coaching and camps
questions for frankie
It's already been a week since the Tour but it feels like it only finished yesterday. It's partly because I'm still tired from the race and partly because I seem to remember the last day so vividly. I remember hanging out in the Village the morning of the last day with my wife and little boy and not worrying one bit about the race. It was as though I was relaxing at a coffee shop before going on a training ride - what a nice feeling that was. I can picture the mobs of people waiting patiently outside the team bus just to see Lance whiz past them one minute before the start of the stage. I still can see Lance wearing that long-haired wig so as to keep the peloton in good spirits till just before the final laps. We probably could have kept them entertained a little longer but Lance decided he was tired of riding and told us to go to the front and ride tempo to get the day over with. I was in no hurry and after riding tempo for three weeks I sure didn't want to have to ride on the last day. Lance didn't care; he wanted us to ride so we did. Once we started riding the riders got all excited, or maybe pissed off, and started attacking. A group of eight went away before the circuits and, try as we might, we couldn't bring them back before we entered the final laps. The race was fast - it always is. There wasn't much pressure on us to do anything during the race. We had performed for the last three weeks so we just sat and followed the wheels. Zanini won the sprint and Julich managed to get sucker punched by Bliljevens (Farm Frites) at the finish line for God knows why. After the finish we went back to our camper and right away George started passing out the Magnum ice cream bars. We had to wait around for about a half-hour before we did our victory lap so we ventured outside to talk with all our supporters. We all went outside the camper and bus and talked with everyone while we enjoyed the atmosphere of the Tour final on the Champs. Finally, we were called up to the line for our victory lap. When we arrived, Dan Osipow had a surprise - nine American flags waiting for us. That just caused complete bedlam to break out - it was crazy!! There was a huge onslaught of photographers that crushed Dan and ran over half of us to get the pictures they were after. I felt like I was in the middle of a rugby scrum. It was nuts and to top it off they wouldn't leave; they wouldn't let us start our victory lap. I started getting pissed and started using my flag like a jousting stick knocking cameras and bodies out of the way. Ohhh...they were mad alright! I told them that we had put up with them for three weeks and now, this victory lap, was for the team and not for them. They didn't care. Eventually after a bit of bulling and pushing from the Tour organizers the mob cleared way and we were able to ride. Just so you know the Champs is a gradual uphill on the way out and a gradual downhill on the way back. You have to pedal on the way up and normally you just sit up and coast on the way back. Many times I'd sit up and coast back down going no handed; it was a way of relaxing and soaking everything in. Not this year. We had a pack of eight motorcycles in front of us the whole time. When I say "us" know that I mean Lance. They would not leave and we could barely ride because they were fighting for position the whole time right in front of us. On the downhill I couldn't take my hands of my breaks, I didn't get to go coast once, and I didn't get to go no handed. I became ticked off again because the photo guys just wouldn't back down. This was even after Jean Marie Leblanc came over and started yelling at them to get going - no go. For awhile there were six officials from the Tour organization yelling at the motorcycle photographers to take off and get out of the way - no go. After half way down the backside I said screw this and rode past the motorcycles by myself and went to the Postal tent to get a glass of champagne. If I wanted to, I could have finished half a bottle by the time the rest of the guys made it down towards the finish.
At this point the Tour was officially over. Nine Tours ridden and nine finished - I was happy. We even finished with nine guys (maybe I should have played the Lottery that day.) Waiting for me when I got back to my hotel room was a special treat that my wife had brought me. No not that, this was food, pecan pie to be exact. When I got to my room, first thing after I showered, I sat down on my bed and ate half a pecan pie while sipping glasses of champagne. It was an incredible indulgence and I owe my wife big time for lugging a pecan pie from Dearborn to Paris. It was a good thing I had that pecan pie and Champagne because by the time my next meal rolled around it was after ten thirty at night. The team's after Tour party was at the same place as last year the Museum d'Orsee. There were too many people to count at the party but two guests did stand out - Robin Williams attended the dinner as well as Michael J. Fox. They were there as guests of Lance and they both loved being at the Tour. They said that it was nothing like they expected and they couldn't wait to come back next year. After dinner as a bunch of us were getting ready to leave (we had all but walked out the door) we saw the one thing that would change our plans. It was the dessert table; an incredible huge table that was carried out by six wait staff with desserts piled on until they towered into an Egyptian pyramid. We turned right around, grabbed our plates, and went to work. It was a night of pigging out. When I finally came down off the sugar buzz it was straight to bed. The next two days I slept, slept, and slept. Tired is what I thought I felt during the Tour; I have to think of a new word to describe how I felt once I got home after the Tour.
My next race is August 6, Tour of Burgos and then San Sebastian. After that I will go and race Tour of Holland. Last week was a rest week and this week is a wake up time to suffer again week. I'll have to do a couple long days and a couple hard days. It's better to suffer a little bit now than to suffer a lot in the race.
Below are some of my observations from the Tour. I had to have something to do during the long car transfers.
Most impressive ride- Lance on Hautacaum
You are only as good as your last result so the work begins again.
08/08/00 Before Burgos
For one week I've been thinking about my next races which are Burgos and San Sabastian. After my rest week this week has been a week of readjusting to a racing and training schedule. I've been training each day with Lance, Tyler and Kevin. I think it's safe to say that since this year's Tour there been more of an awareness of Lance's win. Last year Lance won the Tour and the French people had three weeks of the Armstrong story. Leading up to this years Tour the French have had twelve months of digesting Lance's pictures and articles. Now the people, especially in Nice, know and recognize him more easily. They not only know Lance but they recognize the team colors more easily. On my Wednesday ride I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop, I didn't do anything wrong, he just wanted to stop and talk. He first asked if I was Livingston and I felt bad to burst his bubble and tell him "no." He did know all the Americans that lived in Nice. Another instance was when Lance told me a story how the Police stopped him while driving his car- they just wanted his autograph. On Friday's training route we did a long hilly ride in the middle of nowhere. When we stopped for some Snickers and Coke's (after Tour pit stop food) everyone in the bar got all excited that Lance was there. They then were asking which one us were the best climber, we pointed at Lance. They said that they meant who was the specialist climbers that they watched on TV all the time at the front. That's when Kevin and Tyler got to take a bow. It was a lot of fun seeing how much these neighbors of ours knew about the Tour and cycling.
During my off time I've had plenty of time to play with little Frankie. He loves to climb, run, walk, and crawl -everything but sit still. Of course this is when all I wanted to do was to sit still. I did venture to the beach a couple times with my family. It was always pretty hot so I would play with little Frankie under our big umbrella. I didn't even think about lying out or I would have been torched. I did go swimming after a few of my training rides. After my ride I would go back to my apartment and directly put on my suit, walk across the street, and go jump in the ocean. The water in Nice is refreshing, it's not warm but it's not cold. If you are thinking did I cause any attention with my zebra tan on the beach the answer is "yes." I could feel people looking and talking about me when my after Tour skeletor body went walking towards the water. Tyler mentioned the same thing when he went to the beach. He could see the other beach goers nudging each other motioning to check out the bony guy with the stripes. I guess this comes with the territory of being a pro cyclist. The Nice crowd wasn't the only one hitting the beach. When I called George in the middle of last week he was at Gerona's city pool soaking up the sun. Every year George somehow manages to even out his tan in under a week.
While resting each night, after the baby went to sleep, I've been watching the made for TV Brady Bunch Movie. I don't know what my wife was thinking but she taped it while at home and decided to wait to watch it until she was over here. My ignorance to what happened behind the scenes during the filming of the Brady Bunch episodes was a blessing. These guys all messed around with each other; it was like watching a horror film. Don't think my wife only tapes gaudy TV movies for my pleasure. The other nights we had plenty of Dateline, 20/20, and 48 Hours episodes, it's my way of keeping track of what's happening back home.
While the Tour riders have been resting up the other half of our team was busy racing in Belgium. After the five-day race in Belgium they went to the World Cup race in Hamburg. Today is the first day of Burgos and it's a six-kilometer uphill time trial. The race ends on Thursday, we rest on Friday, and we race the next World Cup race, San Sabastian, on Saturday.
Okay, I got back to business this week and it started off with a leg killer. The first day of Burgos we had an uphill 6km-time trial. Actually, it was four kilometers flat and two kilometers straight up. This actually made it a tricky time trial because if you went hard on the flats you would die on the hill and if you went too slow on the flats you would have no chance of winning. I didn't have to worry about winning so I chose to take it easy on the flat section and then go hard on the hill. It worked; I was able to do a decent time without killing myself. If it wasn't for Cedric's advice I probably would have made the same mistake that he and Steffen made, going flat out at the bottom and then dying on the hill. Kevin had the best time from the team but the real test came in two days when we have the 39x25 uphill finish. That stage decided the whole race.
The second day I talked with everyone I hadn't seen since before the Tour. The biggest news was that Udo Bolts (Telekom) is trying to get a wildcard spot in the Hawaiian Ironman. He mentioned how he was having trouble getting into the race so we told him to talk with Lance. With Lance's connections and background we figured he would know whom to call. Lance told Udo he would make the calls and see what he could do. Either way I think Udo is crazy for even thinking about it. Anyway, the race was flat and two riders had a very, very long day for nothing. The weather had been very hot so you felt every exertion as the dry was tearing up your lungs. From the gun a Saeco and Vitalicio Seguros rider took off and they stayed away until one kilometer from the finish. The finish was up a two-kilometer small climb. I helped get Kevin into good position and he took off with 400 meters to go. He was trying to win but at the same time to split the group up to gain a little time on the other contenders of the race. When he took off Tchmill got on his wheel and Tchmill ended up winning the race. Kevin did manage to make a gap of ten seconds on some of his rivals.
The whole race depended on the third day's climb. Kevin was our man and we had two riders stick near him to keep him ready for the final ascent. The racing leading up to the final climb was uneventful. On the final climb I pulled at the bottom and then George took over. I then pulled a little more and that's when Tyler and Lance took over. Lance pulled to five kilometers to go and that was when the steepest and hardest part of the climb started. I'll tell you it was HARD - I used a 39x25 and was barely getting it over. The front group came in one by one with riders barely making it to the finish line. Piepoli (Banesto) won this same stage for third year in a row, and Kevin did a great ride finishing around tenth. On tv you could see riders go hard only to completely blow themselves up. On this climb if you went too hard too early your legs wouldn't have the power to keep going. I'm lucky I paced myself. I don't think Pascal Herve (Polti), who was 2nd on the stage, had a problem. He rode the climb with a 41x21 because his 23 didn't work. If you saw how steep this climb was you would have a hard time believing this also.
Because of the heat, we were going through water bottles like mad. I alone had about twelve bottles this particular day. One time Fabian Jeker (Festina) came up with his pockets full of bottles. When he started to pass Steffen, from our team, he pulled out a bottle and held it out. Steffen sort of hesitated but then took it. It's common practice that a rider will hand you a bottle to pass to another rider if they can't get to them. When Steffen took the bottle he started looking around to find another Festina rider, there was not one in sight. I don't know what Jeker was thinking, maybe the heat was making him cross-eyed and he thought he handed a bottle to a Festina rider. Either way Steffen was happy.
The last day of this UCI 2.1 race - yes it was only three racing days - was extremely hot again. Each day the temperature had managed to top the previous day's high. This day it was 95F and of course our start time for the stage was at one in the afternoon - just in time to experience the full wrath of heat stroke. The day ended up in a field sprint but on the last climb Kevin got a real shot to flick some of the riders that were ahead of him on G.C. He attacked and opened up a fifteen-second gap quickly; two other riders went with him. At the time Telekom was pulling but then when Banesto saw that Kevin was going up the road they took over immediately. At about six kilometers from the finish, the pack reeled in Kevin's break. Lombardie (Telekom) won the field sprint by a tire width over Scott Sunderland (Palman's). Scott, an Australian, was not named to the Olympic team, or even as an alternate, and he is out to prove a point.
We made a special request to have this hotel for Tour of Burgos- it came from Lance. Lance had stayed here before and when he found out we were scheduled to stay at a different hotel he asked the organizers to put us at the Puerto de Burgos hotel. I guess the last time Lance was here the staff was friendly. It wasn't the case this time. Somehow the staff at the hotel managed to make everyone feel uncomfortable. If I asked for more salad at dinner or more coffee at breakfast I felt like I was asking for the world. This feeling came from all the staff ranging from the waiters to the front desk people to the staff behind the bar.
After finishing Burgos we stayed to train the next morning in town before driving up to San Sebastian. On our way back from our training ride, all eight of us riding along two by two, were passed by two girls in bathing suits on mountain bikes. As they passed us they were yelling, "venga, venga, venga." (Go, Go, Go) We started laughing because we couldn't believe we got passed; we didn't think we were going that slow. Just to save face we were going to catch them and pass them back but right at that moment I flatted. They probably figured they dropped us. After one week of extreme heat, San Sebastian brought the opposite: rain with 50F. The rain bags we never looked at we had to dig deep to find and dust off for our rain jackets and clear Oakleys. The whole day was a bag of stress. Managing the downhills and the sharp turns through towns wasn't easy or relaxed because of the rain. In the final twenty kilometers, before the bottom of the final climb, the Jazikebal, we came across two huge oil slicks that almost took out the group. Somewhere during the day Kevin almost got taken out from behind. At the bottom of one of the downhill turns he heard a rider yelling, "Ay, ay, ay, ay." I guess the guy had no breaks and was going straight instead of turning. He ran into the back of Kevin but Kevin managed to stay upright. The other rider was not so lucky and dumped it hard. This race comes down to who can get over the final climb and who can't. It's one of the easiest races to finish and it's a very simple tactical race. You sit in and do nothing until the last climb and then go as hard as you can to stay in the front group. I've never made it over in the first group and this year was no different. I never have the legs for the eight-kilometer Jazikebel at the end. In the end, Eric Dekker (Rabobank) took a flyer at two kilometers from the finish. He won by four seconds over Tchmil. At the finish I crossed the line and saw Martin Den Bakker (Rabobank) talking with Eric. I looked over to them and said, "Hey, who won?" Eric replied, "I did." I said, "Shut up, No really who won the race?" Eric then said, "I did!!" We both started laughing, probably because we both couldn't believe it.
I finally got my dead bag back. On the first day in the Tour de France everyone made a dead bag with things they wouldn't need during the three week race. We gave our dead bags to the staff who took them to Belgium. They were supposed to bring them to Paris for the last day. In Paris everyone got their dead bag except one person- me. I just got mine back three weeks later at San Sebastian. So I had twice as much stuff I needed for this race in Spain. My suitcase went from one of the lightest to the heaviest. Don't think the souigneers don't keep track of this stuff, they always know who has the heaviest and lightest suitcase. That way they play the game to try and get the other staff member to carry the suitcase to the truck.
The flights are filling up quickly; I'm talking about the ones going to Sydney, Australia. George and Tyler are trying to figure out their flight schedules to get to the big O. The federation still hasn't finalized plans and as each day passes less and less seats are available. They told these guys not to do anything because the Federation was working on something and yet in the same breath they told them that they were to figure it out themselves. George spent a week surfing Yahoo! travel checking on different flight itineraries for Sydney. While looking over his shoulder I realized it's a heck of a long way to get to Australia. If you fly from Paris, which most of these guys will, it's eleven hours to either Bangkok or Singapore and then it's another nine to ten hours to get to Sydney. After seeing how long the travel is maybe I should be happy about not going. Yeah, right, I don't think so.
This week has been a hard week for motivation. I'm not doing the Vuelta (which is a good thing), I'm not doing the Olympics (a bad thing), and I'm not going home yet. I'm just hanging out trying to train to maintain fitness for my last six races, not a very motivational goal. Earlier in the week I went riding with the boys and tagging along were a NBC camera crew taping segments for their so-called up close and personal segments for the Olympics. They followed us for probably 3.5 hours of our 4.5 hour ride. They were taping with film instead of the usual tape, going for the wobbly grainy look. I will be curious to see if I survive the editing table when September rolls around.
Since there were no races this week, and not much training, my wife thought it was a good time for another "Wife's Word."
I arrived in Holland and lo and behold the sun was shining. I couldn't complain. Before the prologue, I trained on the roads and now understand why the Dutch are accomplished on the cobbles. Every road here has a bike path, and most of them are made of bricks. Cyclists are not allowed to ride on the road so you have to do your hundreds of kilometers on the bricked bike paths. After riding for only two hours I couldn't imagine trying to train day in and day out on the same measly small bike paths. Because the bike paths were new to us we weren't quite sure what to look for when dealing with the traffic and lights and pedestrians. At one light (George was pulling) we came up to an intersection. All around us I saw green lights but then at the last moment I caught a little red light on top of a pole. It was a red light for the bike path. At the same time I saw the little red light I saw a blue car making a left turn right for us. I can admit that it was our fault but this idiot didn't even try to hit the breaks. George and Benoit made it, Christian turned a sharp right to avoid the car and leaned into me - the car's bumper missed Christian by a few inches. Patrick and Tyler, who were behind me and Christian, hit the breaks and the car passed right in front of them. If the last two had not hit the breaks to make a gap the guy would have plowed them. He didn't care one bit. I didn't hear one screech of the breaks or even a blast from his horn. We survived day one.
The first day of Holland was a five-kilometer dead flat prologue. I was going for it, I wanted to try and do a good time. After my warm-up on the turbo trainer I went to grab my TT helmet but one of the straps had ripped off. I only had a couple minutes to get to the start ramp so instinctively I just grabbed a hat and took off. While waiting for my turn to start the commissarie pointed out that there was a helmet rule in Holland. I told him my TT helmet had broke and my normal helmet was back at the hotel. He continued to argue with me and then out of his mouth came the words, "Well, it's not possible that you start." I said to hell with that, told him to give me a UCI fine, hopped on my bike, and took off with two seconds to spare ( I did get a fine of 100SF, about 50 bucks). It was a windy time trial so I thought it would be a fast time trial but as I rode it I felt slow. I ended up somewhere in the thirty's and George and Tyler had good times finishing in the top ten. Eric Dekker won; it's becoming old hat for him. After winning three stages in the Tour he also won the World Cup race in San Sabastian. The very next day he went and won a two man time trial with his teammate Marc Wauters. Two days later he won his time trial Nationals, and then today the prologue of Tour of Holland. The way he is going it is very likely he will have the lead when this whole thing is over. At least that's my prediction.
I realized during the first road stage of Tour of Holland why I didn't like this race. It's a video game with your life. Every moment is spent dodging curbs, roundabouts, cars, and islands all at sixty kilometers an hour. It's as stressful as it can get. There never is a moment you can relax. Every moment you have is used to concentrate on the road to stay up right and avoid the obstacles instead of thinking about the race. But of course you have to think about the race! Eric Dekker had the lead so the Rabobank team started riding on the front from kilometer one. They wanted to keep the race together until the time trial on the third day. These tactics were fine with Lampre and Franciase des Jeux who each have sprinters that needed the bonus seconds to try and take the jersey from Eric. The first intermediate sprints were won by Robert Hunter (Lampre) who picked up valuable seconds putting him only eight seconds out of the lead. A win would put him in the lead but Francaise des Jeux's surprise win by Guidi spoiled Hunter's plans who placed around tenth.
During the race there are always tourists and young kids racing next to us on the bike paths. They form their own little pace lines and try to keep up with the pace of the group. If we start to sprint then they start to sprint, if we slow down then they slow down. I don't know how long they ride for but there are always ten or fifteen cycling-tourists riding along side of us. This was Bart Leysen's (Mapei) first race back since his horrible crash at Tour of Luxembourg. I remember the crash: we were going about 60km/hr when he overlapped a wheel and hit the deck hard. He broke two ribs and broke his tail bone or butt bone in three places. He said the worst part was that he was so chewed up from the crash that everyday he had to go to the hospital to get his wounds cleaned. He took five weeks off and when he started training again he could only ride two hours at a time or his tailbone would get sore. Bart said he had four weeks on the bike before showing up to Tour of Holland.
The next day the video game continued because the courses were no better. The order for the day was the usual left, right, hop, jump, brake, skid, and accelerate. This time there were some losers in the group, mainly Robbie McQuwen who crashed very hard into a signpost at a roundabout. In the final forty-kilometer circuit the organizers whirled and wheeled us through every small town circuit they could fine. We cut through bike paths, canal crossings, alleys, bridges and the peloton paid the pace price with many crashes. The finish was a field sprint again - I've never done such a flat race in my life - and Hunter won. This gave him the leader's jersey only a few seconds in front of Dekker. That night at dinner I didn't have dinner. Because of the late finishes everyone has different massage times and arrives at dinner at different times. The owner of the hotel refused to serve us pasta or any food until everyone was down at the table. This included all the riders, staff, and management. Arguing didn't help so I just went up stairs and had a bowl of cereal and some cookies and called it a night.
The third day was a double stage. The morning stage was windy and during the entire 90km's there was a fight for position. The moment I drifted too far back in the group I found myself fighting for survival in the gutter. Lampre rode on the front the whole day controlling the race for Hunter but near the end of the race Francaise des Jeux had a surprise for everyone. At fifteen kilometers from the finish their team went to the front and shattered the peloton. In fifteen kilometers, the peloton finished in five different groups. Each group chased all out trying to catch the next group to minimize the damage. Hunter won the stage again and kept the jersey. The final TT was a showdown between the leaders of the race and a few of the TT specialists. Luckily, we have one of those specialists on our team and Tyler didn't let us down. Tyler won the afternoon twenty kilometer time trial convincingly. It was a very very windy flat time trial. Tyler still managed to average 49km/hr while riding mostly in a 53x14,15 at about 108 rpm's. Hunter lost the lead again to Dekker but there was still a chance Hunter could win the jersey again with the Bonus sprints the next day. Benoit told me that during his time trial he had a hard time concentrating. He said he was going 55km/hr and when he looked over to the bike path he saw some kid in tennis shoes keeping up with him. Benoit said he started to go harder but the kid kept trucking along right along side of him. It took Benoit three kilometers to finally drop the tennis shoe bike path boy. Benoit said the whole rest of the time trial all he thought about was how fast that kid was going. We stayed at this hotel for two days. There was one thing that made this hotel special and I loved this feature. The elevator had a bench inside so that you could sit down. If I got in the elevator I made sure I sat down and enjoyed the ride. It doesn't sound like much but it was a real pleasure.
The time trial didn't seem to tire anyone out since we averaged 51km/hr for the first hour this day. Everyone was attacking and everyone was chasing each other down. It was all out all morning. Eventually a break got away with three riders and Rabobank had to ride on the front to try and catch them. The best rider in the break was Wilfred Peters (Mapei) at one minute thirty. Rapidly, the break worked up a lead of over five minutes. Rabobank was still just riding tempo and we started wondering if they were taking a bit of a risk to let the break get such a big lead. It turned out we were right; they overestimated the weakness of the break and had to go at breakneck speed to try and reel them back in the final twenty kilometers. The final circuits were on a twisty three-kilometer circuit, it was like doing a criterium. On the circuits Lampre tried to chase also to see if Hunter could win again and take the time bonuses. They all waited to long and the break stayed away. A Batavus ride won the race and Dekker barely held on to his lead going into the last day.
The famous last day, it's always the hardest. The first days are the flattest races they have anywhere over here and the last day does all the same hills of the World Cup Amstel Gold race. Rabobank had the jersey but they knew how hard the day was so they hired out the Palmans team to do their dirty work the entire first part of the race. It didn't matter that the race was 230km's long, we still averaged 50km/hr for the first hour and ended up with an average of over 44km/hr for the day. The final sixty kilometers are when the climbs attack the riders. The climbs are short (one kilometer) with very steep uphills and downhills. The downhills are scary because they are very steep and you can't see around any of the corners. Twice the leading riders crashed themselves on the downhills. Once when Palmans were chasing, three riders went over the guardrail, and once when Rabobank was riding, three riders flew over a curb onto the sidewalk. If it's that dangerous in the very front you can imagine what it's like in the middle or the back of the group. Tyler was fourth in G.C. at the start of the day and ended up fourth at the end of the day. That meant we accomplished what we set out to do. On the final two or three climbs everyone took pot shots at attacking and trying to steal some seconds but in the end it came down to a small group sprint. Max Van Heeswick surprised everyone by taking a flyer six hundred meters from the line. He caught everyone napping and won easily.
The next day was GP Eddy Merckx, a two man seventy-kilometer team trial. Tyler rode with Christian and Lance rode with Eki (they won by over two minutes-killed everybody). That night we all stayed an extra night to celebrate a surprise birthday party for Johan. Johan had no idea about the party and thought he was going to dinner with five friends and not meeting up with thirty partygoers. Everyone had a great time.
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