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Thursday, Sept. 23

stage EIGHTEEN

Just a short update. The attacks started at the gun and continued all day. Telekom had Amica Chips and Cofidis help them control and chase things down during the day. There was a category 1 climb followed by a category 2 climb followed by the finish climb of ten kilometers. Everyone knew the hammer was going to be thrown down as soon as we hit the category 1 climb. Sure enough, Banesto hit the front in full sprint mode and never pulled off till the final hill climb. Of course I only saw this on the television. I jumped in the grupetto as soon as it was made. The problem with the grupetto is that in never forms easily, the riders always try to hang on till it's way too uncomfortable and then sit up. We could all save each other a lot of pain and suffering if we just formed our easy group right away.

Back to the race - Zulle was the man of the day. He rode the entire category 1 climb on the front reducing the leaders to a pack of eleven. On the next climb some of the riders that were dropped came back. On the last climb Zulle again hit the bottom sprinting. You could see him giving everything for Jimenez. Piepoli was dropped right away. When Zulle pulled off there were maybe eight guys. A Euskaltel guy attacked and Kelme was going along with Banesto, all giving full efforts. Half way up the final climb Ullrich was losing meters; he looked like he was standing still. Vandenbroucke dropped back helped Ullrich back up to the group and tried to contain things. The last three kilometers were very steep and Jimenez put in a huge attack going away by himself. In front of Jimenez was the Euskaltel rider going for the win. Ullrich again was dropped. Jimenez was trying to catch the Euskaltel rider and Heras (Kelme) and Galdeano (Vitalicio) (second on G.C. @45") were dropping Ullrich. Then all of a sudden from nowhere Vandenbroucke appeared and sprinted past Heras and Galdeano and passed Jimenez like he was a schoolboy riding to class. Vandenbroucke finished second a few seconds behind the Euskaltel rider whom he couldn't catch.

Ullrich finished alone losing twenty seconds to Heras and Galdeano. Banesto laid the gauntlet but Ullrich survived because of the help from Cofidis. Telekom was nowhere at the end of the race. After the race Johan said, "I think we just saw who will win the worlds." Vandenbroucke was crazy strong.

Friday, Sept. 24

stage NINETEEN

It took twenty days but it finally happened. We had a slow easy tranquil start to the race. I was up there on the front line doing everything I could to make it happen. The race started out on a category 3 climb so I'm sure nobody was in the mood to stir things up right away. Today we had two category 1 climbs and a category 2 climb with a descent to the finish. Because Ullrich cracked a bit yesterday I was sure the climbers were going to give everything to try and crack Ullrich again. It sort of worked but it was Ullrich's ally that cracked him. As incredible as it sounds, at least to me, we rode almost ninety kilometers at a normal pace. It was sweet heaven. At kilometer ninety we hit the first hill. Right away Telekom started to ride tempo but when they started to die Cofidis took over. When I say Cofidis took over I mean Lelli and Vandenbroucke. Cofidis only has two riders left in the race. The climbs were an advantage to Ullrich today. They were not very steep, an average of 6 percent, they were power climbs. Ullrich had no problem staying with the lead eleven guys going over the two category 1 climbs. The Banesto and Kelmes would attack but the climbs were not steep enough to benefit the true climbers. On the category 2 climb Vandenbroucke went to the front to set tempo and keep things controlled. One by one riders were getting dropped. The group dwindled from twenty to eleven to seven riders. Santa Blanco had to pull over, Tonkov had to pull over, Beltran had to pull over, then Ullrich gradually lost two, three, then five meters. Vandenbroucke rode everyone, including Ullrich, off his wheel. At the top Vandenbroucke had fifteen seconds. Banesto caught him on the descent. The finish had a cobbled section of three hundred meters about a kilometer and a half from the finish. Here an Once rider attacked and got away. It looked clean cut that the Once guy would win but then Vandenbroucke appeared again. Flying past everyone over the cobbles and blazing past the Once guy. Vandenbroucke won alone. Another confirmation that he is flying!!

For the survivors, we made it. I finished only nineteen minutes down, well under the time cut. Frank Hoj had a miserable day. He has been sick these last few days today he got dropped pretty much right away at kilometer ninety. He rode all the climbs and the whole day off the back from the grupetto. He did ninety kilometers by himself through the mountains. He is toast right now. He got back from the race and went straight to bed. He hasn't moved - no shower, and no massage. He says he isn't getting up till tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a time trial. That means rest day for most of the riders in the peloton. Then on Sunday is the Madrid-Madrid circuit race. There are only a few sprinters left in the group so we will be trying to set up Julian or Glenn for the final. Their main competition will be from Hunter (Lampre), Lombardy(Telekom), and Traversoni (Saeco)

Ekimov told me he got no sleep last night. I asked him why. He said that Ullrich bought everyone in the hotel PAY-TV for the night. All the riders were up watching movies all night long.

The American bike companies are making their way to Europe. As you know some already have a strong hold here. Saeco -Cannondale, US Postal-Trek, Lotto-GT, Festina -possibly Specialized, TVM-possibly Lightspeed. The American's must be doing something right.

    

Saturday, Sept. 25

stage TWENTY

Today was the time trial. All morning it was raining and the thought of having to do the time trial in the rain didn't help our motivation at all. The Village area at the start was a mess. They set up all the tents on a dirt field inside an old velodrome. Because of the rain the field was one big mud bowl. It was impossible for anyone to walk anywhere. This wasn't much of a problem for the riders considering most of us just wanted to get the heck out of there and get the time trial over with. The time trial was 45km long with a twenty-kilometer gradual uphill climb. The climb alone would have been hard enough but add onto that a raging head wind and you had some suffering units. I couldn't believe how hard I had to go just to keep moving. I swear at times that I was going fifteen km/hr. It felt like I was crawling and would never reach the top of the climb. To make matters worse the first two kilometers of the time trial were over cobbles. Just before the last kilometer we again had to go over five hundred meters of cobbles. Who ever heard of putting cobbles in a time trial? This course, because of the wind, had to have been a climber's nightmare. This course was made for pure strength. Who else to put his seal of dominance on the Vuelta was Ullrich who killed everyone. Ullrich caught Igor, 2nd on G.C., by the fifteen-kilometer mark. He then destroyed everyone else by almost two minutes. If you look at the time you should be able to tell that it was a very hard course; just look at the average speed. I rode 1:16 something. It was enough to make the time cut and but not so hard so as to kill myself.

Worlds are in two weeks. It gets easier to do the predicting when I see riders going the way they are. Ullrich should win the time trial and Vandenbroucke should win the road. The road is always a gamble because anything can happen, but you should see a good war between the Italians and the Belgians. For the Americans, our best hope is Chan McRae. Chan has ridden a great race here at the Vuelta while working for Tonkov and hopefully his form will stay with him until he gets to Italy.

As tradition has it, I make this tradition, today will be my last entry. I will try to catch a flight out tomorrow after the race from Madrid back to Nice, therefore there is no time to write. If something good happens I might give an update on Monday. I hope everyone enjoyed reading about the Vuelta, I'm sure you enjoyed it more than I did riding it. It was one of the hardest Vuelta's ever, this came from a Spanish rider who would know. I also saw Hein Verbruggen yesterday. He mentioned that for September and after a long season that this year's Vuelta was a little too extreme. It would have been nice if he realized that on September 3 instead of September 25th. From the 180 or so starters there are only 115 finishers. If the commissaires regulated this race like they do the Tour than I guarantee the organizer would have had his sixty-rider peloton in Madrid. As it was we made it through the hardest part of this year's Vuelta, the third week, and finished with four guys. Cofidis finished with two riders (if you count Vandenbroucke you could call it eight guys), Lotto with three, Liquigas with three, and Saeco with four. No one finished a full team of starters, nine guys. One mistake yesterday, TVM will ride Koga-Miyata bikes not Lightspeed.

Thanks for making www.frankieandreu.com a success, and thanks for your interest in the race behind the results.
Frankie Andreu
U.S. Postal Service Cycling Team

Monday, Sept. 27

The day after

The race is over and we went out with a bang. It was almost an explosion but Julian's 2nd place on the final stage was a nice way to finish everything off. The race was the same as the last days in other big Tours. Riders riding easy finding out what they are doing once they head home, riders changing bikes, and a lot of screwing around. The serious stuff started about five kilometers from the entrance of the circuits. When we entered on the circuits Johan came over the radio and said the break had 1'30". I didn't even know there was a break, where it went I have no idea. Even more surprising was that the rider up the road was Vandenbrook. We hit the circuits with eight laps to go till the finish. Vandenbrook was off the front flying and the group was in full chase mode behind. It took us four laps of the five-kilometer circuit to catch him. It never fails, Vandenbrook always puts on a show and today was another impressive ride. Before the race we decided that Frank would take care of Julian for the sprint and I would take care of Glen. Glen and I talked and he told me just to make sure he was first or second into the last 180-degree turn with one kilometer to go. He said the last kilometer he could take care of himself. As the race entered one lap to go the whole group was together and Telekom was trying to put something together for the sprint for Lombardy. I came past the two-kilometer sign with Glen on my wheel and we flew to the corner. . I was completely spun out in my 53x11. I dropped Glen off at the corner in the second, my job was done. Julian was fending for himself. Frank helped him a little but when crunch time came Julian was by himself. The sprint was on a two- percent gradual uphill; it was a very hard long drag. Bilevens just nipped Julian at the line. After three weeks of suffering Julian made it all worth while. It was a nice way to head home.

Speaking of home, I'm on my way home also. It's been a long season with a lot of races and I've opted out of Worlds. I started the Vuelta with the full intention of going to Worlds but as my legs started failing I realized it would not be a good idea. So, my last race was yesterday.

During the race I was talking with Ekimov. He told me how has 130 races for the year. Just so you know that is one hell of a lot. Jonathon Vaugheters probably has fifty races this year if he's lucky. Ekimov told me how he would never ride for a small team again. In his contract he laid out his schedule for the year with which races he would have to do. Well, after not getting paid since March they sent him to every race there was and he had to go. Today he has a meeting with the owners and representatives of the team too try and get the money that is due to him. Some of his teammates have to start a five-day race in Tuscany tomorrow. Can you imagine finishing the Vuelta and having only one day off and have to go to another stage race? Some riders after the Tour de France go straight to Tour of Portugal. Tour of Portugal is fifteen days long, imagine that stretch of racing.

During the race I was talking with Rolf Aldag(Telekom), I was talking with everyone. I asked him if the team members still get Audi cars for riding on the team. He said he got a used Audi last year and this year he got a new A6 in May. I asked him if he had to just pay for the insurance and what a great deal that was. He told me they pay nothing, only the gas in the tank. Audi pays for everything including a check up every ten thousand miles. Rolf said he has crashed his car twice in some fender benders and Audi fixed everything. His teammate, Kloder, on the other hand has demolished two A6's and is now in the drivers seat of his third car. That is commitment.

Vandenbrook had two offers for help during the Vuelta. One came from Banesto and the other from Telekom. We know which one he picked; it's the reason why. Frank is interested in winning the World Cup, he wants to win Paris-Tours and try to flick Tchmil at the final race in Lombardy. He knew Telekom would be able to help him more at Paris-Tours than Banesto could. Telekom also had to throw in an opportunity for Frank to win a stage; that turned out to be the easy part. I would think that Frank would want the Rainbow Jersey more than the World Cup jersey but I guess he wants both. He has taken care of the way to get the World Cup jersey with the help of Telekom and next he will worry about Worlds. For Worlds he will have to master getting all the Belgians to help him win the Worlds. Rumors are that he has fixed this problem also by offering $30,000 to each Belgian if he wins. I told him I would show up on the start line if he wanted me.

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