Monday, July 24, 2006

An Amazing, Out-Landis Tale

I'm officially looking forward to reading the Floyd Landis book detailing his inner drive to win the Tour De France as much as I was looking forward to reading about Lance Armstrong after he won 1st won the Tour in 1999.

I find myself intrigued and curious about the Landis story. Landis was raised a Mennonite tradition that deemphasizes personal acheivment and glory and told by his father that his cycling would not amount to anything. Inside he found the drive and courage to sneak away in the middle of the night to practice and then to move from Lancaster County, PA to San Diego to pursue his dream. As if that weren't enough, Landis battled through an arthritic hip condition that will require surgery now that the tour is over and needed to overcome an 8 minute deficit in the final 3 days of the race in order to win.

Where Armstrong's moment of truth was pretty easy to identify, his battle with testicular cancer, Landis' is enigmatic. To win the Tour requires a love of the bicycle, an obsessive discipline to practice the mundane and technical details, a team of support on the road and off it, and a self-absorbed, deep seated competitive desire to believe in the possibility and commit to the task.

It is this last detail that intrigues me given his upbringing. This deep seated belief that he could have such success in an individual sport, to compete in pursuit of individual glory and to acheive it by winning, seems most inconsistent with his Menonite origins. Ironically, it could also be the source of the great discipline and hard work required to be successful.

The reaction of his parents and home town certainly revealed the complexity at the intersection of his triumph and his heritage. In the AP story by Michael Rubinkam we see that his mother Arlene had to go to a neighbor's house to see her son race on television each morning. Yesterday, at her son's moment of triumph, she was in church at her normal Sunday services, where his name was not even mentioned, and parishoners had words of encouragement like this, "We are disappointed with the lifestyle he lives, but I love him as a friendand care about him." Frankly, it sounds like my family and friends were more supportive of my adventure in the Harrisburg Marathon last fall.

I hope that Floyd Landis is able to take the full measure of joy and fulfilment from his win yesterday, and like I said I can't wait to read the book.

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