A troubling secret about Floyd Landis' health is coming out just the day after he climbed into 2nd place overall in the 2006 Tour de France.
The highest placed American cyclist in the Tour, and a favorite to win the race, suffers from a degenerative bone disease that gives him chronic pain and will require hip replacement surgery a few weeks after the Tour. He adopted his unusual time trial position on the bike to reduce the pain.
The story by Phil Coyle in some editions of the New York Times, and picked up by Bicycling's James Startt, says Landis suffers from avascular necrosis or osteonecrosis. The condition was triggered by a training accident in 2003. The hip is withering and breaking down as the blood vessels that feed it close. The ball of the hip has collapsed.
Landis told Bicycling:
“It's slowly been getting worse. When I walk it hurts. When I ride it hurts. At the end of the day it hurts. Most of the time it doesn't keep me awake at night, but there are nights when it does.”
Surgery in 2004 didn't help, in fact is hurt his 2005 season. This year has been better for the 30-year-old Pennsylvania native who now makes his home in Southern California. He's won Tour of California, Tour de Georgia and Paris-Nice.
Doctors credit Landis' work ethic and high tolerance for pain. “This is the hip of a guy who, if he were just a weekend warrior, would have problems with everyday living,” said one of Landis' doctors.
Landis has been able to keep his condition secret to most everyone, except for a few doctors and trainers. In fact, his unusual time-trial position is designed to make cycling easier on his hip. He disclosed his disease to Coyle in mid-May.
Why is it that America's best cyclists have to overcome such huge obstacles? Greg LeMond won his 2nd and 3rd Tours de France after recovering from a shotgun blast during a hunting accident, and we all know that Lance Armstrong won all 7 of his Tours after beating cancer.