08/07/2006 at 01:00 AM EDT
Floyd Landis's parents did not watch him win the Tour de France on July 23 because they were at church back home in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. Also, they don't own a TV. Besides, says his mom, Arlene, "We had a feeling he was going to win."
His victory in the grueling 2,267-mile, three-week race followed a once-rocky relationship with his parents, who raised their six children as Mennonites, a Christian sect that believes in plain living. Among their concerns: Those racing shorts. "Cycling clothing isn't modest, and my parents' way of thinking is it wasn't proper," says Landis, 30. "Growing up, I wasn't allowed to wear shorts."
As a boy, Landis cherished his mountain bike, but his father, Paul, a laborer, thought cycling was a frivolous sport. He gave his son chores to keep him busy, so Landis just rode at night. When he was 20, he left for California. His parents "were hurt," he says. "It was painful."
As Landis got better (he teamed with Lance Armstrong for three years), Paul and Arlene slowly came around. "When he started, I just didn't see how a husband could provide for his family" by bicycling, says Arlene, who watched parts of the Tour de France on a neighbor's TV. "I guess I see now that people can provide that way."
Landis, who lives in Murrieta, Calif., with wife Amber and daughter Ryan, 9, wants to return to Lancaster, where his parents and five siblings still live. But it will only be a visit. The Mennonite lifestyle he traded for cycling "is a good way to live, but it's slow," he says, "and that makes me crazy."