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August 15, 2003|
The road continues
By Frankie Andreu
The Tour de France is over, but that doesn't mean the sport of cycling takes a pause. Races continue. But it's very challenging physically and mentally to have to race the first races after the Tour.
Physically, because you are competing against riders who have just completed the toughest three weeks known to mankind.
Mentally, because there is pressure to perform well because for the Postal team because it just won the Tour. But the fact is many of the guys haven't raced in four weeks. This is a long break in the racing schedule and it will take a few days for them to get their legs back.
The first race back for the Postal team was the Regione Wallone in Belgium. The team for this race consisted of Benoit, Barry, Matt White, VanHeeswijk, Kjaergaard, and Mikhailov. Most of these guys were just trying to get some racing legs back before they hit the first fall World Cup in Germany, the HEW.
As Michael Barry commented, "It is good to be back at it again after a month off during the Tour. I am feeling good and am kind of using this race to get back in the swing of things before the coming events."
Even though this first race is a leg opener, the guys are still motivated to try and take a result, "The race in Belgium has been pretty good, although it looks as though it will come down to sprint time bonuses," Barry said. "We had one hard day in the hills, but 20 riders are still essentially on the same time. Matt and I are in the front of the race overall so we'll try tomorrow to see if we can' t move up a few spots."
Michael placed 9th, with Matt right behind him in 10th, only 20 seconds from the race lead.
As for the guys who raced the Tour, this past week was their time to rest and recover. For some that meant doing criteriums and television interviews, especially Lance. On the Monday after the Tour, Lance did interviews with NBC, and ESPN and then went on to do three criteriums during the week. NBC had exclusive rights to Lance's interviews on the first day after the Tour de France.
OLN flew to Girona, Spain, to get their final wrap-up interview. While Lance remained busy, George had a different schedule, "I was really tired after the Tour. I had a bit of a cold all week but started feeling better near the end."
George is now focused on the fall classics after his superb showing in the Tour. His first challenge was HEW in Germany where he tried to take advantage of his good legs. "During the race I felt pretty good. I tried getting in some breaks but I got caught near the end of the race. I should be a lot better this weekend in San Sebastian. Then after that I have a race in Italy, and then Zurich." Last year George had to end his European season after a horrible crash in San Sebastian. This will be his first time back to race on that descent. George finished 15th at San Sebastian.
While some of the guys were riding HEW, the rest of the guys were in New York. The New York race had Cruz, Kluck, VandeVelde, Ventura, and Labbe. Damon Kluck, who was having leg problems earlier this season, was confident about his form, "I'm feeling much better. I figured out the muscle problem and now it's much better. I'm back to normal."
Christian VandeVelde is also making progress, but realizes his therapy is still not done, "It's been a very hard four weeks. I've done everything possible to get the problem fixed. It's getting better, but it's not right. I get it right for a little while and then, wham, it goes back to like before."
Christian didn't seem to have a problem during the NY race. This might be because of his experience, but when the race is flying around at 53km/hr almost all day, you have to have the legs and fitness to follow.
Robbie Ventura said, "I felt great, but I missed the break. Once it went up the road, I just had to wait and see if it would get caught." The break consisted of about 12 riders and both Cruz and VandeVelde were present, so the team was in a good position.
Team ONCE had only three riders in the race and two of them also made the break. They were riding very aggressive and continually attacked. Cruz also gave it a good shot, trying to split up the group, but the riders seemed content to keep it together instead of risking the effort to make a break stick.
The sprint at the finish seemed slower than usual and when Marty Nothstein took off, it was game over. He won the sprint very easily and convincingly over the powerhouse youngster Victor Rapinski from Saturn.
This week, the riders from NY fly to France and race the Tour L'Ain. And then they return the next day to race in Chicago for the National Criterium Championships. The other riders will start in the Tour of Burgos.
The team's next big goal is the World Cup in Zurich, which falls on the same day as Chicago.
Johan Bruyneel has announced the roster of the USPS team to compete at the Vuelta.
Trying to capitalize on the team's success this year, and following an impressive fifth win at the Tour de France, the USPS team is looking to win another grand tour.
Last year Roberto Heras, with a team of young riders, surprised the cycling world by leading the Vuelta until the very last day. Roberto has always been known as one of the world's best climbers and last year no one could match his pace in the mountains.
This year the mountainous route of the Vuelta will again be in Roberto's favor as he tries to improve on his second-place finish from 2002. This year's team will have the ability to win stages during all points of the Vuelta. The team will have a very strong presence in the mountains, but also on the flat days and in the sprints. The Vuelta runs from Sep 6-28.
Here is the USPS Vuelta team:
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