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Christian Vande Velde has led a storied career in the sport of cycling. From race analyst on NBC to top-five finisher in the Tour de France, “CVV” as he is often called, has become one of America’s most recognized cycling personalities.
Vande Velde has been a well-known surname in American cycling since at least 1968, when John won the first of his several national championships on the track, and competed at the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games. John’s son Christian burst onto the scene in the 1998 Vuelta a España, where he helped U.S. Postal teammate Lance Armstrong garner a fourth-place finish, and later supported his victories in the Tour de France in 1999 and 2001.
After developing into a strong all-around rider, Christian excelled from 2006 to 2012, a period that saw him finish 4th overall in the Tour de France and podium in every major American stage race, winning the 2012 USA Pro Challenge and 2008 Tour of Missouri.
In this exclusive interview, Vande Velde talks in-depth to host Steve Brunner about what it was like to grow up in a sports and cycling-oriented family, where not only his father, but also grandparents, uncles, and siblings were also serious cyclists. “I remember my dad used to motor pace in that old green Explorer,” he chuckles. He also reflects on his history of injuries and unfortunate crashes during some of his major grand tours – and how his eagerness and strong motivation to succeed may have impacted his career over the longer term. In retrospect, he said, “I probably should have slowed down and taken more time to recover from my injuries; it probably would have strengthened my performance over the longer term.”
While CVV started with US Postal Service as a trusted lieutenant of Armstrong, he also rode for Liberty Seguros for a year, for the exalted Team CSC during its heyday, and finally for the American squad, Garmin Slipstream, towards the end of his career. Vande Velde graduated from being a domestique and time trialist early in his career, to being one of the best all-rounders from 2008-2012, finishing twice in the top 10 of the Tour, wearing the pink jersey as the Giro d’Italia leader, while becoming one of the best riders on American soil. “I always looked forward to the American races – they were special for me,” he said.
After retiring in 2013, Vande Velde migrated to the television announcing booth. Inspired by the late Paul Sherwen who was a close family friend, Vande Velde said he often has to pinch himself to realize he is sitting in basically the same chair once occupied by the legendary Sherwen. Now teamed up with fellow cycling legend Bob Roll as primary commentators for NBC Sports’ coverage of cycling, including the Tour de France, Vande Velde has become a familiar face with a new generation of American cycling fans. But he said he assumes that “many people today probably don’t even realize that I was once a pro cyclist; they probably think I’m just some other talking head.”
The audio-only link to this interview can be found on Spotify.
The Apple podcast is available for direct download from The Outer Line podcast channel.