On a very very long plane ride, heading home from the Santos Tour Down Under. The week went well for Team RadioShack and Robbie McEwen was competitive in the sprints with a mix of 3rd and 2nd places. He even wore the leader's jersey for a stage. It's been our best Tour Down Under yet, leaving me with a good feeling with what's to come in 2011.
Thanks to everyone who submitted questions on Facebook ... I picked ten interesting ones and found some time to answer them in between a movie, sleep, and a bit of work.
Before I get to them ... Just a quick note to everyone back in Adelaide and Australia … Thank you to the organizers who put on a great race year after year. And to the amazing fans - thank you for lining the roads and supporting not only Team RadioShack, but our great sport of cycling. It's hard to leave you and the warm weather, but to be honest I'm very excited to see my family … Especially my daughter who had her birthday last week. I need to make up for missing it (again!).
Enoc Ishida: Is the team going this year TDF to try stage wins now that you got one of the best sprinters on the world that can stay upright and don't need 6 lanes wide to win the sprint?
Enoc - Yes, we're certainly going to go to the Tour with some different objectives than in year's past. We don't have one of the favorite GC leaders this year - we're the underdogs - so it will allow us to aim for some stage wins - both in the mountains and flat sprint stages. To say that we can be competitive in the sprints at the Tour is something I don't think I've ever said before. But our team is more balanced in that regard, giving us more opportunities to win stages. Don't get me wrong, we certainly won't disregard the GC. We have Levi, Andreas, Horner, Zubeldia and Brajkovic. A lot can change between now and then, but we're especially looking for Jani to have a good Tour. He had a great season last year, beat Alberto at the Dauphine, and now will go into the Tour with the experience of completing one last year. I've discussed this with Jani and we both agree that we would like to aim for a top five GC placing this year and then we'll continue to build from there. The good thing is that while this is a goal, there isn't the same type of pressure as being a favorite. Our main focus will be on stage wins and animating the race.
Joe Coppola: So now that Lance is beginning his retirement.... Will we be seeing him in your car during the TdF helping call the shots????
That's a good question Joe and something we haven't really discussed yet. There's certainly a good chance considering he came to the 2006 and 2007 Tours. I guess it will all depend on his schedule - working with the Foundation, hanging out with the kids, etc. I do remember he was in the car in the final time trial of the 2007 Tour. Levi won that time trial and Alberto secured his first Tour de France win over Cadel Evans. We were behind Alberto and you could see that Lance was a bit nervous for Alberto, but also very excited. A few times he took the radio and shouted some words of encouragement. I know the riders always enjoy when he shows up.
Nathan Bradshaw: Does your family get to travel with you much while you are working?
Nathan - Unfortunately, not very often. It's tough for a few reasons. For the majority of the year, Victoria is in school so we really don't like to take her out unless it's for a reason like a World Bicycle Relief trip. On top of that, being with a cycling team isn't really much of a vacation and probably too much work. We're constantly on the go, so it would require Eva to do a lot of driving, packing, moving - each and everyday. With two kids, that's not much fun for a parent! A few times she came to the beginning of the Tour with the kids. Before it starts moving. I'm pretty busy, but it gives the kids and her a bit of a vacation and different atmosphere. She takes Victoria and Christian to the zoo and some other kid friendly places. And then she comes back at the end for the final night's Tour team party.
Scott Troy: What time (local time) do most races start? What time do you get up most race days? What do you do - as director - from wake up through the start of the race?
Scott - The European races normally start around 12 or 1. In the USA, they tend to start a bit earlier. The time I wake up varies depending on when the bus leaves, which depends on the race start time and how long it takes the bus to get to the start. Sometimes we're in the start town and sometimes we have to travel an hour or more. Each rider and staff member gets a paper at night that has the next day's plan - wake-up, breakfast, bags to bus, etc. Other than the team meeting on the bus, my mornings are normally pretty relaxed. I talk with each individual rider after every stage, then study the next day's stage and devise the strategy. So my work for the next day is pretty much done before I go to bed. I make sure to get a good night's sleep, eat breakfast, go to the start, hold the team meeting and then it's race time!
Jayson Conley: Who was the Key Designer in the New Radio Shack Kits and what do you think of them compared to last years??
Jayson - There's a lot of people involved. Nike is actually producing the design and clothing. Then there's feedback from RadioShack as it needs to fit their brand image and Capital Sports & Entertainment, which manages the sponsorship, marketing and business affairs of the team. So a lot of people are weighing in. I give my comments too, especially as it relates to how easily I can identify the riders in the peloton with the kit. That's really important for me.
I like the kit and from what I've heard, it's getting some great reviews from the media and more importantly the fans. I think it's different than what a lot of teams are doing these days.
Rob Kelley: If you were to retire today, what was your most memorable moment as a Rider and DS....
Lots of great memories, Rob. As a rider, I would definitely have to say winning my first Tour de France stage. My father died shortly before that Tour and I made it my goal to win a Tour stage and dedicate it to him. But I think every rider has the goal and dream of winning a stage in the most prestigious race in the world so for me to pull it off was extra special. It was an amazing solo ride and the feeling I had when I crossed the line can't be accurately described.
As a director, I would say winning that first Tour de France in 1999. Everyone doubted us and somewhat laughed at us for even thinking we could win. We put in so much hard work. So many times training on the Tour mountains - just me, Lance and a mechanic. And then to see it all come together and ride into Paris with the Yellow Jersey. I'll never forget that!
Howard Wong: What was the funniest thing you heard on the team radio?
Howard - There's always a bit of joking around. Five, six hours on the bike for the riders and five, six hours in the car for me. You can't be serious 100% of the time. And I believe some jokes actually keep the riders loose and ready for the tougher parts of the race. No specific joke comes to mind right now - just jokes we hear from our friends at home. If you have any good ones for me to use, post them on Facebook. I'm always looking for some new material. And if my memory is good, I think you are the guy that made the supermarket joke a few months ago … So I know you're a funny guy!
Sara Liebner: What would you work...if you would not work in cycling sport??? :)
Sara - Well cycling has always been my passion so I've really never thought about it too much. I've always wanted to be involved with the sport in some way, shape or form. If it weren't cycling, I guess I would have to find and develop a new passion. I do have a marketing degree, so I would probably do something with that. But I do know one thing, if you're not passionate about what you are doing in life, then it's probably best to do something else.
Edie McKearney: I noticed that training camp is on the agenda next week. With everyone having different race goals over the entire season, is the goal of camp to work mostly with team strategies as opposed to the fitness assessments we find in other team sports?
Good question Edie. Yes, we're holding a training camp in Mallorca, prior to the Challenge Mallorca. Normally, we split the group up into a stage racing group and a Classics one day group. Of course, there is overlap as no one rider is strictly a Classics rider, but since the Spring Classics are coming up, we'll have some of the riders focus on that. It's also a good opportunity for us to work together as a team and gauge everyone's early season fitness. If we need to make early season race roster changes, we'll look into that. As for team strategies per say, we really don't focus too much on that at the camp because that's a bit more race specific.
Laura Maitrejean: I've read Fatty's blog, but seriously, what WILL you be doing during the suspension time?
That was a very funny blog, Laura. I got a good laugh from that! I may not be able to be in the race car directing, but there's still a lot of work to be done that people don't see. At the end of the day, I'm responsible for about 60 people - riders and staff members. I work on planning the races and race rosters for 2011. I'm checking-in with the staff and riders. I'm preparing for next year. There's always something to be done - trust me. And of course, I'll spend time with my family and get to take Victoria to school!