By Andrew Hood
Chann McRae found deliverance in the form of the U.S. Postal Service team from what’s been a frustrating few months with Mercury. McRae, who hasn’t been paid since June, signed a one-off deal to race with the Posties in the upcoming Vuelta a España, Sept. 8-29.
“I finally got a good break after some hard times,” McRae said from his home in the mountains outside of Madrid. “I always seem to have good form late in the season, so it works out well for everyone.”
McRae’s surprise addition to the Postal Service team bolsters efforts to defend the Vuelta title for Roberto Heras. Backing up Heras will be McRae, Jose Luis Rubiera, Victor Hugo Peña, Levi Leipheimer, Matthew White, Benoit Joachim, Antonio Cruz and Julian Dean.
The deal was just announced over the weekend, but it had been in the works for weeks, according to McRae.
“My agent and I started brainstorming after things weren’t looking good with Mercury,” McRae said. “He called (Mark) Gorski during the Tour and they threw around some ideas.”Details were quickly hammered out and Mercury management were cooperative about letting McRae look for new opportunities.
McRae, still under contract to ride with troubled Mercury next season, hopes bigger things will come.
“This deal is just for the Vuelta. I won’t even see the team until two days before the Vuelta starts,” McRae said. “There’s no certainty at all with Mercury. If things go well at the Vuelta, maybe things could work out with Postal.”
With the departure of Tyler Hamilton to CSC, McRae could be a perfect fit to help Heras and Lance Armstrong. The three-time Tour champion and McRae attended high school together in Plano, Texas.
McRae said the contract comes at a good time.
“I felt like I was taking a step back, like back in ’96 when I wasn’t getting paid from Santa Clara,” McRae said, in reference to a notorious Spanish team he rode for. “I needed to get some forward momentum I’ve been training hard the whole time, but it’s been frustrating.”
McRae also will race in the world championships in October.
“I always do well late in the season,” said McRae, 5th in the 1999 worlds and 8th last year. “I just want to work my ass off for Heras, then we’ll see what happens.”
McRae said Postal team jerseys are being mailed to him now. He’s also hoping there’s a check in the mail, too.