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Last one standing: Frankie Andreu, last rider from the 7-Eleven era, heads into team management

By John Wilcockson

As Frankie Andreu stood outside Tucson’s Westin La Paloma hotel on January 11, he looked introspective. For the first time in 13 years, he wasn’t suited up, heading off into the sunshine on a crisp, bright morning with the rest of his pro team colleagues. Instead, Andreu was in jeans and a windbreaker, watching the U.S. Postal Service squad start its first group ride of 2001.

At that moment, a chapter in North American cycling closed. Andreu was officially starting a new career as Postal’s domestic program directeur sportif — thus ending a racing career that began in 1989 with America’s first-ever pro team, 7-Eleven. “I think I was the last rider from 7-Eleven still racing,” he said. “The last of the old crew. Isn’t that sad?”

Over the years, 7-Eleven morphed into Motorola, then U.S. Postal. Andreu was the only one to ride with all three. And when he knew at the end of 2000 that he wasn’t going to be re-hired as a racer by Postal, Andreu wasn’t planning to plunge straight into management.

“Initially, I was looking to keep riding,” said the deep-voiced 34-year-old. “But things I was working on were getting complicated or falling through….”

Andreu was attracted by the part-time nature of the Postal management job, as the team again plans to race only 15 or so races in the States this year — but with a new commitment to bringing a complete squad to the top races. “U.S. Postal Service [the title sponsor] made it clear that they wanted a little more presence here in America,” Andreu said. “You see the Tour de France champions, and all that … and it looks bad when all the Postal Service employees come out and they don’t see the team doing as well as they do over in Europe. “

For 2001, Postal is re-emphasizing the First Union USPRO Championship in Philadelphia. Andreu said that probable team leaders there will be George Hincapie, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Benoît Joachim and “another rider I think can do well at that race — Julian Dean.”

Andreu also expressed confidence in one of the two men who will contest only U.S. races: Robbie Ventura. “I consider [Ventura] as fast as the Littlehales, and Gordon Fraser, and Carneys; and to be able to win comes down to the lead-out.”

When not managing, Andreu said he will do some coaching for Carmichael Training Systems: “I was kinda hesitant, because I don’t think I want the responsibility of someone else’s results … but I enjoy doing camps, talking to the riders, telling stories.”

Andreu may be telling some of those stories on the air, if his hopes of working with OLN work out: “I’ve expressed my great interest in doing the Tour especially, for the race commentary.” He has also started writing race stories for a potential book on his career.

That career saw Andreu ride nine Tours de France, one more than Andy Hampsten and Greg LeMond. Three of his 16 wins were in Europe: stages of the Tour of Poland (1994), Mi-Août Bretonne (1997) and Tour of Luxembourg (1998). Andreu also had two second places in Tour stages; fourth at the Atlanta Olympic road race; fourth in a World Cup classic.

Despite his own ambitions, Andreu’s career wasn’t about victories for himself. “Ironically, I think my strongest two years were these last two years helping Lance. I wouldn’t have given up having Lance win [the Tour] … but if things would have been a little different, I think I would have had my best opportunities to take a stage.”

Before going out to greet his former Postal colleagues, as they returned from their first group training ride of 2001, Andreu talked about one of the team’s new arrivals: Australian Matt White. “He’s the replacement for me,” Andreu said. “He’s a workhorse.”

Just like Frankie…. — john wilcockson

Out and in

Here’s a run-down on the riders who left Postal at the end of 2000, the

newcomers for 2001, and those who stayed put:


Frankie Andreu Postal’s new U.S.-based directeur sportif

David George South African is back in Italy with Tacconi Sport

Marty Jemison Now team captain of new U.S. team Noble House

Patrick Jonker Dutch Aussie joins French Div 2 team BigMat

Kevin Livingston Joins Telekom on two-year contract

Kirk O’Bee Navigators now has this American’s Euro’ experience

Stive Vermaut After disappointing year, Belgian transfers to Lotto


StÉphane Barthe Veteran French sprinter from AG2R adds depth

Antonio Cruz U.S. sprinter from Saturn goes Euro’

Roberto Heras Climber from Kelme is Spain’s new star

Victor Hugo PeÑa Stage racer from Vitalicio is Colombia’s new hope

JosÉ Luis Rubiera Spanish climber/TT rider from Kelme to help Heras

Robbie Ventura U.S. sprinter from Saturn has domestic schedule

Matt White Aussie from Vini Caldirola replaces Frankie

Dave Zabriskie America’s big hope from 7-Up-Colorado Cyclist


Lance Armstrong Aiming at a third Tour de France win

Jamie Burrow British climber starts second pro season

Dylan Casey American time trialist on upward path

Julian Dean Kiwi sprinter looking for some big wins

Viatcheslav Ekimov Russia’s Cyclist of the Century strong as ever

Tyler Hamilton Lance’s lieutenant is after Tour of Switzerland win

George Hincapie U.S. flatlander wants a classics breakthrough

BenoÎt Joachim Back after Lux feds say he didn’t use nandrolone

Steffen Kjaergaard Solid Norwegian team rider helps everyone

Kenny Labbe Euro’ camp, but no Euro’ races for Chicago mailman

Levi Leipheimer Newly wed, new ambition for U.S. all-arounder

Christian Vande Velde No more track for talented U.S. roadie

CÉdric Vasseur Hard-riding Frenchman makes big strides in English