April 2012 Edition
In between a hectic race schedule, Johan asked his Google + fans to post questions. From a large pool of great questions, Johan took the time to answer ten.
Patrick Melville: How do you feel about the team's chances going in to the Amgen Tour of California? Also thoughts on having to compete against Levi.
JB: Hi Patrick. I think we have a good chance. We'll go there with Chris Horner as our leader and he'll be supported by a strong team - George Bennett, Matthew Busche, Markel Irizar, Ben King, Tiago Machado, Gregory Rast and Jens Voigt. Chris got a little banged up after his first race this year, but if he shows up to the race in the condition he had last year, I'll feel very good about our chances. One trend that has been evident since the race started in 06 is that each year is more challenging. Not only from a route standpoint, but also from the competitive group of riders racing. Certainly Levi is one rider who comes to mind. Even though he was injured a few weeks ago, he's an extremely professional rider and I know he's doing everything possible to show up to the start line in Santa Rosa in competitive form. I'm expecting it to be the toughest edition yet and hopefully we'll be on that top step in LA.
Richard Wagenknecht: This year's TDF has emphasized time trialing over climbing. Obviously, riders like Cadel, Levi and Wiggins that excel at time trialing and climb well enough seem to be favored over pure climbers this year (such as Andy Schleck). Are you planning on attacking as much as possible in the mountians to give Andy a cushion over the TT riders or has Andy's time trialing improved enough that you think he can beat Cadel and others straight up in the TT?
JB: Hi Richard. Yes, certainly time trailing will be a factor in this year's race. And we need to be honest with ourselves. As talented a rider as Andy is, time trailing is not his strength. The expectation is not to beat Cadel or any of the time-trialists in the TT. I think that would be unrealistic. So we'll need to maximize his strengths and work on limiting his losses. To do this, we'll need to implement an aggressive strategy. I think another thing that plays to our benefit is that we'll have an extremely strong support team. I don't know exactly who will make up the entire Tour team yet, but there's no doubt that it will be very, very strong.
Bob Finley, Jr: What happens in the Tour this year when Chris Horner is your highest placed rider in the GC after the time trials?
JB: Hi Bob. I think we need to wait and see how everything unfolds. The benefit of having such a strong team is that we'll have many cards to play for Yellow. Andy, Frank, Horner and Klodi are all in the mix and we'll use that to our advantage. My main concern and hope are that we keep clear of trouble. Healthy and injury free are big keys.
Christian Hoff: For sure only the best riders will start at the tour, but what about Jensie, is there a chance, that he will be part of the team? Not only because of his skills, but as well for everything he gave cycling over the last years.
JB: Hi Christian. Yes, Jens will certainly be considered for the Tour team. I don't know the final roster yet, but Jens is a work horse. He's reliable, sacrifices himself for the team, knows what the Tour is all about, etc. And all this at the age of 40. Impressive to say the least.
Sheilla Johnston-Conte: When is Spartacus scheduled to race next? Hope his injury is healing on schedule.
JB: Hi Sheilla. We hope to have Fabian back in the races soon. We are targeting a mid-May return, but not too sure at this point the exact race he'll return.
Sergey Dominic: What can you say about the Moldavian rider Alexandr Pliuschin at Leopard Trek team? Has he any chances to be back to the ProTour Team from Continental level? Thanks in advance!
JB: Hi Sergey. Alexandr is a talented rider and has had a good season thus far. At the end of the season, we'll re-evaluate our roster and see what opportunities are available that make sense for both our team and Alexandr. Certainly, we always look closely at the riders from our Continental team.
Ryan Heitz: If there is one thing you could teach your riders about "reading a race" what would it be?
JB: Hi Ryan. You really need to put yourself in the shoes of each team. Have a game plan, but also understand the ambitions and tactics of the opposing team. But nothing is set in stone, and in cycling, everything is changing - so being able to think quickly and react are key.
Kenneth Nowell: Do you have your guys doing any off the bike heavy lifting like squats, dead lifts, or leg presses? If so how often and how heavy do they go?
JB: Not very much, Kenneth. And especially we don't do much heavy lifting during the season. There's some leg work in the off-season, but what we focus mostly on is the core. The abs and lower back are often overlooked and are most important in our sport.
Eddie Arguelles: Any advise from your experience with "learning to maximize your time for riding" for new dads or recently married men? Since I got married and my wife and I have had children, there is a lot better excuses not to ride.. :) What would you tell your guys? How do you do it?
JB: That's a great question, Eddie. And not an easy one to answer. If I had the power to extend the time in everyone's day, I would gladly do it. And I would certainly welcome the extra time for myself. For the guys on the team, it's a bit different since cycling is actually their job. But for people that have another job and a family, it's obviously a bit more difficult. I would say - have discipline and really try to set aside time a few days per week when you can get out on the open road. I know a few people who get to work early so they can leave a bit earlier to ride. Or if your company has showers, possibly using your lunch break for a quick ride. I wish there was a better answer or something that would be more enlightening.
Mike McLennan: Do you like cycling eg. do you take a ride in country, have a beer and enjoy the sound of the freewheel?
JB: Hi Mike. Yes, it's my passion, but following up on what Eddie said - I don't have as much time to ride as I'd like. Especially during the season between traveling and family, it's difficult. I was riding a bit more last Autumn and was enjoying the route and scenery in Richmond Park. Then I re-injured my back while ice skating with Christian and then before you knew it, the season was here. And this may sound strange for a Belgian, but I prefer wine over beer.