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Frankie's Diary

What would the day be like?

July 1, 1999

I was wondering what today would be like. For eight years I have done the token medical tests that the Tour gives its riders each year. It consisted of a two-minute EKG, weight, height, fat test, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity test. That was it, the whole procedure had the riders in and out in under ten minutes. This year because of all the past doping problems and the French crackdown on doping I was expecting something different. I was wrong, it was the same test as usual -- only quicker. George did get into a bit of trouble at the medical testing with our director. Johan jumped out of his seat saying, " George what the hell have you been doing?" He saw George had no tan lines when he took off his shirt for the EKG testing. You're supposed to be training before the Tour, not hanging out at the beach.

There are always a few hiccups while traveling to the start of Tour. The Gerona boys -- George, Christian, Tyler, and Johnathon -- had a delayed flight leaving Barcelona and they missed their connection in Nice. They were supposed to arrive in Nantes at the team hotel around 5 p.m. Instead, they didn't show up till 11:30 p.m. Another hiccup happened when Mark Gorski and his crew arrived at Paris-Orly from America. I will know more details tomorrow, but they were delayed about three or four hours in customs. They were bringing some T-shirts for the team but a problem arose with customs because they had the Tour logo on them. I think it was some kind of trademark infringement thing.

The morning training consisted of the usual tinkering and adjusting of our new team bikes. Some guys changed handlebars while other changed the cleats on their shoes. Its funny how some guys hop on the bike and go while others sit outside for hours measuring every piece on the bike that can be measured. Some guys even changed their shoes. Everyone has a different idea about what can be tinkered with before a big race and what is completely off limits.

The team Fiat cars were waiting for us at the airport. Because the Tour is sponsored by Fiat we are not allowed to use our team Volkswagens. The staff flew in a couple days early and went to Paris to pick up the cars. The cars come already equipped with radios and televisions in them. The TV's are placed in the rear of the car to help cut down on unnecessary accidents. In the past, directors would be so busy watching the TV that they would slam into the cars in front of them. Of course every director thinks this only happens to other guys. That's why we have already jimmy-rigged our car to have a TV in the back of the car and in the front. Instead of having to fly to Paris pick the cars up a team can also arrange for their team Fiat's to be delivered to their team hotel at a certain date. If you did this you wouldn't have time to fine-tune your cars.

When we got on the plane Kevin was bragging to Lance and I how he had packed everything under the sun to bring to the race. He said he could live out of his suitcase for a year if he wanted to. When we landed we discovered Kevin might have packed everything under the sun but he forgot to pack his team tennis shoes. Lance got these shoes for everyone for one reason -- the team presentation. Luckily, the team had a spare pair of shoes in the truck. Even better luck was that they were exactly Kevin's size.


Pre-Tour Headaches

July 2, 1999

July 2--Last night we were debating how to solve our problem. We were trying to get around driving for four hours going back and forth to the course. Our hotel is situated seventy kilometers from the prologue course and where the team presentation takes place. We want to see the course in the morning, two hour drive, and then we have to go to the nine p.m. team presentation, another two hour drive. Sitting in the car for four or five hours doesn't exactly keep the legs fresh the day before the start of the Tour.

By morning we decided to drive to the course and ride home. Lance and George decided to stay and ride the circuits then drive home. My ride for the day was 100km and when I got back to the hotel everyone asked if I heard about Lance. Juan, our mechanic, picked up a wheel that was all twisted and told me Lance was hit by a car on the prologue circuit. George said he was following Lance as they passed a bunch of cars that were stopped at the bottom of a hill. The exact moment when Lance looked down to see what gear he was in a car started to pull out. Lance swerved to avoid it but the mirror caught him on the hip and sent him over. The driver was the second director of Telekom. He lost it, no not Lance, the driver. He couldn't believe he hit a rider and was apologizing and saying, "God, I hope nothing's broken." Lance was fine, he had a few words with the director then hopped back on his bike and rode for another hour before making the drive back to the hotel. At lunch Lance seemed fine so I suppose no harm done.

We received our yellow Tour books today. We call it the "race bible." This book is what you look at every night and every morning to get an idea of what the day will be like. It also can provide sleepless nights. The "bible" lists and shows everything including the start area, degree of difficulty of the mountains, how long the transfers are for the staff, the finish area, and where the medical and press areas are. Pretty much anything you can think of you will find in the "bible." We get a mini version of the "bible" to carry in our pockets to look at during each stage. This information is put on laminated cards that we carry with us and it provides us with the course profiles and location of feed zones each day. Right now I have twenty-one cards sitting in my bag, I already look forward to when they are gone.

Along with the bible we also receive a small book with all the rules and regulations in it. It describes the procedure for the feed zones, the time bonuses each stage, prize money, how to protest and other technical stuff. I only keep this book for one reason. It contains the percentages for the time cuts in the mountain stages. That's the most important rule, you have to finish in order to keep going.

Also included in this Tour package is a book on the history of the Tour. It contains names of all the mountains held in the Tour, finish cities, winners, losers, and anyone who has ever ridden the Tour. It can have lots of useful or useless information depending on who you are.

We also receive a book that lists each team and where their hotels are for the entire three weeks. This includes little maps to help find the mom and pop places with telephone and fax numbers. It is not very difficult to track and locate a rider during the Tour. In fact, you can send a letter to any rider you want during the Tour. You just address an envelope with "DYNAPOST- LE TOUR", under it you put which team and which rider or staff person it should go to. Intermittently through out the Tour they deliver the mail to the teams. It was crazy the amount of mail a French rider like Jean Cyril Robin who was on our team last year would receive. The mail guy would show up and pass out one for George, one for Tyler and thirty to Jean Cyril. J.C. would then have to sign his postcards and write each person back. Ninety percent of the time that's what they want, an autographed card.

Tonight is our team presentation. We are scheduled for a nine p.m. showing but knowing how these things work it will probably be an hour late. Since we have an hour drive home after the presentation we won't get back to the hotel till probably after eleven. Before the presentation we have a meeting. Surprise! Today the Tour announced a mandatory meeting between all teams, riders, staff, and doctors. Pretty much anybody working in the Tour has to attend this meeting. Because I will get back to the hotel past my bedtime, I'm not a night owl; I will try to tell you about the meeting and team presentation tomorrow. Also tomorrow I'll talk about the prologue, the first day of the 1999 Tour.


Frankie’s Diary: An American in yellow

July 4, 1999

It's the 4th of July. Kind of cool having an American in the Yellow Jersey today. It's the first time for an American on an American team to have the Yellow. I don't know how many years I've had tons of reporters ask me if I'd like to win on America's big day. It's probably the next best thing having the jersey on the team.

From day one the plan was to be at top form for the Tour. Specifically, Lance, Kevin, and Tyler shared this goal. All of them have come up to that challenge. After a tranquil spring these riders, including Jonathon, put their noses to the grindstone in preparing for the Tour. They had two different camps in the Pyrenees and Alps to look at the Tour's mountain stages. Each camp was about one week long that included several back to back seven-hour days in the mountains.

From their mini camp they went to Classic des Alpes, Dauphine, and Rut du Sud. From looking at the results from these races it was obvious the teams plan was working. The hard part now is continuing this early success of wearing the Yellow Jersey through the next three weeks.

We woke up to rain and finished in the rain. It was a 208km long wet day. The main object today was to keep Lance out of trouble and try to let George go for some of the time bonus sprints. Before the stage we had the usual sign on but today we also had a team presentation because we were leading the team G.C. At the presentation each rider gets one of the Credit Lyonnais lions. For some reason they had only eight today, I got flicked. I told the guy tomorrow I wanted two lions, to make up for the one I missed today.

When Lance arrived at the start area it was pure chaos. He might as well have been a rock star in the middle of New York. There were cameras and journalists everywhere trying to get at him. At the start Lance even said it was crazy, "It's nice to get on the bike and get away from all that."

At the start of the race everyone was seeing how they felt. Eventually a rider from Big Mat, Thierry Gouvenou, got away by himself. Peter and I then rode on the front for about 100 kilometers keeping the time gained on the peloton in check. We let him stay around four or five minutes until the sprinter teams would take over for the finish. We have to keep the time kind of close otherwise the sprinter teams won't show interest in putting in an effort to go for the stage.

In the final sprint Kirispu (Casino) won in front of Steels (Mapei). George got pinned along the barriers and waited for a gap to open but it never happened. Because of the bonus sprints on the road and the finish bonus Kirsipu is now around 16 seconds from Lance and O'Grady (Gan) is 20 seconds back.

Every day the souigneurs make sandwiches for the riders for after the race and for the staff for lunch. They have to make about twenty-seven sandwiches every morning.

In the races there are two ways to tell if one of us on the team is riding a spare Trek bike. The first is that the spare bikes have yellow clincher tires on them, while our Rolf race wheels have tubulars. The second way, which is a guarantee a rider is on a spare bike is the color of the water bottle cages. Our race bikes have black cages and all the spares have red cages. This makes it easy for the mechanics to keep the bikes apart and know which bikes have to go on which cars for the race.

I saw Jeff Pierce today. One year Jeff won the final stage of the Tour on the Champs in Paris. He broke away solo and more impressive stayed away, -- something that never happens nowadays. He mentioned the last time he had been to Europe was nine years ago.

He is here with Lotto and GT bicycles. They became the sponsor of the team when Lotto became very unhappy with Vitus, their old bike sponsor. Jeff said they finalized the deal in the first week of June and now the entire team is on GT's. To outfit a Tour team that quickly is an incredible feat.


Frankie's Diary: Battling for position

July 5, 1999

It's amazing how the day's objectives can change so quickly. This morning we were thinking about how to keep the Yellow Jersey without expending too much energy. The main difficulty in this completely flat stage was a four-kilometer causeway that crossed a huge river. It's passable during the day with low tide and flooded during high tide. You can imagine that the causeway would be a little slick and wet by the time we arrived.

The race was calm till the first bonus sprint of the day at kilometer 30. After that the attacks started and the battle for good position for the causeway was already starting. It was still 50 kilometers till we arrived there. To make matters worse it was windy and I'm sure every team told their riders to be first into the causeway.

The battle was furious trying to keep Lance in good position to get across this causeway safely. Looking back it was a good thing we did. After the entrance to this four-kilometer causeway there was a huge crash. Guys went down everywhere. You could see riders trying to brake, but they hit the ground instantaneously. Going across the causeway was very, very scary. It was wet, slippery and windy. It felt like a risk to even turn your wheel to change directions. I was scared to ride on the edge of the road it was too slick.

Coming out of the causeway the group had split. Partly because we went fast and partly because of the huge crash. There was a front group of about 40 and immediately ONCE started riding. It took us a few kilometers to figure out why. We didn't know there was a crash at the time and in the rear group there were a few favorites. Right away Johan told us to go to the front and help ONCE. The reason was that in the second group were Ivan Gotti, Wladimir Belli, Alex Z¸lle, Michael Boogerd, Jean-Cyril Robin, and some other favorites in the overall.

In the second group Banesto started to chase immediately. They came within 30 seconds of catching us, but we were in time trial mode in the first group with about 10 guys. It became an 80-kilometer team time trial trying to increase the gap between the second group and us. We had five ONCE riders, two Casino, two Cofidis, and Christian and I riding full tilt all the way to the finish. We put over six minutes on the guys behind. Lance lost the jersey today to Kirsipuu, who won every bonus sprint, but Lance did manage to eliminate some very strong riders for the classement.

In the race today the Spanish guys had a new nickname for Jonathan. They call him "El Gato", the cat. This is because yesterday he flew into a crash and went flying. Somehow he landed on his feet; he didn't get a scratch on his body. The bad news is that today Jonathan lost his nickname. He was one of the unlucky ones to get caught in the crash on the causeway. He crashed hard, cutting his chin wide open. He got back up and continued riding while the medical staff bandaged him. After 10 or 15 kilometers some of his other injuries became evident and it was necessary for Jonathan to stop. It truly is bad luck because Jonathan's form in the mountains would have provided some very big surprises.

Also involved in two crashes today were two more teammates: Tyler and Pascal. Tyler has a sore knee and both of them are a little beat up, but they should be able to continue tomorrow.

Lance is not bummed he lost the jersey, but he is bummed that he will lose some of the perks that come with the jersey. For example, each jersey, points, yellow, and mountain get their own private camper at the finish. It has a fully stocked fridge, a television and keeps all the press out. It was ideal for winding down from the race and changing into some fresh clothes.

One of the official sponsors of the prologue was Carnac. They issued about 300,000 pamphlets to pass around the course that had George on the cover, of course highlighting his Carnac's. We both received some new yellow riding shoes, but I can't change shoes in one day. George can and he did.

A little trivia information for you:

  • The average weight of a Tour rider this year is 70 kilograms
  • The average resting pulse is 63 beats/min.
  • The tallest rider is Mario Scirea (Saeco) at 195cm. Eros Poli normally is the tallest but he didn't get selected to do the Tour this year. He is on a French team and the director had to take some French guys to the Tour so Eros was left out. The other Credit Agricole riders were not happy about this.
  • The lightest rider is Oxcar Pellicioli at 52kg.
  • The heaviest rider is Magnus Backstedt at 95kg. That should give you a new appreciation for suffering in the mountains.
  • The biggest lung capacity was Anthony Morin at 7.83 l
  • The lowest cardiac resting pulse was Sebastien Demarbaix at 33/min.

  • Frankie's Diary: It’s two for Steels

    July 6, 1999

    It's two for Steels and it looks easier for him each time. Tom won yesterday and today in a massive very fast bunch sprint. In the weeks prior to the Tour I wouldn't have said that Tom would win a stage this year. That is only based on performance. Based on past history and how Tom seems to find a new level of fitness for the Tour I would have guaranteed a stage win.

    In the races leading up to the Tour, Tom gets up there every day for the challenge of the sprint, but he's cautious and careful. He knows the risks and he's not ready to take them till he has to. He didn't kill everyone by lengths and sometimes he couldn't come around the first rider for the win. He must have been waiting for the Tour because now he is a whole different rider, with a support team that any rider would dream for.

    All in all it was a very uneventful day. Today was down right boring compared to yesterday where the whole outcome of the race changed.

    It was perfect for me. I woke up tired after working for two straight days trying to keep the jersey. Yesterday especially took it out of me. Today was a rest day for me; well, as much as you can rest in a 195km Tour stage.

    A break went early in the stage and Casino had to ride on the front the whole day to protect the jersey for Jaan Kirsipuu. It was nice to change roles with them -- what a difference it is just sitting in compared to riding on the front. The break was caught with about 30 kilometers to go and that was when the race really began.

    Our whole job today was keeping Lance out of the wind and near the front and out of trouble. Early in the race this job is easy, at the end of the race it becomes downright near impossible. The sprinters are going crazy, the speed has tripled, and it never feels like you are far enough in the front to stay out of trouble. Making our job a little easier is that Lance is good at holding, and fighting for position. He’s not like some guys whom you have to hold their hand the whole time or they are spat out the back. Lance knows how to battle to stay at the front.

    Finally, we changed hotels. The start of the Tour de France has taken us nowhere. It's been like the Tour of Nantes. We have spent one week in the same hotel and haven't left the region after four days of racing. My teammate Pascal Derame is loving it; it's his hometown here. He already is excited for next year because we have two or three stages in the same area, plus we will see the return of the team time trial here next year.

    Because of yesterday's crash and the high speeds to the finish, the organizers decided nobody would be eliminated because of finishing outside of the time cut. There were a few groups who, if the time cut rule were enforced, would have been eliminated. Pascal was in one of those groups. As it was there were riders who finished 50 minutes behind and still were allowed to start today. Two riders did not start this morning because of injuries sustained yesterday: Jonathan got stitches in his chin and he hit his head, and Marc Wauters (Rabobank).

    We are still leading the team G.C. and everyday we do the team presentation at sign on. So far each of us have collected three Credit Lyonnais lions. Today after the team presentation Christian had to stay on the stage for another award. Our young lad is now leading the classement for young riders. Rik Verbrugghe (Lotto) who was leading didn't make the split yesterday and lost 15 minutes. Christian has a nine second lead over Benoit Salmon (Casino) now.

    Each day Franciase des Jeux is desperately trying to set up Jimmy Casper for a win. This young French rider schooled Zabel in Tour of Germany. The team only has eight or 10 days for Jimmy to pulL off a win before he stops. He is the youngest rider in the Tour at 21 years of age.

    I would think that if you didn't like cycling July would be a nightmare for you, especially here in France. Every day the race is shown for three hours live. Then each night at nine p.m. on Eurosport we can catch a one hour review of the race. They also show another re-cap of the race the next morning. The commentators for English Eurosport are David Duffield and Russell Williams.

    David just babbles all day long about nothing. You know how when you are watching ABC or ESPN and they go into all the cultural stuff instead of bike racing. That is exactly how Duffield is, he knows jack about racing but babbles about hats, wine, roads, and other stupid stuff. Russell used to race on the track and knows a little more, but has never done a Tour. Obviously their commentary for three hours live leaves a lot to be appreciated. But hey, even bad commentary about bike racing on TV is better than no bike racing on TV.


    Frankie's Diary: Fast rides, a pig as a prize, and Lance's cold Turkey

    July 7, 1999

    I know I'm a little late, but here is an inside tip for those of you who wager on the Tour or are involved in some type of fantasy Tour game. I can't predict if Cippo is going to finish the Tour this year, but I do know that he is not expecting his second child until the end of Aug. The due date is not during the Tour as many people have noted. Cippo probably told everyone this so he can bail out of the Tour scot-free when he wants to.

    Cippo has now joined the ranks with the big guns by moving to Monaco. One difference is that he didn't move solely because at every stop light cars would stop Cippo for an autograph or talk about his Giro wins. In the mountains cars would pull him off the road to congratulate him and talk. If you know Italians then you know how much they love to talk all day. I'm sure Cippo knew it was time to move when he started having more chamois time then riding time.

    Cippo also joined the ranks of big guns by winning today the fastest stage in Tour history. The final total was 195km done in 3 hours 50 minutes , an average of 50.34. We all had 51 on our Vetta computers, but either way the record still falls. From the gun guys were racing full out trying to get in a break. Riders shot out of the pack as fast as you would hear snap, crackle, and pop while eating a bowl of Rice Krispies. It was non-stop.

    The first hour we averaged 52 km/hr and it looked like no signs of slowing down when a 10-man break went up the road. The next hour we chased and finally through the feed zone we caught the break and cruised for a little. The final sprint was so fast that with one kilometer to go whichever wheel you were on you stayed there. The top five places never passed anyone; they finished one behind the other.

    Maybe you noticed that some of the Spanish riders, mostly Banesto, had red bandannas on today. This is to celebrate the running of the bulls in Pamplona. The party starts today and tomorrow morning they let the bulls out into the city of Pamplona I found out that yesterday Tom Steels won a horse. And it's a horse ith good blood lines: its mother has won over seven million French Francs. I also found out that Massimiliano Lelli (Cofidis) has won a horse before and Marco Pantani has won two horses! I also have seen a bull given as a prize in a race in Spain, and in the Tour of Poland I once won a pig. I know it's not much of a comparison but hey, they're all animals.

    Today we were joking about Tom's horse. We were saying that if it doesn't race well we could have Dr. Mabuse train it, Attorney Lavelot (the guy who represented all the French guys) be the horse's agent, and Dicky V. (Virenque) would be the jockey. The horse would have to win.

    A few days ago L'Equipe, the largest sports paper in France, ran an article about how Lance demanded that the team have two camping cars at the Tour. It said that one of the camping cars was for Lance's own personal use. That story was complete bullshit, but now one of the camping cars is refereed to as "Lance's camper." The Rabobank bus driver read the article, cut it out, and gave it to Johan. Rabobank, with sponsorship running four more years, is trying to sell its bus so they can buy a new one. They were teasing Johan about why we have two campers when we could have one big bus. Johan told them that the reason they are selling the bus is so that they can get two camping cars like us.

    Each guy has a different way to relax after the races after dinner. I mean we only have six French channels on TV. We could sit around and just stare at the ceiling, but I think we would really go crazy.

    For starters, all of us have our computers. Normally, Lance is the biggest abuser of online time, but Johan banned him from bringing his computer to the Tour. He and Kevin are without computers and online capabilities. Lance must be going through some sever withdrawal symptoms cold turkey with no computer.

    George has the set up. He has his computer, some killer portable speakers, and a portable CD player with an amplifier that takes eight-D size batteries. I think they are D, whatever the big batteries are called. We turn on this system and the whole hotel can hear it, it's great.

    George and I usually get online one time at night. Christian is also doing an article every day for the Chicago Tribune. He has one problem; he can't get online when in France, a major problem while doing the Tour. The reporter calls him each day and they talk out the article. Jonathon had a bunch of writings lined up for the Tour; I actually didn't see how he was going to do it. He had at least four or five different sites he was going to give reports to.

    The computers may entertain us now, but on when I rode with Motorola it was baseball. The team had gloves and balls in the mechanics truck that the soigneurs would bust out almost every night after dinner. Jim Ochowicz, our director on Motorola, had a wicked fast ball. I would get scared trying to catch his heat. One day during the Tour, in the back of a Hotel Ibis, John Hendershot set up batting practice. He would hit fly balls to all our soigneurs running around in the outfield. It's always fun to watch the Euro' guys try to catch and throw. It's a very unnatural act for them.

    Our team is sponsored by Yahoo! and if you go to Yahoo! sports you will find Tour information at the top of the page. It's a big difference compared to other sites where I always have to scroll down to find cycling or click on "other sports" to get cycling news. It's nice having the Tour front and center the way it should be. Maybe some other sites will take notice.


    Frankie’s Diary: One tired puppy

    July 8, 1999

    Moses Maloney, I am one tired puppy tonight. Today was the second longest day of the Tour and after a record-breaking ride yesterday I figured we might just cruise a little. It started off that way but only for a measly three kilometers. I think it took Jacky Durand (Lotto) that long to talk someone into attacking with him.

    At kilometer three, Jacky and one of his teammates launched one of Jacky's patented attacks. Jacky is known for attacking at the gun and going long for the suicide break. In the neutral zone I even told Kevin to go find Jacky and sit on him, that way for sure he would make the break. Jacky's attack took 10 guys with him and no one in the peloton cared.

    We went from riding 27km/hr to riding 28km/hr as the break went away from us. There was no interest by anyone to race or chase the break down. We just let it go while everyone tried figuring out which teams had a guy there and who did not. Everyone was gambling; waiting to see who would have to work first, as the break went from two, four and then six minutes up the road. The losers at this poker game were the teams going for the G.C. in the race. It was too long to the finish for the sprinter teams to work and whoever had a guy in the break didn't have to work.

    The agreement was that each team with G.C. hopes would put three guys on the front to start chasing. Mapei for Pavel Tonkov, ONCE for Abraham Olano, Cofidis for Bobby Julich, and us for Armstrong. The team that didn't participate was Polti -- who had no guy in the break and for some stupid reason wouldn't ride. Man, I hate Virenque. I hope he gets killed in the mountains. Oops, my filter must have malfunctioned.

    We hit the front at about kilometer 25 and rode in a head wind for 180 kilometers. It was not a fun day at the office and I'm sure pretty boring to watch on TV. Finally, for the last 20 kilometers the sprinter teams took over to polish off the job. Cippo was in true form again winning the sprint a bike length in front of Steels.

    The battle for the Green Jersey is heating up. It's a contest between Tom Steels and Jaan Kirsipuu; there is only a three-point difference. Each mid-sprint carries points of six, four and two. On top of that, Steels is still 17 seconds out of the lead and Cippo a measly 32 seconds from the Yellow. Tomorrow is a short stage of 175km's so the mid-race sprints will be important to anyone going for the Yellow Jersey or Green Jersey. The pressure is mounting for Erik Zabel to win and Jimmy Casper to win because he won't be riding many more stages. Last year Zabel did not win a stage either, but he did manage to win the Green Jersey.

    For Cofidis one of the best things that could have happened to them is the crash on the causeway a couple days ago. Actually, it's the best thing for Bobby. Now that Rinero and Meier have lost heaps of time there is one leader on the team. There was a question about who would work for whom when the Tour hit the mountains. With Christophe Rinero and Roland Meier far down on G.C. it should be no question who the leader is for the mountains and the Tour.

    Tomorrow we have a late start and that means a late wake up. I'm sure I'll wake up like lead in the bed, but at least I'll have as many hours as I need to get up and going. GOOD NIGHT!


    Frankie’s Diary: Leading the chase, and Steels as the one-man wrecking crew

    July 9, 1999

    A little note about Thursday’s stage: You probably were thinking why we didn't have a guy in the break and then we would not have had to work? Don't get me wrong, we missed the break, but that would not have solved our problem. Lance is our guy and if one of us were in the break we still would have had to work in the pack. A few of us — Tyler, Pascal, Peter— are 15 minutes down already, and a few of us — George, Christian, and I — can't climb with the big guns so it would have been no advantage for us to be there.

    Today I felt like I never got off the bike. I chased all day yesterday and today it started off the same way. After maybe five kilometers the attacks started and right away a group of 10 went up the road. Again we had no one in the break and immediately we started a chase with the full team.

    This time the chase was 100% full out trying to catch these guys as fast as possible. It was pure hell for all of us and a maximum effort. I was suffering big time because my legs still weren't recovered from the day before. I think we chased for about 20 kilometers before bringing the break back. Near the end even Lance was helping us pull, I think he felt sorry for us seeing how badly we were sucking wind.

    I know we should have had a guy in the break. Don't look at me. This has happened three times now and today in the morning meeting we were told that Kevin, Tyler, and Christian have to watch for the early breaks. It was the same the day before.

    After catching the break the attacks started flying. It was like doing a classic. We had huge cross winds and full echelons with everyone fighting for position. It was very hard for everyone. At the end the end result was the same, a field sprint.

    Some of the most dangerous sprints are headwind sprints and today was no different. The final 20 kilometers were into a strong headwind. This enables everyone to keep swarming to the front because the speed is not high enough to string out the pack.

    In the sprint Cippo took off first with Svorada on his wheel. Steels started coming up and totally slammed into Svorada almost taking him down. Then in the same pedal stroke Steels continued to move over and almost take Svorada's wheel out while pushing him into the barriers. Then with Steel's sprinting next to Cippo for the win he ran into Cippo causing him to swerve a bit. Steels was a one man wrecking crew today. If it wasn't for Svorada's bike handling ability there would have been guys all over the ground 100 meters from the finish.

    George got up there for the sprint except Minali took a hand sling from one of his teammates and the guy that got shot backward went right into George. It's just a typical day in a field sprint. In the end Steels won but was disqualified for everything I just told you. The win goes to Cippo, three in a row!

    During the race Lance called on the radio complaining how his jersey didn't fit right. After one hundred kilometers while he was digging in his pockets for some food he came across his answer. He forgot to get rid of the one pound medallion we get everyday for the team presentation award. He gave it to George and then George gave it to Peter. Nobody wanted to carry the thing, it was too heavy.

    Tomorrow's objectives will be simple: Keep Lance as fresh and as rested as possible. Not that it's been any different this whole week. He hasn't put his head in the wind for one second, which is the way we want it. We want him to finish tomorrow like he didn't even ride that day. That might be hard considering the stage is 230km's.

    The T.T. is Sunday and it will be the first critical and deciding day in setting up the G.C. guys. We need three guys to go for it in the time trial so we can keep the team G.C. As I told Christian, "I don't do T.T.'s." This is where we will really miss Jonathan. After the T.T. are the mountains and once we are in the mountains you either keep up or get dropped, it's that simple.

    The staff is a critical part to our success not only at the Tour, but all year long. Here at the Tour, because we have nine riders, we have three mechanics and four soigneurs.

    Two of the soigneurs are in charge of the hotels. This means transporting and placing the luggage in each rider's room so when we arrive all they do is give us a key and everything there. They also are in charge of putting water in all the riders' rooms and setting up the feed room. After each race all of us are usually starving so we have an area, sometimes in the hallway or in a room, where we have cereal, cookies, drinks, and fruit waiting for us. The two hotel soigneurs also set up the massage tables for all the soigneurs and track down the maids to try and get extra towels and sheets for the massages.

    The other two soigneurs are in charge of the feed zone at the races. They have to make all the race food for the start of the race and the food that will go in the musettes at the feed zone. Usually the night before they prepare all the bottles with water, and Cytomax for during the race and Metabol for after the race. We go through a lot of bottles each day. One of the soigneurs is also in charge of setting up the breakfast table with all the plates, bowls, forks, coffee, cereal, and bread. This is so we don't have to get up 10 times trying to locate a fork or knife.

    Normally they would also help out with the dinner, but for the Tour we have a chef here to help us. Willy Balmat, from Switzerland, has worked with Motorola for the Tour and is now with us. What a difference having a chef makes!

    Sure, the food is better, but the biggest difference is that we get the food quickly. Instead of waiting around for an hour eating bread, we’re served our pasta as soon as we sit down. This is one of the biggest advantages to having a helper in the kitchen. We get to eat the right food quickly instead of stuffing ourselves on bread and salad.

    The mechanics are split up in the same way. One mechanic drives the truck to the hotel and works on the bikes, gluing tires, getting T.T. bikes ready, and basically checking on everything on our bikes. The other two mechanics work the race; one sits in the first car and the other in the second car. Working in the first car is more stressful, especially in the flat races. The second car never sees the front so that mechanic and driver usually alternate between driving so each can get a nap in the back of the car. The most time consuming job for the mechanics, which they all hate but is the most important, is the gluing of tires. They wash the bikes day in and day out, but I get the feeling they hate tubulars. I'm sure a mechanics dream would be a team on clinchers. Forget about it!


    Frankie’s Diary: We’re too tired to talk at the table

    July 10, 1999

    Because of the amount of talking at the table this morning I can safely say that we are tired. Actually, the lack of talking. It was just a lot of eating. The first thing in anybody's mouth is always the coffee. Some days it's good and some days it's down right unhealthy.

    It was great earlier in the season when Dylan Casey was around. He always brought some fresh Peets coffee that we would always mooch off him. Pascal is our one non-coffee drinker; he's a hot chocolate man. After the coffee we usually go into the cereal and then some pasta and eggs. Then we usually go back to the cereal to top everything off.

    We go through a minimum of 25 boxes of cereal each week. I have every edition of every toy prize found in a cereal box. I'll never have to buy my kid another toy.

    Today was the longest, no second longest, no third longest day of the Tour. What's the difference when the stages are 227, 230, and 233 km's long? To me they are all long so it doesn't really matter which day is the "longest." Today was 227km's long and nobody wasted any time in getting the legs going. As usual the attacks went from the start and it took two hours till things finally settled.

    The only thing to settle a peloton is for a small group to get away; today it was a Big Mat rider. After he built up a lead of seven minutes Jacky Durand decided to try and bridge the gap. Casino just kept riding a slow tempo because the Big Mat rider was 17 minutes down.

    There were more people watching and lining the roads then any of the earlier stages. The course went next to Belgium and Luxembourg, so I'm sure all the cycling fans from there made their way down to watch the race. Because of the increase in spectators it causes an increase in crashes. The spectators just don't realize how fast we are moving and how we take up the whole road.

    It's never ending how many baby carriages, bike wheels, camera stands, and coolers we dodge all the time because they are left in the road. Stefano Garzelli (Mercatone Uno) did hit a spectator, got spun back in to the pack; ping-ponged off a couple of guys and then shot out into a field. I'm sure he will be messed up tomorrow.

    As Jacky got close to the first rider in the break the Big Mat rider sat up to wait for him. They can work better together than separately especially since there was 100 kilometers to go. Jacky never seems to learn, they were caught at the end again. He either never learns or he just doesn't care. Actually, I think he attacked so he could gain points in the most aggressive rider competition. If this race had an award for the most stupid rider Jacky would win hands down.

    With 10 kilometers to go we caught the break and the Telekom and Saeco guys started their trains for the field sprint. Before I get to the sprint I have to note that Erik Zabel took a bad spill in the middle of the race. He cut his chin badly and got a load of road rash.

    In the final sprint the Saeco guys took over with Cippo taking off for the line. When Zabel went to start his sprint he pulled both his feet out and landed straight on the top tube. It was amazing he didn't crash. Looking back on the TV it looks like his wheel locked up and that stopped the pedals, causing both his feet to come out right away. Cippo won AGAIN, 4th time in a row, match those scored by Charles Pelissier almost 70 years ago.

    Since the break was nine minutes up the road and we were just cruising, Christian and I decided to have some fun entering the feed zone. We were trying to throw our water bottles into the open hatchback of cars that were lined along the road. I missed both times but Christian landed one right in the back of a red Honda.

    George, being the nice guy that he is, decided he was going to toss one of his bottles to a guy waiting on the side of the road. He gently tossed it at him and it hit him square in the chest. It almost knocked the guy out. George didn't realize that when your going 40km/hr a water bottle can became a bullet when you throw it at someone. Even worse was that the bottle was half-full.

    After the race yesterday we saw Tom Steels after dinner. When George saw him he wasn't sure what to say -- none of us were. So George said, "Bad news, huh?" Tom said, "Yeah, it's impossible to argue with those guys." I would think it would be hard to argue especially if you're in the wrong.

    Cippo has won four times and for sure I don't think he will even ride one mountain pass. His next main goal will be evening out his tan lines at the beach. For the end of the season he has mentioned the idea of going to pursuit worlds in Berlin at the end of October. That will be interesting to watch. Talking about pursuits, Boardman is still mumbling on about retiring. He was spewing to me how his recovery is no good and how he can't come up to his old winning ways. It got depressing listening to him, it's obvious he wants out.

    Tomorrow is the T.T. The first guy goes off at 10:30 am and last at about 4:00 pm. It's an all day affair. Anybody going for a good ride in the overall will be pulling out the stops for tomorrow. No more sitting on the wheels and resting and waiting. Look for the top 20 to completely change after tomorrow is done. For me it's the start of my two-day rest block. I will cruise the T.T. and we fly out the next morning after the T.T. Normally I'd say wish us luck, but in this case wish Lance luck.


    Frankie’s Diary: Lance on the attack

    July 11, 1999

    Lance is back in Yellow and he won it back confidently. Early this morning Lance went and took a preview of the course so he would know what to expect. Actually this was his second time seeing the course. This morning Pascal got the raw end of the deal for the T.T. His departure time was ten in the morning so he didn't get to sleep in. In Pascal's eyes he got the best part of the deal because he got to watch the Formula One race in Silverstone and Lance win another stage in the Tour.

    The 56km T.T. course contained two climbs, a cat 4 that was 1.5km long and a cat 3 that was four kilometers. The three riders with the go ahead to go for it in the T.T. were Tyler, Kevin and, of course, Lance. The rest of us are just supposed to try and take it easy without getting eliminated by the time cut. The course was very windy today. The first part was windy while the middle part had the hills and the last part, that was flat, ended in a strong head wind. It was a course for a strong, fit rider that could hammer the gear into the winds.

    Those of you who read coverage online during the T.T., George was caught by his chasers, which were Olano and Lance. After my time trial I went to the camper and George asked what time I did. I told him around one hour 16 minutes. He said OK, I'll set my watch for one hour 15. Sure enough George crossed the line at one hour 15.

    Lance started out fast and strong and had the fastest check points at the first two check points. After the third check point he had a 1:40 lead over the current leader Zülle. He was killing everyone. Olano crashed in a small corner and lost maybe 30 seconds, but it ruined his rhythm. Almost right away Lance was on top of Olano and leaving him behind. Crashing and being caught must have been a blow to Olano's motivation, and he ended up almost two minutes behind at the finish.

    Lance lost time in the final head wind stretch to Zülle, but still managed to beat him by a minute. Our other hit man in the T.T. was Tyler who was second for the longest time behind Zülle. Tyler did a great ride ending up fifth in the stage. It's too bad he crashed on the causeway, otherwise he would be up there in the G.C. Then again the same could be said for Zülle.

    The biggest upset in the overall was the crash of Bobby Julich (Cofidis). On a sweeping down hill turn he lost control, or skidded out, and crashed badly. Nobody knows how he crashed except him because it wasn't caught on television. He had to lay there on the side of the road for what seemed an eternity while the organizers tried to get an ambulance out to him. I've heard conflicting stories from broken ribs, to broken elbow, to broken collarbone to nothing broken at all. I do know that his Tour is finished before it even got started for him.

    Tomorrow, on our rest day, we fly to the Alpes. We have to leave early in the morning to take a bus to the airport. We then fly to, I think, Geneva and take a bus for an hour to the hotel. Then we have to try and go ride in the mountains for at least three hours. It's a long stressful rest day. Why, three hours? The day after the rest day is a big mountain day and we have to make sure our bodies don't shut down from race mode. We probably will do a couple efforts to keep the legs awake and ready for what is waiting for us on the stage to Sestrieres.

    This first week has seen some bad crashes, lots of close calls and some very nervous riders. Everyone has the same orders from their directors to be represented in the break. This makes for a lot of fighting to get to the front and stay in the front.

    Because of this craziness almost everyone wears a helmet. Maybe one or two wear hair nets, like Lars Michaelson (Francaise des Jeux), but I'd say 99% wear hard shells. The most popular helmet out there is Giro.

    Some riders like O'Grady, Boardman, Vogels, Moncassin, Boogerd, and Lance have specially painted helmets. Lance's helmet, the same one he wore when he was in Yellow, has a painting of the outline of Texas with a lone star in the middle. It's much easier for us to spot him in the pack when he wears this helmet. Last year George had a Captain America helmet after he won in Philly.

    One helmet that is different from many of the rest are the Rudy Project helmets. They are the ones you see on TV that are pink and have a visor on the back. The visor is interchangeable from the front to the back. Miguel Indurain used a Rudy Project helmet that had an attachment that allowed it to hook to the handlebars. This was for when he was in the mountains he could take off his helmet and attach it the bars securely without worrying about it.

    Each day, in the back of the official results, are the penalties of the day. Every day the UCI makes money off someone, that's guaranteed. Penalties are handed out to the riders and their teams for many different reasons. The most common reasons are for motorpacing, irregular feeding, disrespect to a commissare, pissing in front of people, and forgetting to sign in. These fines are usually about 50 Swiss Francs.

    Irregular feeding is giving food or clothing to a rider when the team car is not behind the commissare's car. In the back of the peloton there is a red Fiat that has one of the head commissares in it. This car is always supposed to be the first car behind the pack, if you pass it without permission you get a fine.

    The UCI also hands out fines to the publicity caravan, press cars, and press motorcycles. The main fines the press cars will get is if they didn't move their parked cars before the start. Sometimes you will see certain press motorcycles kicked out of the Tour for one day or maybe two. This can happen for endangering a cyclist, excessive speeding, or not listening to the commissares. There are many times where a motorcycle will not get off the front of a break or a chasing peloton allowing motorpacing to take place. If this happens they are kicked out for a day.

    The time I remember when the UCI were really getting rich was when Cippo would always wear different team clothing. He would get hit for 200-500SF each time and the team would also get a 250SF fine. This is not a problem now because the rules have been changed and I'm sure the UCI is a little poorer because of it.


    Frankie’s Diary: On the move, and calling Bobby

    July 12, 1999

    We took a bus, flew, and took a bus and then rode. We didn't arrive to the hotel till about one p.m. and then we went riding for 2.5 hours over the first part of the course tomorrow. Talk about a lot of people: The start city for tomorrow is packed, it's pure gridlock outside. On the way to the hotel I called Bobby to see how he is doing.

    He flew to Nice early this morning from Metz. In Nice he is going to the hospital again to get a full check up on his injuries. The main thing that he is worried about is his elbow. It may be broken but even if it isn't something is torn inside. He says he has no movement at all with it.

    The other serious problem is massive bruising or a hematoma in his chest area. He said it's painful to breathe much less move around. Again, the ribs may not be broken but they might as well be because of the pain he has. I hope him a speedy recovery and he realizes that at the speed he was going he is lucky only to have the problems he has.

    Now that the first week is over the sprinters will be in survival mode. They have made their mark in this first week showing everyone who was in charge. One sprinter that was not here who could have possibly put a stop to Cippo's four consecutive wins was Jeroen Blijlevens (TVM). Blijlevens has always been a threat in the Tour, but especially in the longer stages.

    In this years Giro he dominated the early stages winning three days. His decision to quit the Giro in the last week was solely based on keeping his sprinting legs for the Tour. If he knew that he would be prevented from riding the Tour I'm sure he would have tried for another stage win in Milan. Cippo can count his blessings that Jeroen didn't get a chance to show his colors at the Tour.

    The T.T. yesterday was something special. Lance dominated the stage in the same way Indurain used to crush his competitors. Lance averaged 49.3 km/hr on a hilly windy circuit. He went up the cat. 3 climb in a 55x19 while I used a 45x19.

    Lance was waiting for no one to take that Yellow Jersey except for him. He told us after he passed Olano he knew that Olano was sitting behind him. The first part of the race he had all the press motorcycles around him, but after he passed Olano they were nowhere. The motorcycles were not allowed to pass Olano until the gap grew big enough so that Olano would not get a draft.

    George said that when Lance's lead motorcycle passed him the driver said to George all excited, "Lance is coming, Lance is coming." Even the cops are fans.

    When Johan caught up to Manolo Saiz, the ONCE director, who was following Olano, they drove next to each other for about five kilometers. It was like the student and the teacher squaring off. For three years Johan rode for Saiz on Team ONCE.

    The French seem to have a new game. It's a dangerous game for themselves and for the riders. In the race there seems to be a competition on who can run in between the lead car and the charging peloton. We all have seen this happen many times during the stages. People are darting across the road at the last possible moment right before the group speeds by. This was happening also during the T.T. In Lance's ride in particular some kids were trying to run in between the lead motorcycle and him. Lance had to swerve a little to avoid the kids, but next time he and them might not be so lucky.

    You might also be noticing many Mariano Piccoli (Lampre) banners along the roadside. You are probably thinking can there be that many supporters for Piccoli. It seems like there are more banners for the Italian than there is for their favorite French rider Virenque. The reason it's like this is because there is an award given out each day by the team Lampre. Each day while driving the racecourse they select the best looking or their favorite banner supporting Piccoli. Lampre then gets the supporters address and sends them a climber's Polka-dot Jersey. It sounds simple, but considering how many fans are watching the Tour the odds can't be good to get noticed.

    Erik Zabel is ok after his injuries the other day. It's incredible that he took the start today in the T.T. I saw him at dinner and was asking him what had happened. He received 10 stitches to his chin and has a very sore groin after landing on his top bar and stem. He said that he had a couple stones lodged in his pedal after his first crash and his cleats did not completely lock into the pedals. When he started the sprint his foot came straight out. He said he had to set up some new shoes because the leather got ripped off from the soles somehow. Whatever it is, I give him credit for continuing. He is one tough German.

    Mark Gorski, our manager, has been our second director driving the second team car all race. He hasn't seen much action lately because the peloton has always been finishing together. Now that will all change. With the mountains arriving tomorrow the peloton will be split into many groups giving the second directors a critical job in keeping the riders fueled and warm.

    I have two rain bags, one in the first car and one in the second car. Both pretty much contain the same thing, such as rain jacket, gloves, hat, and vest. I haven't needed anything from the first car yet, but I can guarantee you I will be digging into that second bag.

    The first car always stays with the first group or the leader on the team, while Mark is responsible for all of the other team riders. He drives in between the groups, taking care of riders with water, food and clothes if it's needed.

    I can remember in a few mountain stages when I was stranded in a group that my second director forgot about. Freezing on a downhill or bonking during a mountain stage in no way to get through a Tour. I guess you could say that during the mountain stages the second car is my lifeline.

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