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Jan

01/11/00

Introduction

"Well, the start of the 1999 season is upon us. This year keep on an eye on this team, this rider and yada, yada, yada, yada." A year later and here it is again, the start of another season. "This season should be an incredible battle at the Tour and blah, blah, blah, blah."

I'm tired of reading the same old stuff year after year. The times change and so should what you're reading. After a couple years of writing only once a month for VeloNews magazine, I now will be writing once a week for bike.com. Every Tuesday morning you will be able to read about what races I did, what's on my mind, and what's happening inside the European peloton.

You might think this is a lot more work for me, but it actually is better for me and much better for you. When I wrote once a month I had to keep little notes of what was happening during the month and then rack my brain trying to remember everything. The worst part is that I always had to leave out a lot of things due to space and the length of the article. Heck, a few times when I read the printed article it was missing a couple paragraphs.

Not any more--with the Internet, there are no boundaries! I can write as much as I like because there is no end to the page. When the classics roll around I don't have to limit myself to just telling you what happened at Paris-Roubaix. I can talk about all the races we did leading up to the classics, like the stacked week of the Three Days De Panne, the Tour of Flanders, Ghent Wevelgem, and Roubaix. In the end, bike.com will have the information you want and I won't have to think for hours trying to remember all the details that make European racing interesting.

The other reason I took this opportunity was because of the positive response to my writing. It seemed everyone appreciated the effort I took in giving you daily updates from the Tour de France. Those same daily updates will now be on bike.com and by letting me know what you like and dislike I can write articles that are more entertaining and interesting to everyone.

So, if I start to "yada, yada, yada," and "blah, blah, blah," remember it's only my start-of-the-season article--it will get better after that.

Y2K, YPrattville? January 11th, 2000

I guess the millenium fears are finally behind us. My bike computer still works, my computer still runs and the wheels on my bike still turn. I wasn't positive this was what was going to happen, but I was pretty sure. In the days leading up to the New Year I saw a lot of freaks loading up on water, batteries, food, flashlights, and generators. Looking back I can call them weird but if all chaos would have broken loose I would have been the first one banging on their door saying, "Let me in."

I started thinking about this when I was training down in South Carolina at the home of my teammate George Hincapie. He told me he was all ready if something should happen on Y2K. He had seven cases of Amstel Light in his garage (already chilled I might add) and about 10 boxes of ClifBars. Since I was down there for about a week I admit to depleting his sources of Endurance, ClifBars and especially the Amstel. I'm sure he would have still survived even though he might have been a little buzzed for awhile.

I started to think about what I would have done if I had to get into survival mode and I figured out that without even trying I would have made it. I have plenty of old water bottles lying around. Put a few of those under the tap and voila, I have a water storage system. For food I even figured out I have a choice: solids or powder. I figured that if I ate all my leftover PowerBars or energy bars from the year it could get me through a week. That would satisfy my hunger. For the long haul I could use up my Cytomax or SmartFuel energy drinks. These things are walking meals--they have mega calories. I could even have a snack once in awhile with a GU or Power Gel.

For lights I could use the night riding system that I have. I would probably go blind the moment I looked into a mirror. Finally for heat I could just hop onto the turbo trainer and sweat to my heart's desire. Or even better, I could probably build a small fire using one of my chain degreasers or chain lubes. I'm sure something I have down in my basement is flammable.

Since the whole Y2K thing turned out to be a flop I held to my plans to travel to Prattville, Alabama, for my personal training camp at the start of January. My brother-in-law, George Kramar, and his family live down there. All in all, the month of December went well. I had a mini-training camp in Austin with all the new guys on the team and then I flew to George Hincapie's in South Carolina. After a solid week of five-hour rides I flew home to Detroit where I only froze the week before Christmas. After that it turned into a mild winter again.

The last three years I've made the trip to Prattville in order to ride the roads. The weather is good, the roads are good and for the one week that I'm there I almost never have to repeat a route. My second day at my camp I put in a 120-mile (200-kilometer) ride. I'm not that hardcore in January; the fact is that I got lost and barely made it home because I was so dead. It took me two days to recover. The rest of the week was a more manageable four to five hours.

I went through many small towns, some smaller than others. The smallest was one that had city limits signs on either side of a large ranch house. The signs read "Clydesville--Pop. 2." This reminded me of a town I came across while riding the Joe Sullivan birthday ride in South Carolina. We came across a small store in the middle of nowhere. The sign read, "Welcome to Sugar Titt." I'm sure they have a great meat section. From Prattville I fly home to Detroit for one night. Besides paying the bills for the month and packing for California I'm trying to make a run to the Detroit Auto Show. I have priorities.

Next week I'll give you an update about camp and show you some interesting totals from my 1997, 1998, and 1999 training logs.


01/18/00

Training camp isn't over yet but I'll tell you the hardest part was just getting here. I'm sure it didn't help leaving from the East Coast but it sure in hell didn't help if you came from Europe. I mean there is no easy way to get to San Luis Obispo, California, without changing planes three or four times.

I could have flown to Europe in the time it took for me to arrive at the hotel, but what a hotel it is. The hotel is owned by one of our co-sponsors, Sunterra Resorts. Compared to our last two camps, we went from camping in the wilderness to staying at the Trump Plaza. Each rider gets his own room--which is unheard of during the season--and a view of the ocean. Normally during the season, if I'm lucky and have a window, the view is of the brick building next door. I liked the rooms so much that I didn't ride that first afternoon when I arrived at camp.

Actually I was dead tired from the travelling. I spent part of that first afternoon tinkering with my new bike so it wouldn't be an all day affair the next day. I was wrong, it still turned into an ordeal. One downside at the hotel was that we had to eat in a tent that was set up in the parking lot because the resort did not have a restaurant for all of us. The atmosphere may not have been the best by eating off picnic tables but what matters the most is the food. It was great. All the riders arrived on the 13th except one. Can you guess who? It was Russian Viatcheslav Ekimov. He still refuses to fly on the 13th so he came in a day early.

The bikes are the same colors of blue, red and white. One of the neatest things are the new Vetta cycle computers. They have stars-and-stripes on them with the U.S. Postal Service insignia. Vetta also made us a heart-rate monitor in a bright blue that matches the cycle computer. I think they look great.

We also received our Nike casual clothing and cycling clothing. Nike really did us up right with the casual clothing they gave to the team. The cycling jerseys for 2000 are completely different from last year. Last year the jersey we used had a base of blue, this year the base is white. It gives the jersey a much brighter and vivid look, the jersey jumps out at you. I think most of you will like the new design. Some of the other standard freebies we received were a finish line bag, a travel bag and a Samsonite suitcase.

The roads have been mediocre so far. We are still trying to learn the good roads and we haven't really ventured out on a long ride yet. Lance Armstrong keeps talking about doing Figurea Mountain again. That was the climb we did on our first day of camp last year that destroyed everyone. As some riders put it, that day was the hardest they went all year long. I'm not that worried about it only because to ride down to Figurea and back would probably be a 250-kilometer day. I know our team director Johan Bruyneel is smarter than that.

As I look out my window right now it's raining. The bad part is that it's not supposed to go away for the next four days. I know we are heading out today but I'm sure our motivation will decline after a couple water logged days. I'll let you know next week how everything turned out at camp. I'll also give you a little background and detail on all the riders on the 2000 U.S. Postal Service cycling team.

Training Logs

The coaches always like to see what you've done over the winter. They send us a training schedule and they want to see who has been doing what. This is so they can figure out who might be a little ahead or a little behind in their fitness. I've kept a training diary since I was about 10 years old. I've always been told how important it is to keep a diary. It's been ingrained in me that if I don't keep a diary then I'm not a serious cyclist.

I have a stack of training logs dating back to about 1977. I'm not even sure where they are--probably in a box in the attic. I started off by filling up calendars with my training notes. I then moved up to using the little "Pocket Pal" organizers for keeping track of my daily mileage. Now that we are in the computer era, I of course, have everything stored on disks. To this day I still ask myself why. I still freak if I can't remember a training or race day that was supposed to fill a certain date slot. I feel guilty if all the days in my log are not accounted for.

My training diaries range from intricate to very simple. When I was young I just wrote the kilometers (actually miles because I didn't know what kilometers were at the time). As I got more involved in the sport and had more outside influences everyone had ideas about what should be kept in the all-mighty diary.

By the time I was a junior cyclist I can remember writing down everything I had eaten at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I kept track of the mileage, hours, weather, resting heart rate, standing heart rate, what vitamins I took, how I felt for the day, and how I felt on the bike. We had number values to grade our energy level. You name it and it made it into the diary.

A lot of this started from hanging out at the U.S. Olympic Training Center camps in Colorado Springs. Colorado, for what seemed an eternity. Every coach had his own ideas about what was important to keep track of. I guess I incorporated it all; I probably figured it couldn't hurt but only help. That lasted about one year until I went back to the basic routine again. To this day I still stick with the basics.

When computers first came out I had a friend who worked for Apple who developed a simple Excel training log for me to use. Nothing fancy, it just added up the miles and hours and had a box for comments. It worked great and after a couple of years I started noticing that companies were making training diaries for the computer. Being the diary junkie I am, I was lured in. I tried a bunch of different types. I remember one that had pull down menus for everything from your fatigue level to the weather. They had little pictures of smiley faces and frowns to little pictures of the sun and clouds. It was data overload. Even with all the fancy graphics that computers can make I still prefer to stick with a simple plan.

Big Question: WHY?

The benefits of keeping a diary are still a mystery to me. I almost never go back to see what I did last year or even two years ago. If anything, I decided I keep a diary for posterity rather than as a training aide.

The last few years I've used a training log called "The Athlete's Diary." It's great because it's simple and you can put in as much weird information as you like or as little information as you like. The point of all this is that for the first time in a long time I decided to go back and check out my diaries. I figured since I'm going into the year 2000 I shouldn't go in blind. I thought it would be best if I knew what I'm setting myself up for when it's time to renew my contract. I pulled up some totals and found it interesting and thought you might also.

TOTAL RIDING PER YEAR
          1999                        1998                            1997
KM        35,138 (21,785mi)           34,081 (21,130mi)               31,071 (19,264mi) 
HRS       1,078                       1,054                           961
DAYS      290                         297                             269


RACES
          1999                        1998                            1999
KM        16,923 (10,492mi)           14,694 (9,110mi)                16,434 (10,189mi) 
HRS       458                         385                             479
DAYS      96                          85                              98

The next time your wife tells you that playing golf takes up too much time, tell her to be happy you are not a professional cyclist. See ya next Tuesday.


01/25/00

I don't know if it helped but it couldn't have hurt. I wasn't nervous, as I am sometimes heading into training camp in California. I know my winter work was enough to keep up, but the question was would it be enough to do something in the early races.

There was one thing I did that had better have helped because it was hard as hell. During the holidays, when the weather was bad, I went to my health club and jumped into one of those Spin classes. Our class had the Reebok bikes, which were great, because they had clipless pedals on one side of the pedals. When I went the first time I didn't know this and I did the class in my tennis shoes while everyone around me was using their mountain-bike shoes. The next time I changed my shoes, draped my towel over the handlebars like everyone else does, and hunkered down for a good workout. I couldn't believe how hard it was; the instructor was killing me!

I know the best thing about the Spin classes are that they're made for everyone, you can go as hard or as easy as you want. You adjust the friction on the machine depending on how hard you feel like going. I decided I would follow the instructions of the teacher. When she said one click down, I made it harder. It was amazing how much she kept saying, "OK, now just one more click to finish it off." I thought I had the brake on it felt so hard. This was while she was up front chit-chatting with the group. I could barely catch my breath while she was chirping, "…and one, and two, and three, a little longer now."

After three classes of this torture I finally decided to watch the instructor instead of watching my bike. When she was telling us to go seven clicks down to start the mountain I was trying to peer underneath her towel to see if she was actually going seven clicks down. It was hard to see underneath that damn towel, but I saw what she was doing. She would go down three or four then back it up two, then down two, and back it up three. You know what that meant--she was cheating. Maybe not cheating but at least I felt better now.

Either way it was a great sweat and the fastest hour to pass that I've ever done on a turbo. In those terms I can't complain. At least at camp I don't have to peer under any towels to see what gear everyone is using. I'll know straight away why I'm suffering when Lance is going up the mountains in the big ring.

This ain't no summer camp

I think I can officially declare this the worst training camp I've ever done. For a while there I thought it was going to be a tie with Motorola's training camp in Santa Rosa, California, in the mid-90s. The same thing brought the two camps down, the weather. This year we rode in the rain every day except one. To make things worse the roads were not the greatest and because of all the rain the roads just kept getting dirtier and dirtier. I am so sick of doing my laundry, drying out my shoes, and picking the grit out of teeth. As much as it pains me to say, I almost can't wait to get to Europe. I don't know what I'm going to do if it rains during the first race.

Each day we had a few visitors waiting to ride with us. Some were planned and some were not. What was amazing is that they showed up ready to go despite the rain. It wouldn't pain me to say that they seemed more motivated than we did on a few of those rain days. After our 10 days at camp we discovered who would get the half-wheel prize of the year. This year it goes to our new teammate, Steve Vermaut, who couldn't figure out how to keep his handlebars even with ours. It didn't matter whom he was riding with, uphill or downhill; he just plain refused, even after telling him, to ride next to us. Maybe he was just plain stronger than us at camp.

Here comes the sun...

As luck would have it, the lone day of sunshine that fell on our camp came on our longest training day. The team decided to ride to Ojai, California, where our sponsor weekend was taking place. We left our hotel at nine in the morning and 230 kilometers later we made it. When we arrived we had a couple hours to shower and rest before we went to the sponsor party. The sponsor party is the team's thank you toward all the sponsors for being involved. We, the riders, love it. We get to talk and meet with everyone behind the scenes and it's our chance to let loose. The evening was a lot of fun and despite all our tired legs we managed to stick around well into the night.

The next day, Saturday, was the sponsor ride. The team had about 60 people show up for the ride. The sponsors had two choices for a ride. They could do a 45-mile road ride with some hills or go on a 25-mile mountain-bike ride that was relatively flat. The road ride is a challenge and after the first few hills the group stops to wait for some of the stragglers before we finish the second half of the ride.

The last portion of the day is a free-for-all as the speed picks up and the attacks start. If you're able to stay in the first group at the end, then your going for the win at the Ojai sprint sign. The biggest problem for the sponsors is that to get to that sign first they have to get past Mike McCarthy and Ken Carpenter. Even working full time and only riding a few hours a week these guys are still very strong and more importantly, fast. I guess you just never lose the touch.

Extra horsepower

The team made a few changes for the year 2000. We've gained some extra climbing talent and also recruited some extra horsepower. Listed below is the complete team for 2000.

Lance Armstrong: Lance's whole year will focus on the Tour de France. Any early results are a bonus. Jamie Burrow: Neo-pro from England who raced a few years on the largest Italian Amateur team. He is Kate Moss-skinny and is a true climber. Dylan Casey: A real threat in the smaller stage races that have time trials, his specialty. His speed and power in a prologue are second-to-none. Julian Dean: A Kiwi and true sprinter who made huge leaps last year, culminating with a second place on the last day of the Vuelta. Now that he knows the European ropes he will be a real threat at the finishes.

Viatcheslav Ekimov: Nightmare team last year, but great results. His aggressive style is a perfect fit in rallying the team to race hard all the time. He always goes for the win.

David George: A South African who had a rough start last year but knows what to expect this year. A climber with very good time-trialing abilities.

Tyler Hamilton: A huge threat in any race involving climbing or time-trialing. His ability to push himself in the time-trial puts him at the top against all the best.

George Hincapie: A specialist in the one day Classics. Strong enough to make any split almost any time. Because of his speed he has the ability to win from any group large or small.

Marty Jemison: A true all-'rounder. His ability to climb, time trial, and sprint allows him to exploit his challengers' weaknesses.

Benoît Joachim: Second year pro. Showed his strength wearing the leaders' jersey last year in PruTour. A very big talent that is just beginning to dig into his talent pool.

Patrick Jonker: An experienced pro that is a true climber. Has the ability to climb away from the peloton and is very good at fighting for position before critical moments during the races.

Steffen Kjaergaard: Never wears down. Very strong and able to break apart the peloton on smaller climbs. Brings extra horsepower to the team in defending a jersey or setting up the lead out.

Levi Leipheimer: New to the team from Saturn. An exceptional time-trialist. His small stature and huge power output propel him up hills.

Kevin Livingston: Hands down the best climber on the team and when in good form, top-five in the world. Very intelligent in reading a race and knowing when and what to do.

Kirk O'Bee: Neo-pro from Michigan who is the youngest rider on the team. Came from a track background and dominated the amateur races in Europe last year. His stocky frame will give him plenty of fighting power for the sprints.

Christian Vande Velde: A huge talent on the road or track. A big threat in any time-trial, especially the prologue. Has adapted very quickly into racing with the best in the biggest races.

Cédric Vasseur: Very experienced French pro, came from Credit Agricole. Adds more horsepower to the team and his brute strength finds him in the winning breaks. A real fighter to the end.

Stive Vermaut: Young Belgian rider who reinforces the climbing strengths of the team.

Frankie Andreu: I'm the writer.

This gives us a total of 19 riders, a much more manageable number than in past years. This year we will have two programs going the whole time. The early part of the year will have a team in Europe and a team racing in America at Redlands and the Sea Otter Classic. Soon after that, the team splits up into the riders for the Classics and the riders for the Ardennes. The Classics consist of races like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The Ardennes consist of races like Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. After the all-out spring campaign everyone will get a rest before focusing on the Tour in July. Then it's more of a wait and see in figuring out the team's schedule for the remainder of the year

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