Floyd's parents reflect on their now famous son

Landis supporters at the 2006 Tour de Georgia.  Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
When Paul Landis stopped for gas last week at an Ephrata convenience store, he went inside and saw a photo of his son on the front page of the newspaper.

"That's our boy," he commented to the woman ahead of him in line.

"IT SURE IS," she responded enthusiastically.

She then told Landis that she had a room in her Pottstown home full of Floyd Landis photos and memorabilia. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Friends and family of Floyd Landis from Pennsylvania including, (L-R) Tammy Martin, neighbor, Arlene Landis, mother, Jerry and Darlene Umble, friends, cheer him on as he takes the podium to take the leader's jersey after he won the individual time trial during Stage Three of the 2006 Tour de Georgia on April 20, 2006 from Chickamauga, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Paul Landis was a little taken aback. He and his wife, Arlene, have come to expect that their oldest son would be well-known among bicycling enthusiasts. He is riding in his fifth Tour de France.

But as he competes in the sport's premier race, the Landises are surprised by the level of interest from people who don't ride bikes.

Floyd's younger sister, Priscilla, recalled two different groups of bicyclists stopping outside the family's North Farmersville Road house, looking for the number 49 on the mailbox.

Paul said one man arrived at their door the other day saying he has gotten e-mails from European Mennonites interested in tracing back Floyd's family tree for connections.

The Landises have found themselves quoted or referenced in more than a half dozen national magazines and major newspapers in recent weeks as Floyd, 30, has continued to progress in the three-week race that ends Sunday in Paris.

Most of those articles reference a strict religious upbringing and quote Floyd saying he turned to bicycling as a means of fleeing the crossroads village of Farmersville in eastern Lancaster County.

Arlene won't say the articles mischaracterize Floyd's childhood - despite an Outdoor Life Network commentator last week saying that he was raised Amish - but she does say "there are some misunderstandings about the church." Doug Pensinger/Getty Images Landis poses for a photo with his sisters, Priscilla Landis (L) and Abigail Landis, both of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after winning the individual time trial for Stage Three of the AMGEN Tour of California on February 22, 2006 in San Jose, California.

The Landises, members of Martindale Mennonite Church, do attempt to live a modest life - but they are not Amish. Like the other baptized women in her church, Arlene wears a prayer covering and simple dress.

They do not have a television, but do watch their son on the cable station at the home of their neighbors and friends.

While watching Tuesday night, Paul wore the Tour de France T-shirt he got while visiting Floyd in France during the race two years ago.

Bicycles, while used as the primary transportation by many of their more plain Mennonite neighbors, were always around the Landis home for recreation. Paul and Arlene would take Floyd and his four sisters and brother on bike rides, with the younger children in seats behind their parents and the older children riding alongside them.

One of the statements that has been repeated in the news is a quote from Floyd saying his father told him he was bound for hell if he didn't give up his dream of professional cycling and turn to more modest and realistic pursuits.

Paul, a truck driver, doesn't remember it that way.

"I might have said: You're living a sinful life,' " the father recalled.

That period - when Floyd left to pursue a career as a professional mountain bike racer in California after graduation from Conestoga Valley High School in 1994 - was a long time ago in Landis family history.

"I doubt if there is a parent that hasn't made a bad decision when dealing with teens," Paul says now.

The parents are close now with their famous son. They have visited California and embraced his wife and her daughter.

In fact, sister Priscilla is now dating Manny Caliz, an amateur bicycle racer from Hinkletown.

Arlene says of Floyd, "He chose a different lifestyle, but you can't reject your child."

In fact, they hope Floyd's Lancaster County Mennonite upbringing will shine through during the race. Known for his hard work, determination and perseverance in the international world of bicycling, his parents hope Floyd can been seen as an example.

"He has a much bigger audience than we could ever have," said Arlene. "We just hope that he is a man of integrity."

Discuss This Article