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20th International Hessen Rundfahrt - 2.4
Germany, September 5-9, 2001
5 days, 6 stages, 858.5 km
The Hessen Rundfahrt is another amateur race which has grown over the last years into a very well run and supported 2.4 stage race. Again big crowds at the start and finish of the stages, even though the weather wasn't favourable. It was cold and wet and this part of Europe definitely seems to be moving into autumn.
I went to the Hessen Rundfahrt looking for a stage win and good race kilometres. After a bonus sprint the peloton came out from between the buildings and into the open fields and into cross winds. I had gone with 7 other riders. Five kilometres later 26 other riders who survived the stretch of side winds and echelons joined us. Two teams gave chase but it was to no avail against the leading group of 33 riders. On the first mountain sprint I gave it a nudge. I took the points and after the next two sprints I had secured the mountain jersey which I kept for the rest of the race.
Jan Ullrich was impressive; I couldn't get over how lean he looked and how strong he was. He attacked our group of seven with 30 kilometres to go to win the stage and take the leader's jersey. He held it until he pulled out at the beginning of the second last day, due to a prior commitment to ride the GP Eddy Merckx.
Before the second last stage time trial I was placed second on GC. We went into this stage with six riders separated by only six seconds. There were 3 minutes back to the next group of riders on GC.
I'm not making excuses but my time trial was simply horrible. I lost 2 freakin' minutes when it only should have been around one minute. This made the difference on finishing 2nd or 3rd. Amstel Gold '98 left me with a lower back that doesn't allow me to hold an aerodynamic position on the bike. It goes quite all right in shorter Time Trials but the pain is excruciating when I have to ride 30 km like in Hessen. Every time I curse that day when I get off the bike and I can hardly walk; but it also reminds me of how lucky I am to still be able to ride at all. A little reminder of "c'est la vie".
CSC's Michael Blaudzun took the leader's jersey and his team was in the engine room driving the peloton along during the last stage. Again it was very cold and pissing down with rain. Bjørnar Vestøl received instructions from our Team Director Kim Andersen to get into all of the early attacks as he meant no danger to the Leader's jersey (he lost 36 min on the first day). A Post Swiss Rider and a Team Cologne chap joined him in the 150km long escape.
Bjørnar rode a perfect race and outdid the others with style in the sprint. Our Norwegian colleague took his second win for the year. We were all stoked for him as he has known some happier days with us than he did starting the season with Linda McCartney and finding himself without team nor salary; a bit frightening after making the effort to come down to Leuven (Belgium) to live and invest in his future as a bike rider.
The biggest spectacle of the whole race though must have been when an Agro-Adler rider attacked on a descent - pretty brave so far - with a long sweeping bend. Remember all the rain and wind I told you about? Well, as he went into the bend at an easy 55 km/h, that wind just blew him straight off the road and down the grass embankment he went, at that point he got thrown over the handlebars and into a corn field, with his bike catapulting over him. I wish I could show you some footage of that; it was spectacular but also extremely funny as he looked like a downhill skier going for a mega tumble but instead of ski's he had a bike attached to his feet. I'm quite sure he was all right - I checked with some guys a bit later and they said he was ok - so I feel obliged to give him a standing ovation for such awesome stunt work.
The second Hollywood wannabe was CSC's director Christian Andersen. He decided to pass the peloton to go up to one of his riders in the lead group. He put two wheels off the road and went onto the wet grass, which put his team car into a spin. He ended up in a field, facing the direction he just came from, with the whole peloton rolling past, watching his fear-struck face behind the steering wheel.
In all I was very pleased with the way the form was coming along; a fifth in General Classification didn't quite reflect the effort made during the race - I know I could have had a podium finish if my TT had been better - but Bjørnar Vestøl's win kept our Team Fakta in that winning streak.
GP Fourmies - 1.1
France, September 16, 2001
I think Jeff Jones has captured the feel of things nicely in his report on the race so I won't say much more about it [Ed: C'mon Scott, tell us what really happened].
The race was wet and cold; not my ideal conditions really but I was relaxed and confident through the whole race. When we came into the local laps, my legs were stiff and cold and I decided to go into an attack in the first lap. It's easier to see the race develop when you're in the front and that way I was keeping warm.
My director Kim informed me on the race radio about the time gap we kept on the peloton. With everybody riding well, doing even turns, I felt confident we would keep the 30-35 sec lead until the finish. Domo's American National Champion, Fred Rodriguez wasn't feeling like helping us much in our effort (read: he did nothing at all); for one because he had the fast legs of World Champion Romans Vainsteins sitting behind and as he said in an interview afterwards; he said he was having a bad day and couldn't do any better.
With 5 km to go we were still hovering at 30-35 sec; it was going to be enough but we couldn't afford to lift the foot off the gas pedal. The last 1.5 km was downhill, with a right hand turn into the straight 450 metres to the line. At the 1 km mark I let Jens Voigt slip onto the wheel in front of me, having the idea that he would lead the sprint out. I also knew that Rodriguez would more than likely choose my wheel. With 300m to go I let Jens take a couple of meters on me, to give myself room to move. At the 200m mark, as the line came into sight, Jens started to sprint and so did I. I gave it everything for the next 12 sec....there was enough time to put the hands in the air....It felt soooo good!
It sure is a great feeling to win. I'm definitely going to try my best to have some more good results in the weeks to come.
By the way, thanks for all the e-mails; they have kept my busy I can tell you.
My seventh placing in the World's last year convinced people I was back and the GP Cerami added proof to that. I hope to continue like I am now, enjoying my job for another 3 seasons if possible; with the Classics, some of the World Cup races, the Commonwealth Games and Athens on my mind. With the great support I've been getting, it makes it that much easier to keep motivated.
To finish this update, I'm going to answer some questions on frames and material I have received from a few readers over the last couple of weeks. (By the way, I'm trying to answer as many as possible but please be patient if it takes me a while)
Adrian Johnson asked: I've noticed that over the last few years frame designs have changed quite a bit. We see more frames made of non-round tubing, more made with carbon fiber rear triangles combined with steel, TI or aluminium main tubes, carbon forks are now standard, etc. Do you think these developments offer real benefits to the rider or are they just gimmicks to persuade us to upgrade from our old fashioned steel frames? Also, if you had to buy your own bike what sorts of things would you look for in the frame and what sorts of materials would you choose?
Well Adrian, to give a detailed answer it would mean a very, very lengthy article. I'll try and give you my opinion on this subject as briefly as possible; but be aware that this won't be as complete as I would like to present it.
Frame builders first started with All-Aluminium frames such as "Alan Frames", "Vitus Frames". Then Carbon Fibre frames came onto the scene mid 80's. A lot of pro-teams were still riding the trusted steel frames at that time.
In the 90's frame builders started to weld aluminium tubes to make them lugless and lighter; where, as they were butted into lugs and glued previously and the Carbon Frames (such as Colnago) started making a full carbon frame lugs included.
Full Carbon Fibre Forks now can been made in Asia for a low $US35 and the Asian companies now also produce a rear triangle in carbon fibre which can easily be adopted to an Aluminium triangle to give a strong, light, responsive feeling frame for almost all terrains.
As for the oversized tubes on Aluminium Frames; this is purely for strength and weight. Next year I'll be able to give you a more accurate view on this type of frame, as Team Fakta will be using the Danish Frame "Principia". This manufacturer specialises in the Oversized Tubes for their bikes.
I personally like the Aluminium frames Maurizio Fondriest builds. Maurizio just sent me the one in the photo; it's a real beauty and will look absolutely Mickey-mouse built-up. This year however I received another great looker, a Viner Aluminium Frame with carbon forks and rear end (see Cyclingnews Tech article), which has impressed me also.
The titanium frames are very good for an all-rounder. Personally I'm in the opinion they lack speed and response in the handling and overall feel and they are not on the lighter end of the scale. But I'm sure quite a few pros would argue about that with me.
So, as far as choosing a bike for yourself my advice is to look at what you want it for. Competition, criteriums, climbing, cobbles, etc. You can get the most suitable frame for a specific job. Or you could just decided to splash out and indulge yourself with one of those beautifully finished Italian Frames to cruise down to the coffee shop on the weekends.
The top-shelf frames are fantastic to ride and a joy to the eye (let's not mention the way it tickles one's vanity to just own one). But remember, if you are riding it training every day and then use it for racing, don't expect it to see out your racing career. Choose a frame wisely according to the work it needs to do, not just because it is the latest, hottest top finisher in town!
Another 'quick' answer to another question I've had a lot these last couple of weeks:
Yes, I have decided to sign another two-year contract with Team Fakta. Why? First of all because I feel the team has grown on me that much that I don't really feel like leaving it. Why leave a good thing? This is mainly because of the great atmosphere we have in the team; we always have a good time while we're away racing. The Scandinavian mentality suits me and I feel at home in the team.
Another important factor is the way the team is run. Kim Andersen and I have become friends; he is so professional in his way of running the team I really admire him. He can talk to his riders, still knowing what it actually feels like to be a pro cyclist. He radiates a peaceful determination; and finds that much enjoyment in his job that you'd think he just doing this as some favourite hobby.
Peter Sejer Nielsen, the manager, has proven my gut feelings to be right even more during the year. He's straight forward, a no-bullshit guy, extremely passionate about cycling and just in general a great guy to work with.
All of us can see the team grow in the coming seasons. The budget we work with this year was modest but it didn't stop Team Fakta in making some outstanding results and we gave the best of things during the races. All race organizers have been very positive about having us back next season. So, that's another reason.
Ok, due to different factors (one being the dramatic events in America), maybe we might not be able to get the team into first division next year; but it's surely on the list of priorities for 2003. We'll be there, watch us!
One thing is clear; the fun and professionalism that our team seems to radiate has made Kim's phone go red-hot with calls from dozens of pro's wanting to come to the team. We definitely have got a few more hands to play and the game in first division might just see another player at the table...
Well, must go now, training and it's my turn to buy the boys some 'brews' (coffees). Winning means 'shouting' you see. I've got this tune in my head since yesterday after the race; it just jumped into my mind in the car on the way home.
"I feel good, like I knew that I would. I feeeeeeel good, like I knew that I would now. I feeeeel nice, like sugar and spice yeh. Feel good, so good!" (James Brown).
Hope I can hold onto this high for a few more weeks!
Yours in cycling,