Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.
By Kip Mikler, VeloNews Editor
The 2002 U.S. Postal Service team had its first official gathering January 10-15 in Scottsdale, Arizona, giving the seven new recruits a chance to mingle with Lance Armstrong, Roberto Heras, George Hincapie and the rest of the returning riders.
As the team gathered for its first official ride together last Friday at the swanky Fairmount Princess Resort, the mood was relaxed. The official team introduction is scheduled later this month in Spain, and this get-together was not an official training camp, but a private affair for sponsors and team riders. With no new uniforms available yet, the new riders wore a mixed bag of borrowed USPS duds and last year’s colors.
Running the show for the fourth year is team director Johan Bruyneel. Between shepherding the team on rides from behind the wheel of a Volkswagen van and taping corporate videos, Bruyneel took a few minutes to talk about the new additions to the team for 2002. Complete coverage of the Postal gathering in Arizona, along with interviews with the new recruits, will appear in the February 4 issue of VeloNews.
Here’s some of what Bruyneel had to say about the new additions to the team:
VELONEWS: What were your objectives with the new riders you have signed for 2002?
JOHAN BRUYNEEL: Well, we have Chann [McRae] who did the Tour of Spain with us already last year. Although the Tour of Spain was not really a good race for him, he has a lot of experience. For the hilly races, and possible the Tour de France, he can be a good replacement for somebody like Tyler. When you make a team, you have to try to replace at least what you have or try to get better. The fact that Chann is an American with a certain reputation was very interesting for us. We are an American team, so we have to look for good American riders.
VN: With the personnel changes, how is this year’s team different than last year’s?
BRUYNEEL: It’s not different. The basic riders of the Tour de France, they’re still there. Lance, Chechu [Jose Luis Rubiera], Roberto [Heras], George [Hincapie], [Steffen] Kjaergaard, Christian [Vande Velde]… From last year’s Tour de France, we lose Tyler, we lose Ekimov. That’s it, I think. Losing names like Ekimov and Hamilton is important, but I think we certainly made up for that. People like Chann McRae, [Gianpaolo] Mondini, [Pavel] Padrnos, Clinger, Floyd… The seven new riders we have, it’s a balanced compensation for what we have lost.
VN: Looking beyond the Tour, at one-day races and classics, was it an objective of yours to get more support for George [Hincapie] in those kinds of races?
BRUYNEEL: Yes. Last year our very first goal was the classics in the month of April. We did very well in the classics, with the victory of George in Ghent Wevelgem, and [he was] probably the best rider in Paris-Roubaix. But our team was a little bit weak. I think Ekimov in the classics wasn’t performing like the year before. He made up for it afterward, he did a fantastic Tour of Switzerland, fantastic Tour de France but at the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix he was not like the year before. We have tried to get some strong guys [for the classics] but at the same time we know the Tour de France is a main objective, so we have to try to get riders that are able to do both. Three of the new guys that will do the classics — Mondini, Padrnos and Clinger — are three guys who can also do the Tour de France. In our team, that’s very important. It’s all well thought-out.
VN: This is the first time all the guys have been together, how’s the team chemistry looking?
BRUYNEEL: Very good. Relaxed. We try to organize everything as best is possible. We set the goals and then try to put in place a system where everybody is prepared. I think that is the only way to be successful — to create an atmosphere that everybody feels good in, where there is not constant pressure. We know when the pressure is on and when it is off. I feel a good chemistry with the group.