meanwhile, while some people think cheating is ruining cycling, a reader informs me that somebody in Maryland is seeking to do so in a far more direct manner by scattering tacks all over race courses:

There's even video of the subsequent crash:

Police are still seeking the culprit, though witnesses say he looks a bit like Rowan Atkinson:

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