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There are some things that you never miss...
...rain, cold, traffic, and no sun. These are exactly the sights I felt and saw as soon as I stepped off the plane and set foot in Belgium. The sad thing was that it didn't come as a surprise, it was kind of expected. On the plane I picked up a copy of Het Volk, the Belgian newspaper, to see who did what that weekend racing in Belgium. The pictures told the whole story, grim and nasty. As much as the weather was not a surprise neither was the winner of Sunday's race, Johan Museeuw. Every year it seems like he wins that race. It's almost as though it's reserved for him.
The morning of the first day was cold, very cold. By the finish of the race the temperature was 4 degrees but I was already changed, warm and driving in the car. My start to De Panne and staying out of trouble pretty much ended as soon as it started. After racing for about fifty kilometers and watching the crashes fall all around me my name came to the top of the list.
I was sitting in the middle of the peloton after going up the paved climb through Gerhardsbergen. Over the top, on the downhill, there was a bit of cross wind and as I was screaming down the right side of the road everything stopped moving. In front of me I saw riders going down but because of the crosswind I was on the wrong side of the wheel and couldn't move left. I was going to crash so I had two choices. Hit the riders in front of me on the road or go for the field. I hit the brakes as hard as I could, that slowed me from sixty to fifty km/hr, and went for the field. I didn't realize that the field was about four feet lower than the road. There were riders already lying in the mud and I came sailing right at them, if I had wings I would have flown. I felt like Evil Kneivel taking off from a jump ramp but the difference was I didn't have a landing ramp. I must have flown ten feet, probably only three feet but it felt far, and landed square on my shoulder.
My initial pain and reaction was broken collarbone, I couldn't move. I lay there for a few minutes but I couldn't get up right away. When I finally focused after the initial pain there was some Belgian doctor yelling at me in Flemish. I assume he was asking if I was ok. If he was any kind of doctor he should have known I wasn't ok just by looking at me. I eventually got back on my bike because that's what you're supposed to do but I knew I wasn't going far. My shoulder was killing me and I could barely move it. I stopped relatively soon after I remounted my bike and went to the hospital to get x-rays. The good news was that I didn't break anything, but I messed up all the muscles in the shoulder area. I was surprised because I couldn't imagine it hurting any worse than what it was. The last few days I've had to become left handed while I iced and massaged my right shoulder hoping it would get better by Sunday's Flanders. Only time will tell.
As for the race, it's been a crash fest. The first day we had George, Eki, and Dylan manage to stay in the first group of fifty guys. George was riding well; he crashed, punctured, and crashed while each time catching back up to the first group. The second day was windy, cold and wet, but the wind is what played havoc on the riders. Again there were crashes everywhere and the peloton split with a group of twenty making it to the line. We had Ekimov there and the peloton finished sixteen minutes back. The Belgian Police were furious. They can't hold up the traffic that long on the main roads. What would normally be a twenty-minute delay for a race turns into over an hour with such a time gap. The organizers wanted to pull the group from the last day because they didn't race the whole way. I'm sure the riders wouldn't have cared. Darn, I can't risk my neck in the wind, rain and cold again.
The last day turned out to be the best day for the team. The morning stage had its usual crashes of guys falling everywhere. The priority of the team was to keep Eki out of the wind and in good position until the afternoon time trial. Going into the time trail Veinsteins, the leader, had a 13 second lead over Ekimov and the rest of the twenty man lead group from the second day. It wasn't enough; Eki won the time trail and won the overall by 3 seconds. This was his second time to win the Drie Daags De Panne. After the race an old local Belgian came up to Eki saying, "thank you, thank you, thank you." Eki was like, I'm happy also but what's the big deal? The old Belgian guy told Eki that he had bet on him before the race and won 300,000 BF($8,000) because of his overall win. I'd say that's a good reason to be happy.
This Sunday is Flanders. When talking about Flanders it's important to remember that just three years ago they dramatically changed the race course. When I first started racing Flanders it was an all out drag out fight for position for the Kwaremont, the first real climb in the race. It was an all or nothing critical point in the race, if you missed being in the front here your race was over. I can remember going flat out trying to keep Steve Bauer or Phil Anderson at the front before the turn for the Kwaremont. For ten kilometers I would do a maximum individual time trial on the front while they stayed as fresh as possible sitting on. They would reach the climb feeling great but when I reached the climb I was so red lined that I could barely make it over the cobbles.
After the Kwaremont comes the Pattersberg, the steepest climb of Flanders, and that would never help my cause of recovering. Nowadays, the modern Flanders, the race is split up into two sections. Instead of having one big fight for position we now have many smaller fights that continue the whole day. If you miss being in the very front the first part of the race it's not the end of the world. After fifty kilometers of hard sections there is a long flat forty-kilometer section where usually the groups manage to come back together. Even in the modern version the Kwaremont is still the end all that starts the second part of the race. It's probably more important than before because now you are more tired from already racing 200km's.
After the Kwaremont we again hit the Pattesberg and from here to the finish it's flat out. There isn't much pacing yourself with only sixty kilometers to the finish. Either course you pick one thing is true; Flanders is one of the hardest World Cup races around. It takes a huge amount of strength to finish and even more so to do well. Oh yeah, always throw in a little luck to help things along.
The Belgians were out in full force on this beautiful sunny race day. Yes, sunny. I couldn't believe it and it was the first time the sun has poked out this whole week. Thousands of fans showed up for the start in Brugge and many more were scattered throughout the whole course. Actually, at times it was dangerous because everyone would stand in the road making it only about a car length wide. We want the whole road and when certain riders try to enforce this it's inevitable that crashes will follow. Part of the reason for the big turnout was also the chance to cheer on Johan Museeuw towards a possible fourth win in Tour of Flanders, a feat that has never been done before.
The attacks came from the teams that we knew would attack, Collstrop and Flandren 2000. From the start they attacked non-stop until one from each of their teams got away. Only then did the peloton decide to slow down a little. As usual my great luck continues- I crashed before I even reached the first section of cobbles. I was ok physically but mentally I was getting very fed up with this whole bike racing and crashing thing. My shoulder was still hurting and the last thing I needed was to hurt it worse.
When we hit the first section of cobbles there was a nice surprise waiting for us. There was a nice oil slick all the way down the middle of the road. I don't know how it got there, but guys crashed. George was one of the victims in that crash but he only lost a little skin from his hip. The race was relatively slow compared to some of the other years. There were not a lot of attacks and the group always seemed to stay bunched together. This made it very difficult to move up to the front if you lost position.
We all made it through the first critical section and then while setting up for the Kwaremont Eki flatted and Marty flatted. Dylan gave Marty a wheel right away and Cedric gave Ekimov a wheel. Then while Eki was trying to come back to the first group he crashed. It wasn't his fault; the cars that had passed couldn't, or wouldn't, move over far enough on the small road to let him pass. One of the cars pushed Eki off the side or the road and he crashed in the gravel.
When Eki finally got going again the groups were split up and heading flat out towards the Kwaremont. When Eki caught me I went flat out with him on my wheel to try and catch the first group before the Kwaremont started. When I was completely dead I pulled off at the bottom of the Kwaremont, my race was finished. My legs were dead, my shoulder hurt, and there was no way I was going over those bricks just for the heck of it. I turned around and ran into Kirk and Dylan; we all rode back to the hotel together. We actually rode a little tempo because it was an hour home and we wanted to get home in time to watch the finish of the race.
The last part of the race saw front group of forty repeatedly split up and then come back together. Each time that I thought was the critical moment the groups would all rejoin. At the end the one move that no one was able to bring back was Tchmil's attack with ten kilometers to the finish. At the moment I thought he wouldn't make it but his grit pushed him to the line just three seconds in front of the chasing group. It was a remarkable ride.
After the race last Wednesday, Waregem, Johan did some extra training to get ready for Flanders. Waregem was two hundred kilometers and it averaged 45km/hr. After the race Johan went training behind the car for another one hundred kilometers. That's a pro. On Sunday Mapei was not much of a pro team. They were a bunch of strong riders all riding for themselves. Museeuw was in the front group at the finish but he just sat up, probably frustrated, and lost forty-seven seconds. He didn't receive much help from his teammates the whole race with the exception of Wilfred Peters. Tafi, Bartoli, Zannini all rode for themselves and in the end finished nowhere. I'm sure heads are going to roll!
At the start of the race there was this one fan, at least I think he is a fan, whose words of encouragement were, "Hey Frankie, get a hair cut!" Later on during the race I heard him again, the same words. I thought it was funny. I'm letting my hair grow longer, you could say I'm going for the hockey cut. I don't know if this is a common term but anyone from the Midwest will know what I'm talking about.
Team Jack and Jones will be under the microscope again in their home newspapers. On the morning of Flanders a UCI health check was carried out on a few teams. Nicolay Bo Larsen, on Jack and Jones, was found unhealthy to ride Flanders because of a heamatocrit level higher than 50. This news comes on the tail of last years expulsion of Marc Streel from their team because of the same reason. After last year's incident the team had problems keeping sponsors on board, the same problem could be around the corner for them this year.
After one week of sitting in our hotel room watching MTV were ready for a mini adventure. Right now we are trying to get a team car to go to the movies in Ghent. So far it's proving fruitless. There are few cars and even less considering how the staff doesn't want us to take one. Next week I'll let you know if we made it and how Ghent Wevelgem and Roubaix went.
It's the day for the sprinters.
Wednesday is Ghent Wevelgem and the sprinters will fly in just for this race. As a sprinter the prestige of winning Ghent Wevelgem could be compared to a climber winning Alpe de Huez - huge! Ghent Wevelgem may be known as a sprinters race but it's not an easy race by any means. The course starts in Ghent and goes directly towards the coast to welcome the crosswinds. After going along the coast for awhile it heads back inland towards the famous Kemmelberg. The Kemmelberg is five hundred meters of steep cobbles with a very dangerous, steep, cobbled downhill on the other side. When you come flying off the downhill you are exposed right away to the crosswinds and the gradual hills around the area.
The race does the Kemmelberg twice and the last time is a measly thirty kilometers from the finish. You can only imagine the fighting for position and the speed of the peloton entering the Kemmelberg for the second time. The race always splits up and sometimes it regroups allowing the sprinters to shine, but there are also times where the strong men maintain the gap taking the win away from the sprinters. Ghent Wevelgem has had classic battles between Cippo, Abdu, Zabel and an assortment of others. The final is always crazy with riders swerving all over the road trying to get on the right wheel to catapult to the finish first. The race is never won solo, to win Ghent Wevelgem you must be fast.p.s. After you read about the race you will see that the "solo" mentioned above doesn't apply to this year's race. I just didn't want to change it.
It wasn't a pretty site; the flags were sticking straight out. It was cold, all that I could handle, and very, very windy. From the start I knew it was going to be hard day. After cruising for forty kilometers the attacks started and the result was a constant fight for life. More times than I can count the peloton would split into three or four different groups. Usually the first group would be ten to fifteen guys and then the second echelon would start with a much bigger group.
As it always seems to happen the schmak went down through the feed zone. This time it was serious. A group went up the road with fifteen guys including George. I made it in the second group of twenty that stayed behind the first group at thirty seconds for about twenty kilometers. The groups came together and the first time up the Kemmel turned out to be the decisive move. Seven riders went away and Von Bondt from Farm Frites took the win solo with an attack three kilometers from the finish.
In the second group Zabel had a run in with a beast of an animal. George saw it coming and had flashbacks from Criterium International from a few years back. As it got closer it jumped the fence, the horse landed right next to the group. As George put it, "I was a little scared but I didn't mind because I was getting some good protection from the wind." Come to find out the horse had a partner and when the second horse jumped into the road it ran right into Zabel. You've heard of having a bullet with your name on it? Then this horse must have had Zabel's name tattooed across his nose.
I got dropped from the second group with about twenty-five kilometers to the finish. I just ran out of gas, my legs were dead but I was much better than I was Flanders. Once I got dropped I continued riding and that's when I came across Zabel. We rode for awhile and as we passed the tourists that were riding along the road we recruited them to help us battle the wind as we rode to the finish.
A little while later four other racers caught us and as each kilometer passed we would pick up more tourists. We just wanted to get the race over with. Towards the finish we had six pros and seven helpers all rotating in the echelon. They pulled with us the whole way until the one-kilometer banner. Because of the weather and mainly because of how my legs felt the plan to ride a little after the race was nixed.
Before the start I did get a favor from Eric Zabel. I kept a Milan San Remo race bible and I asked him to sign it. In a few weeks it will be the prize to my trivia contest on www.frankieandreu.com.
There is a waitress here at the hotel that has earned a nickname from us. She runs around at warp speed serving clients and clearing tables like she only has thirty seconds left on her work shift. Her walk is the speed that I would jog at. Now she is only known as the "Concorde."
Frankie's top ten reasons how you know you're at a World Cup race:
The bricks, the bumps, the bruises, the beauty - it all adds up to the most famous one day race in the world.
This is our team's last chance to do something in the cobbled classics before we switch riders for the Ardennes classics. We may not be a hundred percent but that's not going to stop us. George can still feel his ribs from his crash in Depanne. He can tell something is not right and all the jiggling and jarring from the cobbles worsens the condition. My shoulder is better, it only hurts it if I do certain movements. I just won't do those movements during the race. Ekimov already has blisters on his hands from our training ride on the cobbles on Friday. He said he had bad legs for Ghent Wevelgem but I'm sure he will come around. They predict good weather and that means a fast race. It also means a lot of spectators.
Like every year, I sit here typing achy, sore, swollen, and practically brain dead. It's not after the race but it's the next morning. I'm also sitting here watching yesterday's race on Eurosport, usually I never get to see the coverage. I'll start off with the plan from our morning meeting. Christian was in charge of George protecting him from everything until the first feed zone. Julian was in charge of Eki with the same job. They both rode great. Marty, Benoit, and Cedric were in charge of being in an early break. We were not worried about two or three guys but groups of six or seven had to have one of us there. Marty took care of that getting in a break of 12 guys, they stayed away until just after the Arenberg Forest where they then got swallowed up. My job was to float around and follow the wheels, stay in position, and make the first group later on in the race with Eki and George. Our plan was to set up the race for George.
The lead up to the first section of cobbles was crazy as usual. Everyone gets pinned racing to the cobbles and then once we get there it settles down to a reasonable but fast pace. It's a case that you just can't be at the back at the start of the bricks. The rest of the sections were relatively calm until the Forest. Julian flatted three times in the first three sections of cobbles, his race ended earlier than he had hoped.
The run up to the Forest was very hard. There was a major head wind and staying on the front was hard because of the constant swarming from behind. At the last moment I did a full on sprint up the left side through the gravel to come into the forest in the top ten. George was right behind me and Eki was a little farther back. Coming out of the Forest the race was on and the group was down to thirty guys. The next few sections of cobbles had lots of attacks and the section past the nuclear factory Eki and I put the hammer down through the 3km section. We split it up but the guys dropped kept returning.
Somewhere along the route Max Van Heswick (Mapei) got up the road. We were not concerned with Max but the problem was having a Mapei rider up the road allowed the other Mapei's to always sit on instead of working. This was my thinking later on when I attacked. It was after a series of attacks by Spruch, Hoffman, and Tafi. Actually Tafi attacked three or four times. I rolled through and had a gap so I just swung to the right side of the road and pushed harder. I went away. I knew it was a long way to go but I was thinking that when the shit really went down I would have a head start and be in the front group. I was also thinking that with me in the front then George and Eki would not have to work and have a free ride.
After coming off a cobbled section after a little while off the front I saw a Mapei rider coming up. At first I thought it was Wilfred Peters but then when I was caught I saw it was Johan Museeuw. My first thought was "what the hell is he doing here." There was a long way to go. I rode with him easily trying to conserve but because of the wind it was hard to soft pedal. I knew later on that if Johan decided to give full stick over a section of cobbles I was going to be in trouble. It happened past the Airport, I don't know what the numbered section was. Johan jumped on the cobbles caught a little bit behind the motorcycles and was gone. I tried to chase for a bit but I was suffering. Now that I was dropped I decided to sit up for awhile and wait for the group to try and help chase a little.
When George and Eki's group caught me I rode for awhile on the front. We were coming down to three sections to go and it was decided that we had to attack hard now to try and have a chance to close the gap. I gave full gas before the third section with Eki and after that George took over. The groups diminished even more and George was with only seven guys. At this point I ended up in the cars, I couldn't see a thing. The whole race was a dust bowl constantly breathing dirt that the motorcycles and cars throw up. Once you're in the cars it's impossible to go anywhere - it's blinding.
At ten kilometers to the finish George had a soft puncture. The tire didn't go completely flat but it wasn't hard anymore. Every corner George took he was washing out. Museeuw went from having a two-minute gap to hanging on by ten seconds at the finish. It was an incredible ride because of the distance to the finish when he attacked and secondly because of how windy and hard it was. Second and third went to Van Pettegem and Zabel. You never saw these guys the whole race, I don't think they ever went to the front to chase or even attack once.
The race sure must have been exciting but for some maybe too much. Watching your lead rider go from two minutes to less that ten seconds had overwhelmed Patrick Leffever, director of Mapei, who suffered heart palpitations at the finish. I would call it a minor heart attack but there is no such thing as a minor heart problem.
Two teams used something special for the race. Credit Agricole used Rock Shox and Saeco used their head shock system. Some Rabobank riders had extra brakes set up on the top of their handlebars, like a tourist bike. Cofidis rode cyclecross bikes with cantilever brakes.
The second feed zone in Paris-Roubaix is very different than other feed zones. At the second feed you see all the riders that had stopped the race out of the car cheering on their teammates. When you stop at the first feed zone you have to travel with the team car to the second feed zone before going on the finish. Every team brings an extra car knowing that more riders than usual will be hopping in them before the finish. Our team had two cars and while driving to the finish George's spare bike flew off the roof. Our team car that was following caught the bike right in their windshield. The pedal lodged itself in the windshield shattering it. It took them ten minutes to pull the bike out of the windshield.
One year on Motorola the staff forgot everyone's suitcases at the start hotel. When we arrived at the finish, after the showers, we had to scramble to try and find dry cycling clothes to wear home. One of the soigneurs had to drive the 300km back to Compiegne to pick up the suitcases and drive up to Brussels to drop them off before our flight then next morning. Needless to say that night we didn't go out.
After the race GP Fourmies, when Ekimov was on Panasonic, a similar situation happened to him. Eki had medical control and he was dead last in the race showers. When he came out of the showers someone had taken his bag; all he had was a towel around his waist. Luckily, one of their soigneurs spotted a guy walking away from the showers with a large Panasonic bag. When the soigneur approached the guy he dropped the bag and took off, Eki's car keys were in the bag also.
Two years ago at Tour Lombardia, the last race of the season, Cedric Vasseur came out of the showers and all his race clothing was missing. He didn't mind since he didn't have to worry about doing the laundry. This year, taken right out from under our noses, we lost two pairs of race wheels. They were leaning up against the truck while the mechanics were cleaning the bikes. Julian, the head mechanic, was furious. Luckily, he was the one that was at the truck or heads would have rolled.
How small the cycling world seems to be sometimes. Living in Belgian is an ex-Wolverine cyclist from Michigan who I used to race with when I was younger, Mark Allen. After racing in America for awhile Mark came over and raced in Belgium for a few years. He married a Belgian and now has a chiropractic clinic here. You see where I'm going with this. I saw him a few days after I screwed up my shoulder and he managed to remove ninety percent of the pain I was feeling. His visit made all the difference in determining if I would be able to race Flanders and this weeks Ghent Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix.
The drugs were found in the trees just past our hotel. There were three hundred syringes and a bunch of empty bottles of morphine. The Belgian FBI was trying to find the source and when Dirk, our director, answered his cell phone the news was not good. He was being summoned to the police station for questioning. The reason he was called was because our team had been staying at the hotel for the last two weeks. Luckily, after one question Dirk was able to leave. The bag of drugs was found over three weeks ago. The police were not specifically looking for a cycling team; they were just investigating all leads. The freeway in front of our hotel is a known trafficking route from Amsterdam towards France.
Last week I talked about Nicolay Bo Larsen, from Jack and Jones, being suspended from Flanders and terminated from his team. The same day as the UCI did the hematocrit test Nicolay went to two different facilities to take more blood samples. All of us his tests came back four to five points lower than the over 50 that the UCI reported in preventing him from racing Flanders. Because of these other tests the sponsor, Jack and Jones, who had said they were leaving the sport immediately are sticking by their rider and their team. The UCI has not come out to say that they screwed up but they might as well. Their mistake nearly cost Nicolay his job, his reputation, money from Flanders, and money from his current contract and future contracts. I know it's an American thing but this is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
The trip after Roubaix to Aragon was uneventful, seven long and boring hours. Lance's trip from his 'Ride for the Roses' was more than uneventful. After numerous delays, cancelled flights, and missed flights, Lance arrived at our hotel three days later than when he was scheduled to leave. More impressive, I call it crazy, was that he went for a ride when he arrived at the hotel at 7:30 at night. I was going to dinner and Lance was going for a short spin.
Aragon also saw the return of Steffen Kjaergarrdan to the team's lineup. Steffen was sidelined early in the year, the start of February, for surgery to correct his never ending dislocated shoulder. This was his first race back.If we took a vote in the peloton of who felt good on the first day I don't think many riders would have put their hands up. The majority of the riders here came from the classics so we were all in the same boat, wasted! On the first few days on the smallest of climbs there would always be a group dropped. When I looked around I saw all they guys that just came down from Belgium. It was incredibly hard to get the legs working and more importantly, feeling good again.
Besides the mental relief of finally having the classics over we had some residual effects from Paris-Roubaix affecting how we felt. We discovered these problems the next day while traveling. I have tendonitis in my left wrist which is killing me, Eki woke up with the area in between his right knuckle and thumb knuckle all puffy and swollen, and George, from his crash in Roubaix, looks like someone took a cheese grater to his leg. George's massages last a measly ten minutes because they can only rub one leg.
Every year our team has done the five day race of Aragon it's had bad weather. In my mind I'm thinking, "yeah, going to Spain. Time to work on the tan." Reality is that this race requires full use of your rain bag. Three years ago it snowed, last year it snowed, this year it rained but it was cold enough for snow. Of course the bad weather came on the hardest stage which Oscar Freire won. If you had seen Oscar earlier that day you wouldn't have thought it possible. While going through the feed zone there was a crash and when Oscar swerved to miss the crash he went right into the back of the parked Festina car. He nailed the back of the car exploding the rear window into millions of pieces. I saw it and thought it was game over for him, obviously I was wrong.
There are two days left in the race and right now everyone is trying to figure out their flights to get the heck out of dodge. We also are reeling at the 700-point loss the Dow took but like everyone else we keep a closer look on the tech stuff. It's been a hard week at the race but it's been even harder watching the market sink.
My legs are getting better but my wrist is not. Today in the final fifteen kilometers our team put the hammer down in a cross wind section. We split the group to shreds. Ironically, the plan was to attack together with Cantina Tollo at about thirty kilometers to the finish. As we were all lined up on the side of the peloton ready to go a crash happened. I swear it was two seconds before we were going to take off. Because of the crash we had to wait. I mean it wouldn't have looked good to have your whole team attack when about thirty guys were on the ground. When we did attack Eki started it off like a freight train and about twenty riders survived our big plan. We had George, Lance, Eki, Julian and I in the front group to set Julian up for the sprint.
Five kilometers from the end I couldn't pedal anymore. Not because of my legs but because of a shooting pain that went all up and down my tibia band to my ankles. I went from raging on the front to all of a sudden having zero power. I had to practically coast the rest of the way to the line. I've never experienced anything like it before and come to find out it had something to do with my sciatic nerve. Because of my wrist I've probably unintentionally been riding a little crooked. I finally paid the price for my pains. At the end of the race Oscar Freire won again, he made it look easy as they always seem to do. Julian got quacked in the sprint and got sixth.
One night at dinner we were seated in the corner of the restaurant. The restaurant had about six teams eating dinner that night. Next to me was a stereo that played music through speakers in the restaurant's ceiling. When I sat down there was some Spanish talk show playing so I took the liberty to change the channel, no problem. After dinner while we were eating dessert Lance told me to gradually increase the volume until someone would notice. No one could see the stereo but of course the waiters knew where it was located. After five substantial turns of the dial the music was noticeably louder, it was funny watching everyone trying to talk over the loudness of the music. It was like a bar. The next turn of the dial we got up and high tailed it out of there while three waiters ran towards the stereo. For some reason that night we thought it was the funniest thing in the world, we were all cracking up.
We all have our priorities and they include doing what ever it takes to watch the final of a World Cup. Lance and I commandeered the racecar that carries the portable television in the dashboard. We had a three-hour drive to Barcelona so we figured we would be able to watch the race the whole time. It took a while before the race was on TV and Lance was calling Johan every thirty minutes to find out what was going on, his curiosity was killing him. The whole time in the car Spanish TV was showing some stupid car race. Ten minutes before we pulled into the airport the race finally came on. When I turned around to tell Lance he was sleeping so we had to wake him up. When we arrived at the airport there was still fifteen kilometers of racing left so we sat in the parking lot watching every minute of the final. George and Dylan on their drive back to Gerona, as much as they wanted to get home, made Jim, the soigneur, pull over in a bar to watch the end of the race. You have to do what you have to do to get your fix of World Cup's.
George has had a few people come up and ask him about his "shock absorbing bandages" that he wore in Paris-Roubaix. David Duffield, the commentator from Eurosport, made the comment about, "the shock absorbing bandages," George wore on his arms in Roubaix. Well, they were only his arm warmers, which I'm sure most people could see except for David Duffus. If someone does know of shock absorbing bandages be sure to let us know.
When it rains it pours. The whole time staying in Belgium I had to get online by begging the front desk clerk to let me use their fax line. The hotel has digital phones. Now here in Spain, where life seems like it is still in the 1900's, it's the same old problem. George, Dave our soigneur, and Nino our doctor all can't get online because the phones are all rotary. Their new high tech computers and modems can't dial on a rotary phone. I can dial rotary but the phones don't have normal jacks to the walls. So again, but this time in Spanish, I have to bribe the receptionist with hats or whatever to try to get my AOL to work. Ok, now you're thinking AOL, no one uses AOL; he must be an Internet idiot. Well, maybe but AOL has the most access numbers all over Europe. Almost whatever city I'm at in any country AOL has local numbers. Now only if they would upgrade the phones in those cities then I'd be living large.
Next on my agenda is rest, rest and rest. I have to get my wrist better and now try and figure out how to get this nerve thing hurting my leg better. I'm hoping a few days off the bike and things will take care of themselves. Next week I have a short list of things that most people think are true in the pro peloton but they are not, you'll see.
Same Old Ride
by Frankie Andreu
The route never changes, at least not for the first hour and a bit. It's always the same road out, and the same road back. My training roads don't amount to much and anytime someone needs to find me they know exactly where to look.
Last week was my rest week and I ventured out for a few rides. It got me thinking that how in the heck did I ever grew up being a cyclist riding on the same road day in and day out?
Because it's the only road that doesn't have a traffic light every mile or so, it's my only choice for a road. I will say that by chance I live on the good side of Detroit for riding, so you can imagine what some of the other areas are like. I must have really loved riding the bike because it wasn't the scenery that kept me going.
I still do love riding the bike and that became evident when I had to take more rest days than riding days because of my stupid persistent injuries. It's the hardest part for me, taking a rest. I mean a totally off-the-bike rest.
With the help of some friends I've narrowed down my leg problem. I strained some muscle behind the knee called the "popiletus" or something like that. That's why I'm a cyclist and not a doctor. The swelling and inflammation of the muscle caused a nerve to get squeezed or pinched and that was the pain I was feeling. I figure once the swelling goes down the problem will be solved and I can get back to my one-road riding.
One of the few days that I did ride I went out with a group of friends from around town. On the ride my friend Tom, the owner of a bike shop that may as well be my sponsor because they do so much for me, asked if I get time to check things out while I'm over in Europe.
Normally if you tell someone you live in Europe they think, "How cool, you must get to visit so many places." It's one of those things that people think are true but it's not necessarily the case.
Another one is that we accumulate loads of frequent-flyer miles. We get some miles but since we fly on every Tom, Dick and Harry airline in Europe, it doesn't add up. I put together a small list of "things we think are true but actually are not." I'm sure we could make the list longer but I'll leave that up to you to share with your friends.
Common beliefs, even though they're not true:
When there is a crash at one-kilometer to the finish or shorter, it's the fault of a sprinter.
If there was a crash on a downhill then it was caused by a Colombian.
If there was a crash on an uphill then it's your fault.
If you ever crash with an Italian, no matter how it happened, it's also your fault.
In the mountains the second or third guy in line never looks like he is suffering.
If the race ends in a bunch sprint then the race must have been easy.
If the race ends in a break and a big-named rider wins, then the race must have been hard.
If the race ends in a break and a no-name rider wins, then they let him stay away.
If you're watching a race on TV and you see a guy you beat the week before in the first group then you automatically assume you would have been there also.
Paris-Roubaix, Paris-Brussels, and Paris-Tours all start in Paris.
It's necessary to eat three hours before the race in order to do well.
The race will start on time.
If it's windy, rainy, cold, or hot to any extreme the race will be cancelled.
The bricks are not that bad in Paris-Roubaix.
Everything you read in VeloNews is true.
A climb in America can be categorized the same way as a climb in the Tour de France.
The UCI looks out for the best interest of the riders.
All the teams own their team cars.
Cycling is an individual sport.
You can win without the help of your teammates.
If you crash your bike in a race the team car will have your spare bike on the car.
When you show up at training camp, you will get all your race clothing.
You can actually get clean in the race showers after a World Cup race.
Racing in the fall is as hard as racing in the spring.
There are pro's that don't use 11s.
We stay at good hotels.
There is a "correct" position on the bike.
Since I'm not racing for the next few weeks my ideas of what to write about are pretty wide open. If you have an idea, a subject, or something you can't quite figure out, let me know.
Also, if you have worse roads than I do to ride, I would be curious to know where they are. Instead of compiling the best places to ride in America I should make a list of places that you shouldn't even bother bringing the bike.
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