Back in the Saddle

Floyd Landis discovered the benefits of CBD while his pro cycling career was falling apart. Now, the once-disgraced racer is in the midst of a well-deserved revival, spreading the gospel of cannabidiol, sponsoring young racers and righting wrongs.

“I didn’t have any idea about what else to do and didn’t know what the hell to do with my life,” the 43-year-old Landis says, chuckling. “I had never done anything else and didn’t have a college education.”

Briefly the 2006 Tour de France champion, Landis was notoriously stripped of the title after it was discovered his urine sample tested positive for an unusually high ratio of the hormone testosterone to the hormone epitestosterone (T/E ratio) in stage 17 of the Tour.

Although he initially maintained his innocence, he was banned from pro cycling for two years. That began a whirlwind that included an unsuccessful appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, hip replacement surgery, an unceremonious return to riding in 2010-2011, losing a good friend to suicide, admitting his own performance-enhancing drug use and famously making doping allegations about other riders and filing a whistleblower lawsuit against Armstrong that was eventually backed by the U.S. Department of Justice.

In 2012, Landis was charged with committing wire and mail fraud while he was raising his legal defense fund in 2007. Although the fraud charges were dropped, he was ordered to pay $487,000 in restitution. The whistleblower suit was eventually settled last April when Armstrong agreed to pay the government $5 million.

That settlement netted Landis about $1 million, but he says it was never about the money. He was hoping his involvement in the suit would lead to the sport being cleaned up, but it doesn’t appear to be the case.

“Lawsuits are never good and it was generally negative for both sides and it went on way too long,” Landis says. “To me the sad part is that it didn’t really have an effect on anything. For a short period, I thought the best path was to pretend it never happened. Then I thought, OK, fine, if they’re going to take the ability for me to race my bike away, then maybe they’re serious and they’ll go fix the problem. But nothing has changed. It’s as least as bad as it was when the Postal Service was winning races.”

It was in the midst of his life turbulence that Landis learned the benefits of cannabidiol first hand. As a resident of Colorado, he says he discovered the benefits of hemp-derived CBD oil as a means to manage pain and take control of his life again. While his cycling career was crashing and burning, he was relying heavily on opioid pills to mitigate chronic pain and cope with the chronic depression. He emerged pain-free, happy and ambitious.

Back in Business

In mid-April, Landis could be found manning a Floyd’s of Leadville booth at the Boston Marathon expo inside the the Hub’s Hynes Convention Center. Dozens of runners registered in the marathon approached the booth, heard Landis talk about the benefits of CBD and purchased 35mg CBD gummies or Transdermal Sports Cream that supplies 12mg of CBD per pump. Few seemed to know Landis was a former cycling great or that he sponsored a pro bike racing team, but they appreciated his genuine conversation and information.

Quite frankly, business is booming.

Landis’s positive CBD experience led him to starting Floyd’s of Leadville, a company he founded in 2016, initially with the intent to sell recreational marijuana. But the business quickly transformed into selling non-psychoactive CBD products to athletes and health-conscious adults as the bigger part of the business.

With the passage of the 2018 Federal Farm Bill legalizing hemp, American farmers are quickly turning to hemp to as a more profitable crop than corn or dairy. As numerous states have legalized products made from CBD oil, the industry has skyrocketed. Pegged as a $600 million industry in 2018, some analysts believe it will grow as big as $10-$20 billion by 2022.

“The CBD business is really good,” Landis says. “It’s growing pretty fast, but there’s a lot to learn, too. All the press CBD has been getting is good for the most part—but there’s is a lot of confusing information out there.”

Although Floyd’s of Leadville and other CBD brands are prohibited by the Food and Drug Administration from making specific health claims, studies have shown that CBD can treat chronic pain, lessen anxiety and depression, reduce inflammation and even help speed recovery.

Floyd’s of Leadville consists of two distinct business: four dispensaries, which sell Floyd’s-branded recreational marijuana and products from other brands, and the division that sells soft gets, tinctures, gummies, creams and powdered drink mixes containing Isolate CBD but not the psychoactive THC found in pot. (Floyd’s also sells Full-Spectrum CBD products that contain trace amounts of THC to maximize the benefits of CBD.)

The CBD products are also sold at bike shops, running stores and some other marijuana dispensaries in Colorado and are distributed nationally at shops and shipped to all 50 states via U.S. mail.

Righting the Wrongs

Last fall, Landis agreed to become the title sponsor of the team formerly known as Silber Pro Cycling, a Canadian developmental team directed by respected former pro Gord Fraser, a former teammate on the Mercury Cycling squad in the late 1990s. It wasn’t an attempt by Landis to get back into the cycling game, more a way to put a lot of the money he received from the Armstrong suit to a good use without profiting from it. Plus, the team’s management company is licensed in Canada, meaning he could avoid reviving his ugly history with USA Cycling.

Landis says he doesn’t care what people think of him getting back into bike racing, even if there have been some disgruntled social media posts about backing a team with a company that also sells marijuana.

“Honestly, I’ve gotten a lot more positive comments than negative,” Travis McCabe, a 29-year-old Floyd’s rider from Tucson, Arizona, told ESPN. “If people are trying to right their wrongs, and they still care about cycling, this is their way of contributing back to us. And I’m grateful for it.”

So far, Floyd’s Pro Cycling—a team of 12 riders with varying levels of experience—has been tearing it up. The team opened its season with an overall win at the Tucson Bicycle Classic, followed by a win at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, where Noah Granigan took a stage and Alec Cowan finished fifth overall with two podiums.

At the Tour de Taiwan, Floyd’s rider Johnny Clarke won Stage 2 and took the overall lead. He lost the yellow jersey on Stage 3 but took it back with a decisive hilltop finish on Stage 4. Stage 5 saw the team successfully defend the jersey securing Clarke’s victory in the 2019 Tour de Taiwan.

“It’s great to see their results, but it’s not stressful at all for me because I don’t have any management role,” says Landis, who rides recreationally when he has time. “I just gave them the funding and said ‘Go try to making something positive for these guys.’ Cycling is in a rough spot at the moment. There aren’t as many big races that there used to be, which is too bad, but there are just enough races for these guys to learn how to be pro riders.”

Floyd’s of Leadville also sponsors about 60 events organized by Lifetime Fitness including the entire Leadville series, the Chequamegon MTB Festival in Minnesota and numerous other running races, mountain bike events and triathlons around the country.

The Best Thing

In June, Landis will open a combination bike, coffee and hemp product shop near his boyhood home in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Floyd’s of Lancaster Café will serve coffee and small plates as well as the full range of Floyd’s of Leadville CBD products. It will alos sell Van Dessel bikes, including the new Panasonic-powered eBike model.

Landis says he’d like to open another Colorado marijuana dispensary, perhaps with a bike theme like his three pot shops in Portland. But the Front Range market is competitive and oversaturated, so he might consider a location in a mountain town where product margins are better.

In hindsight, Landis says his rocky ride out of cycling has been a huge positive.

“Getting kicked out of cycling at a young enough age to start another career was probably the best thing that ever could have happened to me,” Landis says. “It didn’t feel that way at the time, and felt unfair and objectively speaking, it still is unfair. At the end of the day, though, I’m better off for it.”

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