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06/06/00

The asparagus arrived at dinner on Wednesday night and the discussion started about which part you should eat. A few guys only ate the stalks and a few guys only ate the tips. George Hincapie figured you're definitely supposed to eat the tips because you always hear about "asparagus tips" as sort of special thing.

The way each person had their own idea about the asparagus is the same way every rider handles the races in their own way. The first race at Lancaster is always the hardest race. The course is hard but it also is hard because it's the first race of the series. It takes a few races to blow open the legs and get used to suffering again.

With Lancaster you're forced to adapt right away. The race was aggressive from the start and we played catch up and chase almost the whole time. We missed some early moves while Mercury and Saturn were attacking constantly. It's the same with any team, if you don't have representation at the start of the race then you suffer the consequences at the end of the race.

We made this mistake burning up our team a couple times by bringing back crucial breaks. At the end of the race we only had two or three guys remaining in a group of 20 or 30. With those numbers you can forget about it. Mercury, Saeco, and a few other teams also didn't have a guy in the break but they made no effort in helping with the chase. The last break stayed away with Trent Klasna (Saturn) powering to the win. Trent crossed the finish line at 8 p.m.; nobody got home until 11 p.m.

At the start line of Lancaster, Freddy Rodriguez (Mapei) told me a funny story. In Europe at the start of each race the start area speakers usually blare some kind of theme music. In stage races it's always the same song over and over like the "La Bamba," "I'm Going to Ibiza," or some other Euro house music.

The following year they changed to whatever the new trendy music of the moment was. Wilfred Peters (Mapei) said after doing these Philly races for three years in a row that he couldn't figure out why the race played the same music year after year after year. He was talking about our National Anthem.

Wilmington

Expecting a flat criterium course, I was surprised what the organizers had waiting for us. The course was the shortest circuit of all the races: a 5.5-kilometer circuit while the other courses were all between 10-12 kilometers.

The course also had a long false flat uphill section of about three kilometers with a two-kilometer downhill false flat section with a lot of corners. Making it more technical were the construction barrels that lined the course, making it narrower than usual.

The first seven laps were the hardest of the race, I thought. Everyone was attacking and once the speed picked up and the pack got strung out it was nearly impossible to move up.

After a few breaks were brought back the winning break got away with nine laps to go.

At Wilmington, our team was more aggressive, making sure we had riders in the breaks. When the winning move went, Marty Jemison did a great job bridging up to the break quickly. The three riders, Hank Vogels (Mercury), Polish rider Piotr Wadecki and Marty worked together well building up a lead of two minutes.

This course with all its corners is ideal for blocking and the Polish team took every opportunity to stay on the front and hit the breaks in the corners. At the end Wadecki won the sprint over Hank Vogels who pulled his foot 100 meters from the line. This seems to be happening more and more often. Marty came in third just behind the leading two.

Mercury had some fresh guys for this race, Henk being one of them. They are alternating riders between the races giving some a rest and a chance to stay fresh. With a large amount of riders it can be confusing keeping track of all the bikes. When Kirk Willett arrived at the start of Wilmington, the team forgot his bike back at the hotel. He had to ride the race on a Shimano spare bike.

Speaking of Shimano, I saw a guy with a Campagnolo tattoo on the back of his calf. He was riding with Shimano shoes and Shimano components.

During the race Brian Walton, after pulling for two kilometers, was having it out with the Swiss kid on Mercury for not pulling through. After the usual two minutes of jaw jarring they each told each other what to do with themselves and parted.

I saw the whole thing so on the next lap, while going around a corner, I pushed Brian's saddle to throw him off a little. The look he gave me could only have come from the exorcist. If his eyes were lasers I would have melted and died right there on the spot. I started laughing and once he saw it was me, he started laughing too. He knew I had seen the incident, and that I was just messing with him.

In the race there was one corner that was dangerous because of the construction barrels. The organizers wanted us to go around the outside of an island on a downhill corner. The quick path and easiest path was on the inside of the island but the construction barrels blocked that way.

After the first lap guys started weaving in between the barrels making it even more dangerous. Finally, after about six laps the barrels disappeared and the corner was a breeze and safe to get around. The organizers or staff didn't move the barrels; John Wordin (director of Mercury) took his car and went through them, blasting them out of the way. He was the only smart one looking out for the safety of the race and riders. Moving those barrels made a huge difference.

Sort of the same thing happened in Trenton. They started to set up cones along one of the corners of the race. Every year, because of the cones, guys crash. Usually after a couple crashes they move the cones. Dylan Casey, seeing what they were doing, went up and asked that instead of waiting for the crashes to happen that they should move the cones before the start. Ralph, who was setting up the cones (Dylan saw his name tag), told Dylan, "Why don't you get the f--- out of town."

Trenton

I don't know if it was the heat, the speed, the attacks, or the fatigue that caused the field to disintegrate by the end of the race. I have never seen such a small group make it to the finish of Trenton, maybe 25 riders. More amazingly, is that with such few riders in the last two laps it still came down to a field sprint.

The start went from the gun and the first laps were wicked fast. Sometimes the 120-man peloton was in one single line flying out of the park. At certain times I thought I would never see the front. After half the race, the group started to split up. Not small groups forming from attacks, but large groups of 40 to 50 riders.

At least four or five times, large groups would get away from the peloton. I don't know if you would call the first group the break or the first group the peloton and the large group in the back considered dropped.

With three laps to go in the race another large group escaped off the front. Our main guys were in the so-called dropped group, including me, so the chase started. We chased for about two laps and managed to bring it all back together. With one lap to go there was a three-man break at about 40 seconds which Mercury and our team brought back.

Marty, Benoit, Kirk O'Bee, and Dylan gave everything through the last chase. At the end, Mercury did the final train for Gordon Fraser. The fight was for Gordon's wheel and Freddy Rodriguez was able to latch on with George Hincapie right behind him. When the sprint started, Freddy jumped first to come around Gordon and that was the order they stayed in. It was Freddy, Gordon, and Geroge all within a wheel at the finish.

The heat for the first time was in the 90s, the average speed was about 50 kmph, and there were a lot of tired riders--after three hard days of racing--sitting in their team vans before the finish.

USPRO

I must have jinxed myself when I wrote that stupid article two weeks ago about watching races from my hotel room. That's exactly what happened to me on Sunday.

I woke up with a stomach the size of Texas and not feeling very well. After starting the race, even though it was going relatively slow, I knew I was in trouble. I had absolutely no power, I just felt plain weak. The one thing that I did do to contribute to the team was when George had to have a bike change after the second lap. I went back and brought him back to the group, it took everything from me.

I pulled off the next lap and went back to the hotel to sit on the toilet for a half-hour and take a two-hour nap. I was exhausted. When I woke up I saw the team on television riding a superb race.

Kirk and Levi Leipheimer rode an incredible ride staying in the front group for what was pretty much the whole race. Julian Dean rode great staying in the front and making the first group the last few critical times up the hill. Steffen Kjaergaard made the first group with George in the final and the two rode their hearts out trying to win the race.

The final small laps saw two races within the race. The race to win the race and the race to get the jersey. There were three Americans and five foreigners. When the Euro guys attacked, as Henk Vogels did repeatedly, the Americans had to bring him back while also trying to conserve something so as to get the jersey.

After Henk's final attack the Americans took their chance to stay rested for their own sprint. The other Euros didn't react at all. The finish was exciting even as Henk crossed the line with his arms in the air; everyone was looking to see who would get the jersey. George led it out but Freddy, who proved he was quick in Trenton, came by just before the line raising his arms as the new U.S. Professional Champion.


06/13/00

LUX

The first steps in readjusting to Europe are erasing the memories from being spoiled while in America. Racing every two days, eating out at nice restaurants, staying at the Westin, relaxing in big rooms and even flying back over in first class. I used my frequent flyer miles to upgrade for the trip back to Europe and to my surprise I jumped right over Business Class and ended up in First Class. I'd never even seen first class before. The bad part was that I didn't sleep at all because I kept waiting to see what food, drink, video, or treat would come out next. I was like a kid with a new video game pushing every button I could find to see what it would do. It was plain and simple incredible.

Now I'm back in Luxembourg waiting for my luggage to show up. The airlines lost my suitcase and who knows where or when it will turn up. For the trip back to Europe everyone stocked up on their favorite goodies for the trip. The usual trips were made to the magazine store, CD and DVD store, Vitamin store, and Whole Foods (for some dried fruit). I stocked up on some Met Rx protein powder, brought a big coffee cup, got a new phone to connect to the internet (still haven't figured it out yet though), and a small photo album of my family whom I won't see till the middle of July. Julian was all excited because his girlfriend, who came from New Zealand, brought him a huge jar of Marmite. Marmite is similar to Vegamite (Australian) which is a salty paste that is applied to toast in the morning for breakfast or as a snack. A lover of the paste might describe it differently than I did. I think it tastes nasty!

Lux

The first day had half the peloton trying to get over jet lag and the other half tying to tear each other's legs off. Luckily, for everyone involved, we rode the first eighty kilometers easy. I was having problems with my bike so at the bottom of a hill I decided to stop and fix my wheel. Little did I know, until after the race, the smack went down on the same hill that I stopped on. I chased, and chased, and chased. I chased for ninety kilometers to be exact. I was with a group but ended up dropping everyone except for Julian. I dropped him for awhile also but some old guy in a blue Opel motorpaced him up to me and then tried to motorpace us. He was going to hard so we had to let him go. Our T.T. continued and along the route we would see small groups in front of us. We hoped it was some guys dropped from the peloton but as we approached closer we saw they were not wearing numbers, they were tourists. Julian and I flew pass them and they hopped on our wheel. After only one kilometer and a lot of unintelligible babbling behind us the guys came flying by. We had about six helpers chasing with us; Julian and I sat on for awhile. The topper was that even when we entered into the finishing circuits and passed the finish line, there were only two tourists at this point, and they kept pulling with us for a full lap. We didn't complain. The real race in front of us had a break of three go up the road and no one bothered to chase. Mercury, Telekom, and Amica Chips (the winner of the stage) had a rider. The rest of the teams took no interest in trying to bring them back. They ended up with a two-minute gap.

The next day was a test of survival. Every year the organizers try to make the courses harder and harder. This year instead of a couple climbs before the usual hard finishing circuit they put in as many steep hills as they could muster. The result was a completely blown apart group after fifty kilometers and a lead group going up the road to finish by more than eight minutes. We rode the finishing circuits at a steady easy tempo just cruising through the kilometers. Instead of having the first couple days easier and sprint finishes them make the courses hard and now they have a boring race with no interest on their hands. Serves them right! This morning we found out who drove the blue Opel that motorpaced Julian and I the day before. It was Benoit's, our teammate, dad and grand father. Today Kirk got the opportunity to take a shortcut. After getting dropped over one of the steep climbs his group ended up going straight on when they should have taken a right turn. I suppose the corner marshal was sleeping. After riding down the wrong road for a few kilometers one of the official cars caught them. They stopped talked about what happened and then followed the official car up the road to a shortcut to get back on to the race route. They had to stop at the corner and wait for the race to come by and then hop in at the back. As luck would have it, the corner they were waiting at was at the bottom of the steepest hardest hill of the whole race. I'm sure they had legs like bricks once they started trying to go up the climb with the group. Lastly, I pulled the amateur move of all amateur moves. While cruising around our final circuits slowly there was a crash. Joe Planckart who wasn't paying attention ran into a construction sign. I decided to turn around and look. Someone, actually it was Stephen Barth, came across me and took out my front wheel, I crashed. When I caught back up everyone was teasing me for rubber necking, a very big no-no in bike racing.

The double day arrived and so did the rain -it never fails. The day before was scorching hot and when its time for two races in one day then the skies like to open up. The morning stage was fast and wet. George made the break of ten but almost crashed in the sprint when someone took a right turn into him. The afternoon was the T.T. that Dylan lit up burning the road to ashes. Dylan did the windy and hilly fifteen-kilometer course in seventeen minutes, no one came close to his time. He's starting to find a little niche for himself in prologues and short time trials. What is amazing is that if Dylan had not won my other teammate would have, Levi. Levi placed second and Benoit placed fourth. It was a nice stack of results for the team. Benoit's great time trial, for him, moved him up to second overall in the race. Now understand this, Benoit is from Luxembourg and this is Luxembourg's national tour. Can you say hero? - Or as we call him, "prince," as in the prince of Luxembourg. Each time trial I do George and I compare times. In the prologues it's competitive, I always try to beat him. I used to be able to do it consistently but lately he has had the upper hand. In time trials it's a different story, these are usually our rest days. Whenever I finish a time trial he will ask what my time was and then he will predict, always thirty seconds faster than me, what his time will be. He always hits it spot on within a couple seconds. Today I finished the time trial and when I saw George I knew what was coming. He asked what my time was and I told him 18:30. George said, "Ok, I'll do 18 even." After the time trial George came up to me and told me he went med-hard in the time trial and in the last four kilometers all out to try and match the time, he missed it. He was spewing after the time trial saying that I must have gone hard to get my time I turned and said, "No, I knew you were going to ask my time so I took thirty seconds off my time and I knew you would subtract another thirty seconds so as to beat my time which meant you would have to go a minute faster. I actually did nineteen something." George was jokingly mad while everyone else was laughing including me.

This morning we also had the vampires knocking on our doors at six in the morning. Four out of six of us were tested and five different teams were tested. When I heard the knock in the morning I knew right away what it was and I was pissed. The other days we had noon starts but today was a ten AM start. Instead of waking us at normal hours on one of the other days they wait for the early start to wake us up even earlier. I know they plan this stuff.

The last day and Benoit is in second overall. The main goal of the day is to keep Benoit in second. The final circuits are very hard with a steep one-kilometer climb. A break went early and Telekom, Alberto Elli (Telekom) is the leader, paid Lampre to help them with the tempo chase all day. Telekom was impressive riding on the front at fifty km/hr the entire 180km's. The break stayed away at the end, which was good for us, they took up the time bonus sprints. There were two riders, Ivanov (Farm Frites) and Loda (Fassa Bartola), that were within twenty or thirty seconds of Benoit. We just followed these guys around and everything turned out ok. Benoit finished second overall and with the rest of us now goes to Spain to start a ten-day race in Catalonia, Spain.

Next week has four big races happening at the same time. The ten-day race in Catalonia, Spain, the ten-day race in Switzerland, the seven-day race in Sweden, and the four-day race Route de Sud in France.


06/20/00

The start of Euro 2000 was this week. This is Soccer's big event for the year and it's being held in Belgium and Holland. Every cyclist in the peloton, except us, has ties to the teams that play each night. If a rider's country is playing then they are glued to the television that night waiting to let out a scream of "GOAL." It's not possible to explain how important and stressed the guys get over the games; some guys even skipped dinner in order to watch the games. As each game passes the bragging rights increase in the peloton. Even when I don't watch the games I know who won because of the teasing between the riders. The Soccer final is on July 2 one day after the Tour starts. Then the real bragging rights will be issued.

After days of figuring out nothing I finally got my phone and infrared to work. Ericsson America was useless helping to figure out the problem. I've never encountered a worst customer service department! Now, thanks to bike.com, I'll be able to give my daily reports without having to harass the hotel staff. My first assignment will be on Monday June 26th at 3:00 Eastern Time for a short chat session. On July 28th the team leaves for two days of TTT training and then the mandatory medical testing. On July 1 the plan is set into motion.

If it's good enough for the Tour then it's good enough for the other races. I'm talking about the TTT. The Tour reintroduced the TTT this year. This gave the green light for the Tour of Catalonia and Tour of Switzerland to do the same thing. They both had twenty two kilometer TTT's on the first day of the race. The morning of the TTT we set out to see the course. It turned out to be a waste of time. The map and directions in the race bible were all messed up and there were no directional arrows on the course. We rode what we thought was the course but kept running into other teams going a different way, the wrong way, the right way, who knows. Everyone was lost. For the TTT the organizers designed a huge start ramp for nine guys wide, I've never seen this before. Normally we just all line up across the street and not on a traditional start ramp. The course was windy with a couple hills and a couple U-turns. We rode hard and finished with all of our eight guys; this might have been our mistake. ONCE won the TTT and we finished fifth about twenty seconds back. ONCE finished with seven guys and most of the other teams finished with the minimum five riders. Next time we'll have to make some adjustments. I got called for medical control, just my luck. I arrived at the medical camper and the guy explained to me that I had to wait for a little while. I assumed it was for another doctor or UCI guy to arrive to carry out the test. Come to find out, after sitting around for over forty minutes, the original guy that told me to wait was the guy in charge of doing the medical control. He wanted to finish watching the race and that was why he couldn't help me out earlier. I wasn't very pleased with him.

When the riders start experiencing "hot foot" then you know it's hot out, I'm talking 95 degrees F. "Hot foot" is a burning sensation, mostly around your big toe, that feels like your foot is in an oven. It's a problem for many riders no matter what type of shoe is used. Sometimes pouring water over your shoe will help or loosening your straps. Usually the only time it feels is better is after the race when you finally take your feet out of the furnace of your shoes.

It's a hat trick, three days done and Fabio Rosciollio (Costa Almeria) has attacked from the gun each day. I would have bet against it happening today because yesterday Rosco crashed on the last downhill of the race. Instead of sliding, which is what usually happens, he landed on his butt and then tumbled head over ass all the way from the inside of the curve to the outside guardrail. It was just like watching a motorcycle wreck when the guy does a tank slapper and gets catapulted to the cement. Each morning, right before the kilometer zero sign, the peloton chants, "Rosco, Rosco, Rosco." So far he hasn't failed the peloton. And no, he never makes it to the finish. He always gets caught but that doesn't stop him.

The next few days will be the hard days of this race in Catalonia. Up until now this has been the easiest race I have ever done. It's not because I'm feeling good, although I would love for that to be the reason. It's because a lot of the guys are tired from racing the Giro, the other half are preparing for the Tour and the remainder are preparing for their National Championships this Sunday. Nobody wants to kill themselves day after day at this point in the month. The races have been hard the first hour until the break forms and then tempo for the rest of the day. We have had two days where breaks go up the road by more than twenty minutes. You never see this happen in the spring. After Tuesday's stage and more so on Wednesday I will not be surprised to find a lot of guys dropping out in order to stay rested for their respective National Championships. It's one of those weekends where I wish I had cable so I could flip between the Spanish, Dutch, Belgian, German, French, and Italian channels. I don't have cable so the next best thing I can do is by L'Equipe on Monday and read about everyone's surprise victory.

I lost an old training buddy a few days ago. When I was younger I use to race my dog around the block before and after every training ride. He would always win; he was unbeatable for two times around the block. I would stay in the street and he would cut across the lawns and the corners in a full sprint. He loved it and I got a kick watching him beat anyone who took the two-block challenge. In his old age, 14 years, the runs around the block stopped but the play fighting inside the house never lost its edge. My boxer Oakley died a couple days ago and as stupid as it sounds my eyes water as I write this. I will miss him!


06/27/00

The last two days of Catalonia made up for anything lost in the first few easy days. Maybe the riders had pent up aggression, were dying to race, or just couldn't wait to finally get into the mountains. The first day in the mountains produced an average speed of 42 kph. This was in part because of the major tail-crosswind we had at the start. The other part was because everyone was attacking like mad putting everyone else in the gutter.

Eventually, a large group went away at 65 kph. I was in this group and couldn't believe how fast and hard everyone was riding. A little later Marty Jemison and Stive Vermaut also came up with a big group. There were a total of 20 guys motoring up the road and it also contained a few guys for the overall like Bo Hamburger, Escartin, Beltran, and Merckx. Behind in the peloton Vitalicio took the responsibility to chase. It was one long fast chase; it lasted the whole day until finally on the last climb some climbers managed to bridge across to the first group. We never got a chance to sit up and rest on the twisty hilly roads leading to the finish. The whole day the gap stayed between one minute and two minutes. The result was a change in the overall with Tonkov (Mapei) taking the jersey and Merckx, also Mapei, moving up to second. The winner of the stage was Lombardi (Telekom).

Sticky hands

A pet peeve of mine is that I hate to have sticky hands, handlebars, or brake hoods while racing. It drives me crazy. If I spill some Coke or whatever I have to wash it off and get every drop off my brakes. It drives me crazy having that sticky feeling.

This first mountain day almost drove me to insanity. Since the race was going so fast I didn't have time to eat normal food, just gels and Extrans (energy drinks). My first predicament came when I went to tear the top off a power gel but I didn't tear it enough. When I went to squeeze the tube, instead of the gel coming out the top, the gel blew open from the side splattering all over my arms, hands, and legs. After washing that stuff off I was drinking an Extran on a downhill when I got covered again. While pouring the Extran down my throat I hit a bump making me miss my mouth. So now I had Extran all over my jersey and arms; it was a long sticky day.

As tradition has it the winning team of the race usually has a toast with champagne at dinner. That evening Telekom had a toast for Lombardi's stage win. When they went to toast his win everyone had champagne except Zabel. He took a sip of water instead. Zabel also made a few rude remarks, in German, about Lombardi while the team was still sitting at the table. This infuriated Lombardi further enhancing the bad blood they have between each other.

The second mountain day averaged 35 kph. I knew it was going to be a hard day because there was no way the Spaniards were going to let a Russian and a Belgian occupy the first two spots in one of the biggest Spanish races of the year. The race started off on a long gradual hill and the Spanish riders wasted no time in attacking and sending guys up the road. Vitalicio Seguros managed to get three guys in the break of six. The real threat came from Totsching who was only two minutes down. The tempo set was a leg-breaking, uncomfortable pace for the next 60 kilometers. Each time the peloton came to a categorized climb the Spaniards would just keep attacking until they reached the top.

By the finish Mapei had completely blown up while Jimenez (Banesto) won the stage in front of Sevilla (Kelme). Tonkov finished five minutes back on the hilltop finish. Jimenez took the lead by two seconds over Sevilla and now the final uphill time trial will decide the winner.

Normally, you would think Jimenez, who looked stronger on the climb, would have this wrapped up because of his climbing ability. But Jimenez is known for his horrible time trialing and the only thing saving his butt this time is that the time trial is uphill. If it was a flat time trial I don't think one person would pick Jimenez to keep the lead.

Don't ask me

The last day we had a 12-kilometer uphill time trial that no one had any interest in riding. George didn't care to ride the time trial and asked Johan if he could skip it. Johan explained that he needed George to ride the TT to please the organizers and that we didn't bring a rider for the overall so it was important that the team finished with most of its riders. George hem and hawed and Johan kept bugging George that he needed to ride.

Finally Johan said, "Why are you asking me anyway? Dirk is the director here, ask him." Right when Johan said that Dirk walked in. George immediately jumped to Dirk and asked if he had to ride the time trial. Without hesitation Dirk turned to George and said, "No, I don't care." Johan started to speak up but George went running out of the room laughing, leaving Johan eating his own words. Johan laughed also because he spent 10 minutes teasing George about riding while Dirk reversed everything in one second.

Jimenez won the final TT, and overall, convincingly from Sevilla. The TT started directly on a 14-percent climb. The start ramp instead of angling down was level with the hill. The stairs to the start ramp were angled as if climbing a ladder. Spanish organizers always like to do or try something different.

After the race we had to take a bus provided by the organization to Barcelona for the next day's flight. The three-and-a-half-hour drive on a bus out of the twisting and mountainous hill of Andorra was not very pleasant. If I wasn't looking straight ahead the swaying of the bus would start to upset my stomach.

Once I got back to Nice I was looking through some magazine shops. Everywhere I looked was a picture of Lance and the Tour de France. Tons of magazines with descriptions and maps of the Tour route, pictures of Lance and Tyler from Dauphine, and last year's Tour. It's obvious what big event is around the corner. Now all we have to do is hope for France to get eliminated from the Euro 2000 soccer tournament and then we will have full press coverage instead of splitting it with soccer.

In honor of a brave campaign

This race saw the end to Dylan's spring campaign. It was a long campaign that took him into the end of the first half of the season. Dylan registered 60 races so far this year and in honor of that, he and we decided to torch his jersey, which at this time was a faded, dirty, cut-up mess.

We did a little ritual celebration and took the matches to the jersey in tribute to a successful spring run. One thing we found out was that the jersey was not very flammable, we just managed to melt down one sleeve. We were hoping for an engulfing of flames disintegrating into a pile of ashes; I suppose next time we'll have to think of a different way to celebrate.

While in Spain we stayed at one hotel that wasn't much more than four walls with a bunch of little rooms inside. The rooms had cots for beds with a small, old television in the corner. Of course, as standard, a '70s-style rotary phone. What set this place apart from the others was that it had air conditioning; not just air conditioning but air conditioning with a remote control. I found out that it doesn't matter if it's a remote for a television or a remote for an air conditioner, there is always a battle for it.

The team announced its Tour de France lineup. Most of the other teams will announce final Tour teams after their respective national championships.

Riding the 2000 Tour for Postal will be Tyler Hamilton, Kevin Livingston, Cedric Vasseur, Ekimov, Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, Benoit Joachim, and me. All of us have one role, which is to support Lance in his second attempt for a Tour win. I believe there is only one way that this year's Tour will be successful; we have to win. Anything short will be a disappointment for all of us.

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