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Milan - San Remo
March 24, 1997

Frankie Andreu a fellow American with Livingston on the Cofidis team was one of the first racers to crash on the Cipressa. "There are just a lot more guys at the same level, and everyone has to take more chances," he shrugged. "That makes the racing more nervous, and at a race like Milan-San Remo it's accentuated even more. The last 100 kilometers you're fighting for position the whole time. So what do you expect? There are going to be a lot of crashes. That's the way racing is today."

Tour of Flanders
April 7, 1997

The race exploded from the gun, ripping through the sun-drenched course at a phenomenal average speed of 43.023 kmh (the second fastest in the race's 81-year history). American Frankie Andreu and Italian icon Mario Cipollini drove a breakaway group of 18 riders that dangled off the front for approximately 100 km. "In a break, especially at Flanders, you're more relaxed and safer," Andreu told VeloCity at the finish. "There are compromises though because you're also taking the wind and working harder. But I would always prefer to have a bit of a head start on the pack."

In Preparation for Paris-Roubaix
April 1997

"I'm fried right now," admits Andreu. He would much prefer to be home training on the Mediterranean coast of France. But he happens to be good at this style of racing; his early years racing on the track gave him the bike handling skills necessary to maneuver through these quirky races.

Recognizing Andreu's talent and experience, the French Cofidis team has consigned him to a month of northern races. "All month I've been fighting for position, and fighting to avoid crashes," he says. "And then I come back to this hotel and just stare at the four walls. There is nothing to do up here, nothing to take your mind off the racing. It's a real brain drain and a killer for the motivation."

So how does Andreu expect to be up for Paris-Roubaix, the biggest beast of them all? "That's different," he insists. "Paris-Roubaix is beyond everything. I'm nervous, but it's an excited nervous. And once the race starts you're just in this tunnel vision. This year the organizers have changed the course. I swear they went out of their way to find some new sections of pavé. Section eight and nine are just terrible. There is nowhere to ride. When we hit them we'll feel every one of those cobbles. Those two sections will surely effect the race." Andreu admits that, despite everything, he loves this race and hopes to do well. For him there is only one goal: "stay in the front group as long as possible."

April 15, 1997

"God that was fast! It was a dry Paris-Roubaix, which always makes for a fast race. But this was seriously crazy. When you hit those pavé sections, you're going 30 mph, you're just flyin' over those bricks. On the first couple of sections you don't even feel them. But then it starts to take its toll.

The hardest thing about the race is the fighting. All day long you're in a non-stop battle for position. The worst place is the approach to the Wallers-Arenberg sector. The ride into the Wallers forest is hairy -- just mad. Getting to the forest is just like a big field sprint, only it lasts for 10 kilometers! There is nothing, absolutely nothing like it. I mean you got guys quacking (hitting for position) left and right, teams running trains up both sides of the road. Guys are hopping over the curbs, grabbin' your saddle. It's crazy.

All day long you're on the edge because you want to be at the front, but not completely at the front, because then you have to take the wind. This year's race was mostly into a head wind, which makes you're position all the more crucial. It's such a drain.

There's nothing like Paris-Roubaix to zap you of all your mental and physical energy. You have to concentrate so much. You're always trying to find the best line over the pavé. But the only thing harder than finding the right line is getting to it, because there are always guys zipping up on you. All day long you are constantly dodging curbs, potholes and people.

This year there were some new pavé sections, which I really thought would make a difference. But hell, by the time we got to them, I didn't even have the time to notice. Paris-Roubaix is about pavé, and there are pavés everywhere. You're just in this tunnel-vision thing tryin' to get through them.

Personally, I was really happy with the way I felt. I had good legs today, which is really important because you're legs aren't blowin' up as soon as you hit the pavé sections. In the first cobble sector I was able to ride at the front, which is the best way to stay out of trouble.

I punctured in the third section, but I got a wheel change and made my way back. In the final I was still feeling good but my teammate Philippe Gaumont punctured in one of the last sections of pavé (zone 6), just when the race was starting to blow, and I had to help get him back to the front. That killed me. In a race like this you can only make a couple of big efforts like that. If those efforts are spent chasing, then you don't have much left for attacking.

I'd give this year's race a 7 or 7.5 on a scale of ten. I'm happy with the way I felt, but by doing all the team work I took myself out of the equation. In the beginning I felt really good, but after those big efforts I was just dead. With two cobble sections to go it was just like, 'holy shit!' But heh, that's Paris-Roubaix."

Hijinx in the peleton
by Frankie Andreu

Each May you've probably become used to switching on ESPN (or in our case, packing our bags and heading for the East Coast) and watching the Tour DuPont, the only Euro-quality racing event in the U.S. This year, the DuPont didn't happen, and plans for next year are still tentative. So to say farewell to our biggest stage race, we offer up former Motorola domestique Frankie Andreu's account of some of the fun they had last year after two weeks of defending Lance Armstrong's yellow leader's jersey.

Ever wonder what the riders think or talk about during five or six hours on the bike? Most of the time it's things like how to defend the lead or take it away. But there are slow days when the peloton lightens up or the jokesters come to the fore. The rain was coming down in buckets the last day of the 1996 Tour DuPont, so we were soaked from head to toe. Half our problem was dodging puddles and being careful to miss the little rivers that were flowing down the road (the other half being sure Lance Armstrong's lead was secure). Luckily, Team Motorola had the peloton communication system, which allows us to speak with each other and to our director in the team car via radio.

After two hours in the rain, we decided to have some fun. Our first project was to call back to the team car using our mini walkie-talkies and tell Jim Ochowicz, our team directeur sportif, that Lance had a problem. We told Och Lance needed some new cycling shorts, that his were wet. So Och went scrambling in the back of the car looking for shorts. Finally, Och came back over the radio and said he couldn't find any. We told him we would try to make the best of it, meaning we had been laughing amongst ourselves because we were wringing wet. Lance needed some dry shorts? Hell, we all needed dry everything!

Earlier in the day, Stephanie Adams from Oakley had put some cookies in the team car for our staff. Well, after we couldn't get the shorts for Lance we thought we'd commandeer the cookies. After a short scuffle of words, we got Och to render the cookies to us. Half were already gone so we shared what was left. I never figured they got hungry driving behind us in the team car.

One of the drawbacks with the peloton system is that anyone can listen in on our tactics. One of the best listeners out there is Dave Lettierri, the director of the former Chevrolet/L.A. Sheriff team. Before the race, we had concocted a story for Dave's benefit. About 15 kilometers from the feed zone, Och got on the radio and asked if we were still going to attack with Saturn in the feed zone and blow the race apart. Sure enough, two seconds later we see the Sheriff's van come screaming up next to Malcolm Elliott. We didn't know what Dave was saying, but I'm sure it was something like, "Get to the front now!" We all turned around and waved to Dave to show him it was a setup. We had a good laugh with some of the Sheriff riders, and it made the rain not seem so dismal.

With about three hours gone and three hours to go, the rain started to chill us to the bone. The cookies were long gone and a few of us were getting hungry for something other than race food. Nothing is better than chocolate, and since it was a slow day we got on the radio and ordered up some Snickers bars. I called Och and Och called our media liaison, Paul Sherwen, and Paul went to the store. The first store didn't have any chocolate bars and the second one didn't have Snickers, so he bought everything else it had instead. We had a mini feed zone a few minutes later and picked our teeth all the way to the finish.

With the demise of the Tour DuPont, there's a gaping hole in the American calendar. I'm sorry the Tour DuPont is no longer, but I am grateful that U.S. cycling could support such a big event for many years. I'm sure there will be many disappointed Euro pros who will miss racing in the U.S., even if once in a while it's in the pouring rain.

1997 Tour de Suisse
Frankie Andreu lone American in Tour de Suisse

Like most in the peloton, American Frankie Andreu (Cofidis) is using the Tour de Suisse as a springboard for next month's Tour de France. But unlike the Tour's top prospects, such as ONCE's Alex Zulle or Telekom's Bjarne Riis, Andreu isn't expected to finish anywhere near the podium when the big Tour ends in Paris on July 27.

Instead, Andreu is hoping to peak his condition for a strong finish in one of the first 10 stages of the Tour, where the veteran American is hoping to earn his first career Tour de France stage win in one of the early, flat stages before the Tour climbs into the Pyrenees and then later into the Alps.

"I'm going to try everything I can to do something in those first 10 stages. That's my best chance," Andreu said after riding in Tuesday's opening prologue of the Tour de Suisse. "I'd like to win a Tour stage. That's always been my goal.

Andreu rode the technical 7.2-kilometer (4.32-mile) prologue course in 9 minutes, 26 seconds to finish 28.58 seconds back in 36th overall.

When he was one of the top riders on the now-defunct Motorola team, Andreu was always the quiet foot soldier for teammate and good friend Lance Armstrong. Andreu helped set up Armstrong, who is now recovering from a battle with testicular cancer, for some of the American's most dramatic wins.

In last year's Olympic road race in Atlanta, Andreu barely missed his chance for glory. After Armstrong waved him on, Andreu made a late charge on fast-fading bronze-medalist Max Sciandri and finished fourth, just off the podium.

That's where Andreu's been for much of his nine-year professional career: just beyond the glare of the spotlight. He said signing with Cofidis in the off-season has given him new motivation. He shares a flat with teammate Livingston in Nice, France, and said he's excited about this year's Tour.

"It's coming around and I'm feeling better," Andreu said. "Things were looking good at the Tour de Luxembourg and I want to get into those big mountains and really test myself.

"In the Tour, if I can survive those mountains and see if I can't do anything. I am going to go for a stage win, just like every year.

Andreu is the only American among this year's 156 starters of the Tour de Suisse. Last year, a record 10 Americans rode on two U.S.-sponsored teams, including two-time winner Andy Hampsten. A European racing veteran, Andreu said being the lone gringo doesn't bother him.

"It really doesn't matter, you got to go out there and race all the same," he said. "The Tour's going to be good. There should be a lot of us there."

Joining Andreu in the Tour will likely be Cofidis teammates Bobby Julich and Bobby Livingston, both taking a break after finishing last week's Dauphine Libere stage race in the Alps. Also, the U.S. Postal Team, which received Tuesday an invitation to race in the 1997 Tour, is expected to bring along at least three other Americans.

An American in Paris

A cyclist with no chance of winning the Tour de France still finds it irresistible

by Michael Bamberger

Every year for six years Frankie Andreu of Dearborn, Mich., has competed in the Tour de France, an event he knows he cannot win. For three weeks he rides more than 100 miles a day, on average, much of it uphill. For three weeks he doesn't know where he's going, and he doesn't know where he's been. You ask him, "What did you think of the peak of Courcheval, Frankie?"

"Where's that?" he asks.

"It's the mountain in the French Alps you rode up today on your bike," you answer.

"Oh," Frankie says, "that place."

For three weeks he doesn't see his wife, for women, basically, are not allowed on the Tour de France. Well, mothers are tolerated. The mother of Jan Ullrich, the 23-year-old German who won the 84th Tour de France on Sunday, was everywhere for three weeks. So were the podium girls, whose job it is to stand on a podium and kiss the winners of the daily stages. But the presence of girlfriends and wives is strongly discouraged. It's a Tour custom that Andreu, 30, could do without, but he puts up with it for the privilege of competing. His dream is to win a stage, get a kiss on the cheek from a podium girl, become a note in the legend of the Tour. How good that would be. In 1994, Andreu placed in the final leg of the race, in Paris, on the Champs-Elysees. He lost the lead within 100 yards of the finish. He crossed the line with his chin on his chest. How bad that was. "To a bike racer, winning a stage in the Tour de France is bigger than winning a gold medal in the Olympics," says Andreu, who has twice competed in the Summer Games, finishing fourth in the road race last year in Atlanta.

Andreu knows the Tour shares the problems of cycling and of the world at large. Many riders, he acknowledges, use performance-enhancing drugs in their training. One cyclist, Djamolidin Abdoujaparov of Uzbekistan, was thrown out of this year's race after a positive drug test. Some reports said he was using steroids and amphetamines. There's boorish behavior, too. Tom Steels of Belgium was ejected for hurling a water bottle at a fellow rider.

Andreu knows also that to ride the Tour is to live dangerously. Two years ago a teammate, Fabio Casartelli, a 24-year-old rider from Italy, was descending a mountain in the Pyrenees at about 55 mph when he crashed, his head smashing into a cement post, fracturing his skull and ending his life. Each night when the day's race is over, Andreu calls his wife, Betsy, and that is when her anxiousness for the day is over. "It seemed like there was carnage every day for a while," Andreu says, referring to the many crashes in the opening week. "I missed all the bad stuff." You see him reaching for a wooden beam on a wall and knocking on it gently.

But ultimately, for Andreu, the charms of the Tour are irresistible. Several days before the end of the race the riders took a special train from Dijon, the capital of Burgundy, to EuroDisney, outside Paris. Hundreds of people gathered at the station to see off the riders. Spontaneously, the assemblage broke into song, singing an anthem of Burgundy, Ban Bourguignon, for the benefit of the riders. When the train pulled out of the station, Andreu looked out his window and saw the people waving goodbye. He picked up a paper and read about the race that absorbs a country. He knew he was at the center of his universe.

On Sunday he rode down the Champs-Elysees once again. Tens of thousands of Parisians were there, cheering along the grand boulevard, calling out their thanks. On his arms, Andreu will tell you, there were goose bumps, and in his spine there was tingling.

"By the end you're cycling for the fans as much as for yourself or for your team," Andreu says. "They are there to say, 'Thank you for riding in the heat and for riding up the mountains. Thank you for giving us the pleasure of watching you.' I can't imagine another sport where the fans are so generous. Coming down the Champs-Elysees, you're feeding off the crowds, and they're feeding off you. At that point, it doesn't matter where you finish, not to you and not to them. The thing is that you're there."

Andreu completed his sixth consecutive Tour de France. No active American rider has completed more. He finished 79th. His best finish in a stage was eighth. He was thrilled.

The Six Muskateers

The Americans had an exciting Tour. Six Americans started the Tour, and it looks as though six Americans are going to finish. Additionally, the American U.S. Postal team hasn't lost a rider yet (as far as I can see at the moment). For the new team, and for the four new Tour riders, this year's Tour has to be counted as a success.

The American story began with Tour veteran Frankie Andreu. Andreu is relatively good in prologues and he managed 25th in this year's edition. After avoiding a few disasters, Andreu's experience enabled him to move into 11th on g.c. by the time the mountains arrived. Then the American climbers, Julich and Livingston, began waving the Stars and Stripes.

Though they both had bad first days, on the second mountain stage, Livingston found his climbing legs and managed his best placing of the Tour, 15th, while Julich continued to find the Pyrenees troubling. In between climbing stages, Andreu got his annual top-10 placing, 8th on stage 11.

Once the race hit the Alps, as we all know, Julich came alive. He began slowly with a 21st and an 18th place on stages 13 and 14, but after that he really heated up with a 6th, a 7th, a 3rd, and a 4th. Julich's heroics moved him into 17th on g.c. Not a world-beater result, but very impressive for a first-timer. Julich's performances in the 2 big national tours that he has competed in demonstrate that he is more than a one shot wonder. How much more, of course, is an unknown.

Jemison, Hamilton, and Hincapie were little more than pack filler, but each of them had at least one top-20 result. Hamilton was the highest placed American in the first time trial at 27th (6:54) and did another good ride in the 2nd time trial, finishing 22nd. Perhaps this skill will be developed further in the future.

As a whole, the Americans showed a lot of solidarity. They often finished together in pairs, and it was obvious in the ABC interview that they were all pulling for each other. Without a big superstar to overshadow them, the Americans knew they needed to come up big, and they demonstrated that they are more than capable of performing on the Tour de France playing field. Cheers to the Americans!

In his words: "I just want to finish the race and go for a stage win, just like every year."

1997 Tour de France

Frankie Andreu


Final overall, July 27: 1. Ullrich, 3,943.8km in 100:30:35 (39.237kph); 2. Virenque, at 9:09; 3. Pantani, at 14:03; 4. Olano, at 15:15; 5. Escartin, at 20:32; 6. Francesco Casagrande (I), Saeco, at 22:47; 7. Riis, at 26:34; 8. Jimenez, at 31:17; 9. Dufaux, at 31:55; 10. Roberto Conti (I), Mercatone Uno, at 32:26.

Others: 12. Oskar Camenzind (Switz), Mapei-GB, at 35:52; 15. Robin, at 58:35; 17. Julich, at 1:01:10; 35. Joona Laukka (Fin), Festina, at 1:43:05; 38. Livingston, at 1:46:23; 44. Ekimov, at 2:01:23; 54. Stephens, at 2:23:40; 62. Jonker, at 2:33:38; 67. Sciandri, at 2:42:24; 69. Tyler Hamilton (USA), U.S. Postal, at 2:47:51; 79. Andreu, at 3:05:00; 96. Jemison, at 3:25:21; 99. Vogels, at 3:26:46; 104. Hincapie, at 3:31:08; 109. O'Grady, at 3:35:56; 117. McEwen, at 3:45:47.

1997 Tour de France
Stage 19

Cyclists are trained to win and Andreu admits that riding a Tour simply to finish is not exactly the most majestic of goals. "For much of this year's Tour, you're just trying to get through it," he says. "This year the stages were designed for either sprinters or climbers. For guys like me there's not many possibilities."

Andreu's finishing streak nearly came to an end this year when he picked up a virus when the race entered the Alps. "The worst was the Alpe d'Huez stage," he remembers. "For most guys that was an easy mountain day, but I was sick and that changed everything. When I was done I just went straight to bed. The next day into Courchavel also killed. There were three 20-kilometer climbs on the program, and already on the first climb a lot of us were at our limits."

Question for Frankie Andreu: How locked into Cofidis are you should Jim 'Och' return to the Euro scene next year? I take it you would ride with him again? Best of luck this year. -- Billy Shanks

"I'm enjoying Cofidis now. At the beginning of the year there were a lot of problems with the organisation, but now it¹s a lot better. "And if 'Och' got another sponsor; I would love to go back. But it would all depend on if we could work out the right terms. But if I could go back to Och in a second, I would."

Stage 19:
Frankie Andreu -- Still Smiling

The start village in Montbéliard is soaked by the morning rain, and morale is low among the Tour de France riders and race followers . The Tour is in its final days and the fair weather that blessed most of the three-week event has left prematurely. But under the start village tents, at least one rider is laughing. American rider Frankie Andreu defines the expression "happy-go-lucky." Whatever the weather, whatever the mood, Frankie usually finds something to laugh about.

When the race rolls into Paris on Sunday, Andreu will complete his sixth consecutive Tour -- only one other American, Andy Hampsten, has more (8). Andreu is placed a distant 80th out of 139 remaining riders, and he has no particular speciality. He is an average sprinter, an average time trialer and a below average climber. But he knows how to finish.

As a team rider for the French Cofidis team this year, he is paid to provide whatever support may be needed. Often, just making the time cut-off is a struggle, but Andreu never fails to endure. "People forget what it means to finish the Tour de France six times," says George Hincapie, a friend and ex-teammate of Andreu's who is now riding for the U.S. Postal Service Team. "I didn't finish my first Tour last year, and I'm just hoping to finish this one. If there is one thing I've learned, it's to watch Frankie. He'll always get you there."

Cyclists are trained to win and Andreu admits that riding a Tour simply to finish is not exactly the most majestic of goals. "For much of this year's Tour, you're just trying to get through it," he says. "This year the stages were designed for either sprinters or climbers. For guys like me there's not many possibilities."

Andreu's finishing streak nearly came to an end this year when he picked up a virus when the race entered the Alps. "The worst was the Alpe d'Huez stage," he remembers. "For most guys that was an easy mountain day, but I was sick and that changed everything. When I was done I just went straight to bed. The next day into Courchavel also killed. There were three 20-kilometer climbs on the program, and already on the first climb a lot of us were at our limits."

Like any Tour rider, Andreu dreams of winning a stage even though he knows time is running out this year. Twice he has finished second. The last time was in 1994 on the final stage on the Champs-Elysées. Andreu attacked on the final circuit only to be caught in the last meters. He knows that duplicating such a move is next to impossible, but it hasn't tarnished his enthusiasm for returning to Paris. "That Paris finish is just a rush," he exclaims. "I mean every year I come in and see the Eiffel Tower and start going around those circuits I get a tingle in my arms, just goose bumps. The people are going nuts and it is such a release of pressure and anxiety that it can't help but be a good feeling."

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