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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Wednesday, April 15, 2020

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2019 Tour de France | 2019 Giro d'Italia

When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. - Arthur Conan Doyle

Paris–Roubaix: The Inside Story

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Deceuninck-Quick Step’s sports directors talk about their worst day on the bike

The team posted this:

Davide Bramati
Stage 11 of the 2001 Tour de France, a 32km individual time trial from Grenoble to Chamrousse. It’s the day I suffered the most on a bike. Ok, stages against the clock had never been my cup of tea and whenever we had one in a Grand Tour, I was extra nervous, but on that day, I felt immediately after the start that something wasn’t right, I just didn’t have the flow and began panicking. Several riders passed me, and when the third one did it, I was sure that I wouldn’t make the time cut. I began thinking that maybe something was wrong with the bike or maybe I had done a mistake while warming up, there were all kind of thoughts running through my head as I continued to push hard on the pedals.

My team were encouraging me from the car and I tried to do my best, but I ended up being passed by eight riders and losing 22 minutes, which is what I would normally concede on a medium mountain stage. It was a terrible, terrible day, and I wasn’t myself after the stage – which I finished last – at the dinner I was all quiet and sad, as I was 100% sure my Tour ended there. But later that evening, the organisers sent their press release, and saw that for 13 seconds I was inside the time cut, and that brought me a huge relief.

Brian Holm
I believe the worst race of my life was the 1996 Tour de France. Sure, my roommate and fellow Dane Bjarne Riis won the yellow jersey, but when we arrived in Paris, I just knew that it was my last Tour as a rider. It was a very hard race, but stage 10 was my personal nightmare. It all started after the dinner we had following the completion of stage 8, when I got food poison. I couldn’t sleep the entire night, as I threw up several times and had a bad stomach. Stage 9 came in the form of a mountain time trial to Sestriere. My teammate Christian Henn started the stage six minutes behind me, caught me, waited for me and pushed me in the dark tunnel, and eventually I made it to the finish.

I came into stage 10 after two days without food, the day was almost 210 kilometers in length, it was boiling-hot and the speed of the peloton was crazy. Every time I took a sip from my bottle, I threw up and ended up riding more than 200 kilometers without a single drop of water. My body was empty like never before, our doctor wanted to take me out of the race because I didn’t sweat anymore, I was dehydrated, but you know the saying: “You don’t quit the Tour if nothing is broken”. I made the time cut in Gap and then continued to fight every single day, but I knew it was my last Tour as a rider. After the 1996 Tour de France, something broke inside my body and I could never again in my career reach top shape.

Klaas Lodewyck
Definitely, the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Your first Grand Tour is always special, and it was in a way, but it also ended up being a tough one. I scored two top 10 finishes, and it was nice, especially as I had a good form following a strong Ardennes Classics campaign, but then we suddenly lost Wouter Weylandt, and emotionally it became very hard. Because of everything that happened, stage 15 – which featured five really hard climbs – found me pretty empty and struggling. I had a bad night before, I couldn’t sleep and was thinking about quitting, especially as it would have meant to take on a tough mountain stage for the third day in a row.

Klaas Lodewyck

Lodewyck in 2015

My body was super tired, but eventually decided to start and with the help of Michiel Elijzen, my sports director back then, who gave me a lot of mental talk during the stage and a bottle whenever I needed one, and of my teammates, who were there for me, I could finish the stage, and from then, go on and complete my first Grand Tour.

Wilfried Peeters
I have to say the entire 1994 Tour de France was very tough, but if there’s a day that stands out, that’s stage 15, when we took on the Mont Ventoux en route to Carpentras, where Eros Poli won from the break. That season had been a very demanding one and by that point it began taking its toll on me.

Wilfried Peeters

Wilfried Peeters enjoying the 1999 Paris-Roubaix

I remember that on that day – which came around two weeks after our success in the team time trial – I was completely empty, empty in my legs, empty in my entire body. I was dropped and was alone, only with Patrick Lefevere, my sports director back then, with me, and his encouragement helped me make it into the gruppetto and finish inside the time cut, some 40 minutes down. The next day, Alpe d’Huez was on the menu, and despite starting the stage, I had to stop it. It was my fifth Tour de France and the first and only time I abandoned.

Tom Steels
I’ll go with the 1999 edition of Gent-Wevelgem 1999, especially due to the mental battle that I had to win in order to conquer that race. Back then, the race was sandwiched between Flanders and Roubaix, and I remember how hard that day was, with crosswinds, rain in the last hour and a big battle at the front. The big thing about that edition was that after the second time over the Kemmelberg, we still had around 35 kilometers to the finish line. Luckily, I had Wilfried Peeters and Johan Museeuw for company, and they put in a sterling effort to control the race. I just rode behind them and didn’t dare look back, didn’t know what was happening and that the peloton had been blown to pieces into the wind.

Tom Steels

Tom Steels winning the 1999 Gent-Wevelgem

When you think about it, the finish wasn’t that far away, but it seemed like an eternity to me, as I was feeling a lot of pressure to win the race and was incredibly focused on getting everything right. I had these two great guys there and they were turning themselves inside out for me, so I just knew losing wasn’t an option and always kept in mind what I had to do. Coming into the last kilometers, my sports director, Patrick Lefevere, told me to move a few places down in the peloton and assess my opponents, and that helped a lot. Eventually, it came down to a bunch sprint, and even though I had to close a small gap on the right side of the road, on a narrow bike path, I still managed to pull it off, which made me very happy. Physically, every race is hard, but on some occasions, also mentally is really difficult and that can make the difference at the end of the day.

Geert Van Bondt
The hardest race I ever did was Le Tour. It happened in 2000, which was a special year for me. I finished second in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, second in E3 Harelbeke, and then won Gent-Wevelgem. It was my best season and I was confident I could ride a strong Tour de France, despite not doing the race before. Of course, I had ridden the Giro and the Vuelta, but as with every rider, the Tour was my dream and I was really looking forward to it. I did two stage races before Le Tour and fell sick on both occasions, which meant going home, taking antibiotics, recovering, then returning to racing, getting ill again, more antibiotics, and all this hampered my preparation.

There was a question if I should go to the Tour or stay home, but I made the choice to ride it, as I would normally became better towards the end of a stage race and I remained optimistic also this time would be the same, but the thing is that this race is completely different and many times you are forced to go really deep. The most gruelling day came on stage 10, to Hautacam. It was raining that day and I was the first rider to be dropped, but kept pushing and I saw one rider in front of me, so I thought if I could join him, together we would make the time cut. That rider was Frank Vandenbroucke, but he stopped and went into the car. Then I saw another guy, bridged across, he too stopped. I continued to give it my all, made it to three riders, but they soon retired as well.

Despite all this, I was determined to finish the race, so kept going and going, and heard people from the side of the road telling me that I was just five minutes behind the peloton. I rode full gas and finally made it into the gruppetto, which was a relief. But for the rest of the race I made calculations where I would be dropped and what was the time cut, so it was a struggle, especially after crashing on the stage to Mont Ventoux. Nevertheless, I arrived on the Champs-Élysées, where I even attacked. It was nice to conclude the race, but for my body the whole experience wasn’t a good one and I learned that if you’re not in a solid condition for a Grand Tour, then you’ll suffer a lot.

Rik Van Slycke
In 1993, I started my fifth consecutive Tour de France, without knowing what lay ahead and that it would prove to be my last Grand Tour appearance. My worst day came the day before I had to quit the race and return home, as I received some very troubling news. On stage 11, which took place between Serre Chevalier and Isola 2000, I unpinned my number and jumped into the car, because my daughter was in the hospital and she needed urgent treatment, and for this to go ahead, the doctor needed the signature of both parents. At the same time, my wife was pregnant with our second child, so you can imagine how tough that entire period was, but fortunately we managed to overcome this together

Jumbo-Visma's Taco van der Hoorn talks life about during the racing suspension

Jumbo-Visma posted this interview:

How are you?
I am fine. So are my family and friends. We are all healthy. That is the most important thing right now. I get through the days by riding my bike, doing jobs in and around the house and more activities like that. In the first week after the government had introduced the restrictions, I found that mentally very difficult. Especially when I started to realise that the race targets I had set for myself could be taken off the table. In the end, I was able to quickly switch my mind because there are more important things in life than just bike racing.

Taco Van der Hoorn

Taco van der Hoorn wins stage three of the 2018 Binckbank Tour. Sirotti photo

What do your workouts and training look like at the moment?
In the first week after the restrictions had come into effect I rode my bike a lot to keep myself fit and to be ready for whenever we were able to race again. When it became clear that this would take a long time, I slowed down. Now I take it a bit easier to re-start and build up my form again later. Currently, the weather is very nice and we are lucky to be allowed to still ride outside. However, I do follow the government guidelines and do my training alone. I have no problem with that. I also do the necessary training on the Tacx and I recently started with Zwift. I was a bit skeptical about it, but it’s actually a lot of fun to do. I also do more core-stability and power training now. I also focus on the things I don’t normally do. Workouts with a different intensity and also explosiveness.

How do you get on with your days?
Jan Willem van Schip is my housemate, so we do spar a lot. We also do the necessary board games and I read a lot of books. We are also busy cleaning and refurbishing the house and shed. All things you normally don’t have time for as a top athlete. I have also rearranged my old Volkswagen van, so we can start touring around. However, the van must first pass the MOT soon.

How do you motivate yourself?
I have no problem motivating myself. Despite the fact we can’t race, I really enjoy riding my bike in general. In good weather I can easily ride for six hours without having a particular purpose. However, I do motivate myself by challenging and improving myself in certain areas. Call it personal development. Think of explosiveness and V02max. Together with performance manager Mathieu Heijboer I have made a schedule based on a scientific article. I hope to develop myself further in the upcoming period. I get my satisfaction from that.

Which series or movies do you watch at the moment?
I don’t watch series very often. It is annoying that you often have to wait a whole season before the storyline ends. You don’t have that with a movie. I do watch Netflix series Tiger King. It is about a man in the United States who calls himself Joe Exotic and his enemy Carole Baskin. ‘Exotic’ mainly breeds tigers and other felines and then exhibits them in a private zoo. I am also more of a film person. The best movie I’ve ever seen is Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. I am also a big fan of Quentin Tarantino. Think in particular of Reservoir Dogs, the Inglourious Basterds and Once upon a Time in Hollywood.

Which songs do you play on your playlist by default?
I listen to a wide variety of music. It depends on what flow I am in and what kind of training I have on the program that day. For example, if I have interval training, I mainly listen to techno. This is to get ready for my efforts. During power training, for example, I listen to the rap group Opgezwolle. In my spare time I listen to different music. I am also a big fan of the old vinyl records. I still have such an old record player at home. Especially Dire Straits and Spinvis I play regularly. In addition to music, I also like to listen to the spoken newspapers and articles on Blendl or to a good podcast.

Do you have any tips for people to stay fit?
I recently discovered Zwifting on the Tacx. That is very cool to do. If people have Zwift or something similar at home, I recommend that they use it more often. You can participate in a race, but group training rides is also an option. There are many options to keep things interesting. But the most important thing is that you do something that you enjoy and that you feel most comfortable with. Then you can last the longest.

What is your favourite dish?
Risotto! Delicious. I especially don’t make the Risotto too fat. So not like the recipes with butter, for example. Via the Jumbo Food Coach we also have access to a variety of recipes we can choose from. That is really cool. For breakfast I usually eat oatmeal with fruit or Teff pancakes.

What other sports do you like?
Cross-country skiing seems fun to do, but unfortunately that has never happened yet. I was on a holiday in Canada last November to go cross-country skiing. Only then there was not enough snow. So I definitely have to make up for that. During big sport events such as the Olympic Games I like to watch athletics and various winter sports. Especially the sports that have a lot in common with cycling

What is your favourite game?
It all depends on how much I want to think and use my brains. When I don’t want to think too much, I play Rummikub or Yahtzee. If I do want to spin my brain, I mainly play Yinsh. In that game you have to think about many, many steps to eventually win the game. I am not into the video games. Jan-Willem has one here, but if I use it once or twice a year it is a lot. Sometimes I participate when the boys play FIFA on the PlayStation at training camp, but I am not really good at it.

Which apps on your phone are running in overtime?
Spotify and Blendl. On Blendl I mainly listen to the spoken newspapers and articles. Furthermore, my phone is pretty quiet and there aren’t many apps that run overtime really.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Beer! I am a lover of specialty beers. I really enjoy that. And as a top athlete it should be possible in due time. Now you will maybe wonder what my favourite special beer is? Kasteel donker. They sell them at the Jumbo and they are delicious.

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