February 27, 2000 Update
“Did you see Richard Virenque’s bike today?” this is what I asked Kevin Livingston during our race in Almeria (today) it has his name across the top tube … the entire length and is white with red/pink polka dots … funny guy …
Aside from Ricchaaard, the race was very fast in the first hour 45kph average, then we were like tourists for quite some time, due to the headwind. In the final we kept Julian Dean towards the front for the sprint … I led the peloton into the last turn with about 500m to go. To be really effective we need the entire team lined up … but this is easier said than done … The Spaniards are riding incredibly well, and we are in a buildup phase.
Tour of Murcia (March 1-5) starts in two days … personally I will ride trying to keep Redlands in mind…It is still early in the year for me, but I plan to give Redlands a 100% effort. A few of us could be flying or dying … I think that will depend on how the flight affects us. We fly to California on the 6th out of Madrid Spain… we will arrive late in the evening: Redlands starts the next day.
Years ago, I rode the Tour of Solidarity in Poland, flew to the east coast the next day and placed 3rd in Lancaster behind Tyler… it was a jet lagged blur, but the legs were strong. Anyway, Redlands will be similar.
Holes and gaps
My goal is not to be a writer, only to scratch notes, which may be of interest to me in the future. Oh, and if someone stumbles across it, well that is ok as well …
Looking back a bit … I raced 3 days on the island of Mallorca the first week of February … then I raced Luis Puig, a one day … I had great legs at times and tried a solo “dig” for 3-4 kms looking back, the peloton was strung in pursuit … I chalked it up to training … thinking of the Redlands TT. (very unlike me to focus on a US race) Later I was able to work at the front with Frankie in the final kilometers … George would get 4th …
Almeria was another tune up race … with mixed sensations. Murcia was a 5-day stage race. I tested myself slightly but soon discovered the current form allowed me to follow in the 30s-50s in the mountains … On the last day I felt the best, but gave up a wheel to David George (highest on GC) By not digging to deep I helped to have a bit more in Redlands … Having only one day in-between … for travel from Europe was cause for concern … to say the least…
Redlands, … … the results are clear we took 4th 5th 7th, but did not win (I finished 5th,) But we did not win …
I hesitate to write here; this will be a trigger clue to the feelings I truly have about the whole thing … now including Sea Otter.
I believe in the Spirit of cycling. There are wins, then there are wins … think to yourself … why does Chris Horner ride well now, why did he struggle so much in Europe. he is in the right place now. I believe…with the right support system.
You must “remember the fundamentals” … borrowing a quote from M. Jordan
I love this sport, I love winning, I love the work. I have won, albeit not as many as I would have liked. I like racers and races that go forward. I saw that Dave Zabriskie likes to race forward. that is what I saw anyway. Dave did not win the overall either, but he will win … I believe. I had fun working with him… But where was the solution for the win??
Under the circumstances I stand up for my teammates for being more than “professional”, considering the conditions. Think of the fundamentals … are the fundamentals covered? Learn and move on … to bigger and better races …
If you destroy enough of the foundation … do you not think of collapse?
Update 3-29-00 from 3 Days of Panne
3/29 In Belgium now, I have just finished the second stage of the 3 Jours de Panne, a 4-stage race that preludes the Tour of Flanders which is this weekend.
Yesterday’s stage was 178 kms. When we started it was a frigid 7 degrees Celsius… in the last hour it started to rain, and the temperature fell to 4 degrees. The racing is fast and dangerous, there are many crashes … Belgium roads have many undulations. They are made of concrete; a nasty gap divides the road. Experienced riders know how to cross the center of the road tweaking the bars at the right moment, so the front wheel hits the gap at a slight angle … otherwise, the gap is the correct size to grab the tire and send the rider to the floor. It does not stop there … on the sides of the road there are bike paths which riders use occasionally but before those there is a gutter and a 4-inch rise … In the wind these become obstacles that often cause crashes. At times it is advantageous to hop the rise and ride on the bike path to better your position.
My race ended on one of the “bergs” (traditionally famous Belgium climbs) my chain fell off as I shifted to the small chainring, it wrapped around the bottom bracket and took me 1+ minutes to get going again. As I returned, I noticed the peloton was in a single file line … the shit had hit the fan. 190 riders! that puts the leaders a long way away. I fought hard, and moved up when I could, riders were getting dropped and closing the gaps takes much needed force. When we hit the Patersberg ( only a slight incline , but made of medieval cobbles covered with wet slime approximately 1.5 kms long) there were still 80+ riders ahead of me, the group split in many sections, there was some regrouping as we did the Patersberg 4 times ( 11 kms circuit) in the end I finished in the second group..
2nd stage 244 kms!!
At the start it is very cold, 4 degrees Celsius… I decide that this is really training for Flanders and then choose to wear full leg warmers thick vest etc., it proved to be a good choice for me.
There were 8 “bergs” today and the hardest came at 132 kms (the Kemmelberg) after a few attempts to take George to the front, between Benoit, Cedric Vasseur, and myself, we started to set tempo … a fast tempo. We calculated 6-7 kms to the berg, but it turned into 10 which made the Kemmelberg difficult to pass. This climb is covered in nasty cobbles and is over 20% in the final 100 meters or so. After the climb there was a crosswind section and I was in the 3rd group, maybe 60 riders ahead, we did regroup and soon after there was a selection that would make it to the final (15-20 riders) We had Eki in this front group. Rabobank and others chased hard. I was back too far to see exactly how this was being played out. I was suffering in the gutter… Rabo at the front and many of us in a single line in the gutter … not for long… riders blew, and the gaps were unrecoverable … the gruppetto was formed … my group of 10+- rode hard for a while and then pulled the plug and waited for the 80+- riders behind us … that was my race … after warm California I am finding the Euro rhythm again … trying to increase my volume where I start performing better.
There is another Utah rider in the race … it has been nice to see and talk with Jeff Louder, now riding for a Belgian team Tonissteiner … I have known Jeff for 2-3 years and had the opportunity, to train with him some this past winter.
We have a part time therapist with us, Étienne, who is also a police officer in Antwerp … I love this about Europe, and this story is not so unfamiliar … crazy stories here … always.
Basically, he and his coworkers are more or less computer illiterate. This is what Étienne tells me. Anyway, they must use the computer for data entry and information retrieval. Apparently, it has been frustrating for them… they have asked for more training, have had only 4hrs officially blah blah blah.
Well Etienne somehow deleted over 500 altercations/incidents. Yea! gone … no backup … nothing, nada, gone … His boss was not happy, can you imagine … and ALL those happy people.
Maybe some investment in training would have paid off.
Eki Wins 3 Jours de Panne!!!
As I explained before: After 132 kms in stage 2 Cedric, Benoit and I set a stiff tempo leading to the Kemmelberg. Eki was positioned behind us, he maintained this excellent position going over the Kemmelberg. The successful break formed shortly thereafter.
Stage 3 was a 114 kms in the am… we were to keep Eki out of the wind and near the front … it was meant to keep him as fresh as possible for the afternoons time trial. Initially Eki stayed on the wheel of George, as he is very good at staying at the front of a nervous bunch. Cedric, Benoit, and I seemed to be rotating to find George and Eki, then taking them to the front over and over again … Eventually the pace was very fast … Romāns Vainšteins had put his team on the front earlier to keep control of things and later as a small group escaped. They were riding an echelon due to the strong winds … We were protecting Eki from the wind at this point… he had three of us at this time, Cedric, Benoit, and myself … 3 of us riding in the wind behind the first echelon of 12 riders or so … the peloton was getting smaller as the pace increased and with the constant change in course direction … The work at the front had us on the limit (rivet). Riders were getting dropped out of the back… we lost George and Dillon; Kirk was fighting to keep us in sight and played a role in the last 10 kms. The three of continued to keep Eki out of the wind … and each of us had blown up to fade into the bunch, only to recover and return to block the wind (for Eki) … we were expended by the time we hit the circuit. Kirk then found Eki, and they stayed close until the sprint. Benoit and I stayed with the bunch which was down to 50-60 riders … Cedric was the strongest on the day and managed to stay nearer to the front with Eki and now Kirk …
After the stage Eki thanked us/me 3-4 times, he said that he had only to really push on the pedals a few times… that he was able to spin a comfortable gear behind us … no rider would challenge Eki for his position … mentally and physically, he would have one of the easiest rides for the morning stage…
Eki started the TT 10 seconds down (in GC) on Vainšteins and would win the overall by 3 seconds… What a Victory!!!! Sweet, sweet!
I feel good about the work we did … we were proactive, and it paid off… we did not have to set the vicious tempo leading to the Kemmelberg…but, for every action there is a reaction, I happen to enjoy the reaction to our action … A WIN!!
Something about Eki … he explained to us that his first massage ever was when he joined Panasonic as a professional!!!! he had already been to the Olympics, had more than one World Championships etc. … never had a massage as an amateur … the substitution was AM and PM rides on the rollers, very easy max 1 hr.
One of his first races in Belgium … ended on the velodrome in Roubaix … which was full of people, as were the last several kms … there was a giant TV screen showing what he thought was his race… Eki had won this race … but later realized that the crowd was not assembled to see him win, they were anxiously waiting for the professionals in Paris-Roubaix … (language barriers)