Book Review: Floyd Landis' Positively False

I stopped at my local book store last night to grab a cup of coffee and to browse the magazines. I was ambushed by a copy of Positively False: The Real Story of How I Won the Tour de France by Floyd Landis, and Loren Mooney. I had vowed to myself avoid this book, since I was so disgusted by the LeMond testimony debacle, but was intrigued by the opening chapters, which detail Floyd's early career, so I forked over the $24.95 and went home to polish it off.

If you wait a couple of months, you should be able to get Floyd's Positively False for about $4.99 in the bargain stacks; this book is self serving ephemera, and is not destined to be a cycling classic.

The first half the book is good reading. The story of Floyd's early life in Farmersville, PA and his years on Postal are fascinating, and told in an engaging, conversational style.

He relates a funny story of his Mountain Biking career and the unreliable support he got:

To keep warm, I took down a PowerBar banner and put it underneath me, and rolled myself up in another banner. I tried not to shiver, but the cold kept me from really sleeping. That, and fear. It was so dark, and the woods were thick--I had no idea what else was out there. I had images of a wild animal coming to attack me.

I must have eventually dozed a little, because I woke up to, "Dude, what are you doing?" It was one the Nuts guys, who showed up at 6 AM to finish setting up the expo area and found me rolled up like a burrito.

"What am I doing?" I asked. "You guys were supposed to come and get me." Then he remembered and said, "Oh, man," a lot, and offered to let me take a nap in the back of the truck until the race. I slept for two hours, and then got third in the race.

He provides some juicy details about the friction with Lance Armstrong on Postal. The team was organized for Lance. Period. Support riders were expected to stay quiet, and pay proper respect to King Lance.

The thing about Lance was that his domineering attitude wasn't just directed at the competition; it was embedded deep in his personality, even when he was off the bike. When Lance felt in control he was happy, and when he didn't it drove him crazy. Everyone on the team followed his lead, because things were just easier that way.

One of the more interesting nuggets of information in the book was the equipment that domestiques got on the Postal squad was often old, hand-me-down equipment. Floyd's request to get a training TT bike was rejected. I pretty much assumed that the pro riders got whatever they wanted.

The second half of the book is about Floyd's doping defense. If you've followed the saga here at the PdC, or from other online news sources, you already know the whole blah, blah. The conclusion that Floyd wants you to draw is that he made many dumb statements and mistakes while attempting to defend himself, but the science doesn't support a guilty verdict. The arguments and evidence presented by Arnie Baker and other experts shows that the French lab really did a sloppy, dubious job. True to dumb statement form, Floyd managed to slap an afterward on the book to deal with the flack from the LeMond debacle.

The meta-story of the doping part of the book is that there's a clash of cultures and expectations between Floyd and others with his attitude, and the established, antique continental cycling institutions. That could be the subject of another, more focused book.

Floyd's book is a mix, a quick, interesting read grafted to a dull and self-serving screed.