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Interview with Frankie Andreu
at Tucson Training Camp
Question: Let's talk about the team's objectives for the American race program. What do you want to accomplish as the U.S. Race Director in 2001?
Andreu: The Postal Service's new emphasis on doing well in American races is a great bonus to the team. My first priority is to start everything off on the right foot. This would mean a win at Redlands or Sea Otter just to get the ball rolling and to show that this new initiative is something that is going to have the team in serious contention for results in America. After that, the big priority for the year is Philadelphia and the races leading up to it. At a later time, we'll be figuring out which riders will be coming over to help bring the (U.S. Pro Championship) jersey back to the team.
Question: Robbie Ventura will play an important role as part of your domestic team. What does he bring to the table?
Andreu: The main reason for Robbie to join our team is to ride in the American races and mainly the flatter races or criteriums. His role is not going to be to have to get over the mountains or win the overall at a race like Sea Otter. His objective is to be there at the finishes to help out in the sprints. Robbie is a super-fast rider; he's proven that in the past. He's up there with the likes of Gordon Fraser, Todd Littlehales, Dave McCook, guys like that. The difference is that now the Postal Service will be able to support for a sprint finish which will allow him and us to get good results. The other difference is that we'll have more riders at certain American races which will give us more power to affect the outcome and results each day.
Question: For you personally, what was the thought process as you considered retiring and making the switch from being on the bike to being in the car directing the riders?
Andreu: I was still looking for a first division team to ride for but I had a bit of bad luck two times with teams merging where things didn't work out, and a couple of times co-sponsors didn't work out. Then I got to the point where I could have kept racing in America on smaller teams but when that was going to happen I thought to myself, what's really the purpose of that? Just to extend my career? Just to race a little bit longer? But what's that really going to accomplish? Being with Postal Service, staying at the top level, considering my name and image and everything that I've done to further my career, I figured it would be better to just stay at the top and get out while I'm at the top instead of going through a slide. Retirement is sometimes inevitable; you're going to have to do it sooner or later. And the opportunity came where I could remain a part of this team and help out in a way that I think I can be a big asset to the results of the team. So I decided to take that opportunity and hope that I can prove to the staff and everybody else on the team that I can do well like I did when I was a rider moving up the ranks. It's a stepping stone, I hope, to an expanding role in the team later on.
Question: What in particular do you think will be the advantage to the team to having you take on this role?
Andreu: First of all, I have a lot of experience doing most of these races. I know a lot of these racers, the riders themselves. The tactics of racing are different in America than they are in Europe and I'm well aware of that. Another thing that I think helps is having a good relationship with the riders and I'm a good friend with many of the riders. It's also important to have a director who hasn't forgotten what bike racing is about and how bike racing changes and how hard it is, while still relating to what the riders have to go through in certain situations. I think that's something that makes Johan (Bruyneel) so successful with the team; he still remembers what it's like to be a bike racer. When I was racing with the team, I was a road captain and had to make a lot of decisions and it should be the same way when I'm behind the wheel of the team car.
Question: Are you looking forward to spending less time on the road?
Andreu: Very much. I think more than that, I'm looking forward to not having to worry about training so much and trying to be at a top level of fitness and dieting. It takes so much work and energy to be a professional athlete so I feel like a burden has been lifted off my shoulders not having to worry about that anymore, to just be able to concentrate on my new duties. I still enjoy the traveling but it will be nice to stay at home more often with the two kids and my wife so it'll be a nice change.
Question: Just from what you've seen in the first training camp, are there any surprises among the new riders?
Andreu: One surprise is how well the new Spanish-speaking riders (Heras, Peña, and Rubiera) have fit in and adjusted. I thought it would take longer but all three of them seem very comfortable with the team. They are all joking around and having fun. To go from where they came from to an American team is a big change, a big language change and everything, but they seem to be having a ball with it so that's great. All the riders get along with each other, which is an important part of having a good team. Johan and Mark, who picked out this team, made some good choices because everybody seems to be getting along fine and there doesn't seem to be anybody rubbing each other the wrong way. I think the team made improvements in four or five different areas that bring us up to a new level - in sprinting with Stéphane Barthe, in time trialing with Victor Hugo Peña, in climbing with Roberto Heras, in terms of all-around "workhorses" like Matthew White and Chechu Rubiera. So, I think they took a look at each little "department" of cycling and decided to step it up a level. I think they made great decisions.
Question: Other than Robbie Ventura, is there a core group of riders who will do most of the U.S. races or will it vary?
Andreu: We'll have two riders who do all of the races in America which will be Robbie and Kenny Labbé. Kenny is the U.S. Postal Service employee who will be racing full-time with the team in America this year. It's going to be a learning experience for Kenny but luckily he did get some time in last year with the BMC Houston and some other races so he knows what to expect. Now that he'll be able to spend more time training, I'm sure he'll be a force to reckon with later on in the season. Most races, we'll have at least five or six riders so beyond Robbie and Kenny, the rest of the riders will circulate and change depending on the other riders' schedules in Europe. I think that's great for the fans here in America because they'll be able to see different riders as they come back from Europe who they might not get to see otherwise. And, we'll always have a fresh group racing and trying to win here in America.