Even as the bouquets of praise are piling up for Floyd Landis, in recognition of his improbable, theatrical Tour de France victory that concluded Sunday, the real flowers offering sympathy and get-well wishes aren't far away.
Landis said yesterday that he hopes to have hip replacement surgery "in the next month" and admitted he is optimistic but uncertain about his cycling career after the operation.
During an afternoon conference call from Paris, Landis - suddenly a sports celebrity at age 30 - acknowledged he is "a little bit" nervous about the procedure to fix his right hip bone, which has been withering from a lack of blood flow since a 2003 crash.
Though his Tour performance gave the impression his hip was no more trouble than a stone in his shoe, Landis said it has "gotten to the point where it is hurting more than I want to deal with" and he intends to have surgery as soon as his San Diego-based orthopedist, Dr. David Chao, "finishes the research on who the best surgeon will be and what the best solution will be."
"It's really sad," Landis said, "if it [his cycling career] is over now. This is what I've been doing a long time. But I can say that, having won the Tour, I'm a little more calm about it, for some reason. As long as there aren't any complications in surgery, I think by next spring I'll be back racing, though probably not at this fitness level."
Because of his hip's deterioration, which he didn't make public until halfway through the Tour, Landis attempted - and won - three major events in California, Paris and Georgia earlier this year, "kind of racing every race like it's the last one," he said.
He agreed that the emotional whiplash during the 2,270-mile, 23-day Tour de France was "extreme." His plunge from first place to 11th last Wednesday left him "down, really down, just depressed." And his immediate rebound Thursday, in what cycling veterans have been calling the most impressive stage victory in history, "was a Hail Mary pass, that's all; I just wanted them to know I was still there and still fighting. I didn't have any misconceptions about being able to make up eight minutes. I just didn't have any choice but to attack."
John Jeansonne writes for Newsday.