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August 2001

Sometimes bike racing is about more than results. It's about a passion for the sport that seems to block out a lot of the negative aspects of the sport. The last two weeks of May I spent time directing the USA Under-23 guys sponsored by the US Postal Service. USA Cycling has a place in Izegem, Belgium which is their warehouse, base, and home. The riders come over to Europe for anywhere from two to three months. For a twenty-year-old hanging out in a foreign land with foreign food and a weird language, two to three months can feel like an eternity. I was with the guys for two stage races and after seeing the conditions that we had to put up with, Izegem looked pretty darn good.

I must have been spoiled in my eleven years as a pro. No, I wouldn't say that. I would just say that I forgot what it was like coming up through the ranks in Europe. As a junior and first-year senior I did many National team trips and suffered the way these guys are suffering. The hotels are small. The organizers cram four guys into a room (they make this possible by making the guys sleep on cots) and the food is slim. Our second stage race was in France and our housing accommodations were in tourist cabins out in the middle of nowhere. If we wanted to get in touch with the great outdoors, that was the place. The five riders had to sleep in one cabin that was about the size of a small living room.

Do they complain? They almost never have a problem with the way things are. They are happy to have the chance to race against the best riders in the world and to prove that they are ready to move up through the ranks. These guys sacrifice a lot for the chance to become professional cyclists. It's great to see a development program that allows riders to follow their passion.

Philly

I never really liked the Philly race. It's a great race for the riders and it's an even more incredible race for the spectators, but I must admit it never made it into my favorite's list. Arriving at Philly one hundred percent fit, at the start of June, just never fit into my program. I always wanted that National Champion's jersey but no matter how hard I tried to prepare, my form was never quite there. My racing season started at the start of February and I planned my program so that I would peak for the classics in the middle of April. After the classics I took a rest because of mental and physical burnout, and then start preparing for the Tour de France. Every year I was lacking something when I arrived in Philly. I either didn't have enough endurance or I didn't have the lactic tolerance to suffer and recover each lap up The

Wall. Either way, it always turned out that whatever was missing made the difference between losing and winning. I tried my best but in the bigger picture in my mind I knew that the Tour was right around the corner. The Tour was a bigger goal for me. I knew that it took me a couple months of hard training and racing before I was super fit. Even though it meant not winning a USPRO Championship, knowing the way I reacted to training helped me design my season to achieve my goals for the year.

Establishing goals is the key to setting up a plan of attack. By making specific goals you give your training and racing a purpose. This purpose enables pros to stay motivated and fresh even after racing and riding thousands of miles. They are focused on what they are trying to achieve. This focus is what drives them out the door in the baking heat or the cold pouring rain. Without goals a rider has no motivation and an unmotivated athlete lacks the dedication needed to achieve what you are striving for. Without dedication and commitment an athlete never makes progress, and without progress (staying with a group, beating a previous time, winning a race, or losing weight) there is no sense of accomplishment. This is when the sport ceases to be fun. Making goals is a simple process of looking down the road and figuring out a plan to get there.

When racing in America every pro has a goal of putting on the National Championship jersey from the race in Philly. Only one rider can win each year, but many riders put in incredible performances during the race. Just finishing a 250km race is an achievement. This year, as usual, there were many European teams mixing it up with the Americans. As early as the first lap thirteen riders broke away and built up a maximum lead of nine minutes. Gradually the break diminished as the riders fatigued and on the last lap the winning break went up the road. This group contained George Hincapie(Postal), FabrizioGuidi (Mercury), Freddy Rodriguez (Domo), Jacob Pill (CSC), Trent Klasna (Saturn), and Pedro Horillo (Mapei). The final fifteen kilometers was every man for himself. With no one to control the group each rider tried to attack and get away for the win. It wasn't until one kilometer from the end that Freddy managed to slip away from the other riders and finish five seconds in front to win the National Championship title. This was a repeat for Freddy; he also won the race last year. Last year the organizers forgot the stars and stripes jersey for the winner and Freddy had to drape a flag around his shoulders. This year no mistake was made and Freddy proudly will be able to wear the Stars and Stripes for one more year.

Many of the riders from Philly will now look down the road and make new goals. Freddy accomplished one goal in Philly and now it's time to focus on what's coming up next: The Tour de France. This month pay attention to the Tour of Switzerland where many riders will be fine-tuning their climbing abilities before the Tour. Don't look for Lance in the early results of Switzerland; he knows what his goals are and they all occur next month in July.

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