coaching and camps
questions for frankie
The standard is high.
Every year the team makes changes and every year the management will talk about how the specific changes made the team stronger then any other year. Many years when I was on the team I believed them. This was always the case except in 1999. On paper we didn't seem to have a stronger team then we had in the past. As individuals we were all very motivated to do well but if you stacked up our results compared to other teams the Postal Service was short a few UCI points. More realistically I'd say we were short a few thousand UCI points and didn't even have enough points to guarantee our entry into the Tour. That year the early season was a struggle as it always was but then things started coming together. The results started arriving and the riders all started to shine as a cohesive unit. The year culminated with the team doing what was thought the impossible, winning the Tour de France. This was a direct result from Lance's incredible ride but behind the scenes it was because of the time and energy the management takes putting together a team that will work together cohesively. Instead of hiring a bunch high priced captains as Mapei or other Italian teams do the Postal Service looked beyond results to find riders that are strong on their own but stronger together as a team.
This year the team has put a concentrated effort in putting together a stronger team to support George in the classics as well as keeping their main focus on the Tour de France. Usually the decision and hiring process starts as early as July and continues through the second half of the year. The selection for riders is always difficult but especially now because of the team's results in the last few years. In the past the team would have to search for riders to bring them to the team but nowadays the team is always inundated with resumes and phone calls of riders wanting to join the US Postal Service. This decision process is a long one with many phone calls between Mark Gorski, Johan Bruyneel, Dirk Demol, and Lance. All of them trying to figure out the best combination that will bring the results that the team, it's sponsors, and fans are looking for. The bar is set high after George's results and of course Lance's results. As each season passes the pressure mounts in trying to repeat the previous years success and in a way this is what propels the team to future successes. Knowing that the bar is set high the riders know the sacrifices they have to make to be better then they were the year before. Eventually, things will change but I don't think 2002 will be that year.
I met most of the new riders on the team during our December Austin, Texas training camp. In only a couple days it became very evident that all the riders were well aware of the results that the team and fans expect from them. The Austin camp was mainly a place to get the new riders together with some of the American guys so that they could start to get introduced to the Postal way of doing things. Part of the Postal way of doing things was giving them a maximum fitness test on an indoor trainer. This was used to measure their max watts and watts at threshold. A starting gauge to determine their fitness levels as the season progresses. Also a weight test was given on a leg press machine to determine the riders' strength and muscle size. Even as early as a couple months into the racing season a rider will start losing muscle as their endurance capabilities increase. Many times, especially during the Tour, the weight loss that a rider realizes is not only because of fat loss but also because of muscle loss. The key is to try to prevent this and these early tests give the trainers the data needed to see if the weight loss is coming from fat loss or muscle. Besides the usual three to four hour training rides the rest of the time was used to set up the rider's schedules for the year. The team will be starting with the Tour of Qatar in the middle of January. The riders who are not doing this race will be attending the team's training camp in Spain. This will be the second year the team has had their pre-race training camp in Spain instead of the U.S. After Qatar the riders will fly directly to Spain to join the rest of the team for the last week of camp.
After camp the team starts their Euro campaign with a race in Portugal and then a one day race Luis Puig followed by the five day race Tour of Valencia, both in Spain. On the domestic program the team will start with Redlands and Sea Otter. The team will fly back riders from Europe, still to be determined, after Tour of Murcia to compete in the California races. By starting the riders off in Spain, and getting about a thousand kilometers of racing miles in their legs, the Postal team should be ready to win both Redlands and Sea Otter. I won't expect anything less and I'm sure the team won't either.
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