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Off the front: A conversation with Will Frischkorn

Will Frischkorn had a front-row seat in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo. The 26-year-old Slipstream-Chipotle rider featured prominently in the day’s main breakaway in a four-man move that pulled clear for more than 230km in the season’s longest one-day race. It was a coming of age of sorts for Frischkorn, who is taking full advantage of Slipstream’s entry into Europe’s biggest races this season. The breakaway gave Slipstream some prime TV time and put Frischkorn in the European spotlight after banging through unglamorous French gutter races for the past few years.

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By Andrew Hood

Frischkorn at Milan-San Remo

Frischkorn at Milan-San Remo

Photo: Graham Watson

Will Frischkorn had a front-row seat in Saturday’s Milan-San Remo.

The 26-year-old Slipstream-Chipotle rider featured prominently in the day’s main breakaway in a four-man move that pulled clear for more than 230km in the season’s longest one-day race.

It was a coming of age of sorts for Frischkorn, who is taking full advantage of Slipstream’s entry into Europe’s biggest races this season.

The breakaway gave Slipstream some prime TV time and put Frischkorn in the European spotlight after banging through unglamorous French gutter races for the past few years.

Up next are the northern classics and Frischkorn is recharging the batteries for a run at Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.

Here are excerpts from an interview with VeloNews European correspondent Andrew Hood:

VN: Where did you fit into the team’s plan for Milan-San Remo?

WF: Our plan was focusing on (David) Millar and (Julian) Dean and working for them toward the end of the race and for me and Maggie (Bäckstedt) to go for an early move. Maggie was really gunning for the move. He probably jumped 20 times. I just ended up being the one to get the right move at the right time. I jumped on the left and four of us were gone. That set us up for a long day.

VN: It seemed like you had some good breakaway companions, with some teams anxious to make a good effort?

WF: We had a good group. For the first hour we were just drilling it; the gap quickly went up. We got our first time check at four minutes and then the next time it was up to 16 minutes. By then we could ease up a little and enjoy the ride.

VN: Why was it important for the team to try to get into the break?

WF: For a young team trying to establish ourselves, it’s important. Being an animator in the race is important. That’s what our team is built around and what we are as a team. It’s a lot of value for our sponsors, too. I think I was off the front for five and a half hours. We were on national Italian TV for hours. I received an e-mail from the Felt Italian guys and they were so excited.

VN: It was probably better to be off the front than be in pack in a nervous race like Milan-San Remo?

WF: Once the gap was established, we got to enjoy it a little bit. We rode a pace that’s stiff enough to keep us in the ballpark. Once you get along the coast, it’s amazing. It’s stunning to see the coastline, to see the crowds and not have the stress of being in the bunch. Once they hit the coast, the racing is on, so to go alone and take all that in was pretty cool. The crowds were just incredible, with people lining the full length of the course. It was like a world’s course for 300km. It was cool to soak it up. I started racing when I was 16 and dreamed about being in these races. It’s nice to be here.

VN: When the gap was more than 16 minutes, did the group ever dare to believe?

WF: No, because in a course like that, when there’s some serious motivation among the teams, we could have had 30 minutes and it would have come back. The motivation was staying out there long enough and to make a good impression for the team. We got caught about one kilometer up the Cipressa. When they passed us, the race was really on. It was impressive to watch that.

VN: What happened from there over the Poggio to the finish?

WF: I pretty much shut down as soon as we were caught. I found a group to make it to the line. We went at survival pace. There were just enough guys in the same boat because there were stragglers all over the place. I think I finished like 15 minutes down (note – 124th at 11:22)

VN: You were away for more than 230km, how were the legs at the finish?

WF: The legs were actually pretty good. I had it so many times in my head to eat, eat, eat. It’s impossible to replace what you’re burning in a race like this, but that really helped me to keep it going through the entire race. When I was finished, I was OK, I wasn’t in a hunger flat. I remember Maggy telling us before the race, ‘If you’re not eating every 20 kilometers, that’s 20 kilometers off the distance that you can do.’ You have to be eating constantly. I bet during the race I put down 3,000 calories and went through 15 bottles of water. We had good preparation. We had almost three weeks in Italy, with Monte Eroica to Tirreno-Adriatico to Milan-San Remo. You can’t ask for a better block of training than that.

VN: What did you learn from the experience?

WF: The biggest thing I took out was learning to manage my caloric intake for races this long. With Flanders and Roubaix coming up, it’s really one of the most important things about these races that not many people talk about. It’s about constantly taking in and staying on top of what you’re eating that’s important.

VN: Did you celebrate the big ride that evening?

WF: Hardly – three of us jumped into a team car after the finish and drove to Girona. It was me, Millar and (George) Hincapie. By 11:30 p.m., we got home and slept in our own beds. It was nice not to have to travel the next day.

VN: Did the breakaway effort confirm anything for you?

WF: For me, it’s just a nice confirmation that the form is heading in the right direction for the important block of races ahead of us. Not just for me, but for the whole team, we were really happy with the race. Some people look at the result and think our finish wasn’t that great, but the team is really coming together well and the team is riding really well together. It’s only a matter of time that it will come together and we will surprise some people.

VN: Things have been going well so far this year for Slipstream, you’ve been part of the team since the beginning, how do you characterize the season so far?

WF: It’s taken a big step this year. It’s been exciting to watch this program grow, from the first year to where we are today. It’s exciting to be a part of that growth and part of a new direction in cycling that we’ve helped create and is now accepted. It’s exciting to be racing in a transparent program that’s open to the public and to the media, where we hope to provide a gateway back into the sport for fans who’ve been disillusioned by some of these scandals of late.

VN: Do the riders on the team feel a sense of special responsibility to help the sport regain its credibility?

WF: There is a responsibility and there’s pressure and scrutiny because of it. Everyone feels that pressure. We have a fantastic group of guys, riders and staff, and the support in our program for doing it properly, which is all you can do. We focus on doing it right and go out there and try to pull it together on race day. Sometimes it works, sometimes we fail. It’s like that for every team. We’ve taken an outspoken stance and it puts us under increased scrutiny.

VN: We’ve heard stories in the past about how riders have spoken out against doping have been forced out of the sport or harassed by riders in the peloton, has the team experienced any of that?

WF: Maybe that existed in the past. Pro cycling is different today and luckily we don’t have that issue anymore.

VN: Does the team face any extra pressure to prove that it can win races and not be simply known as a team that races clean?

WF: We want to win, but the biggest source of pressure is from each other. It’s a healthy environment and most of the pressure comes from within. The team supports us. The team wants to win. We’re out there to win bike races. That’s our job. That’s expected. You’re a bike racer. We want to win bike races.

VN: There’s been some encouraging signs that the sport appears cleaner, have you noticed anything to support that?

WF: I think we’re a place right now in the sport that it’s not really thought about the same way as it was in the past. No one looks at the race winner and thinks that he must be dirty. We’re in a great time in the sport. It’s exciting to be part of that. The races have been dynamic, open, so many guys are in the hunt. I think it’s far less controlled than in past years.

VN: Has there been interest from other riders about joining the team?

WF: There are a lot of riders who would love to ride and be part of this program next year. We know across the board that riders have embraced the same philosophy that we have and they’re excited about this program. There are only so many spots for next year, so it’s going to be interesting.

VN: What’s ahead for you?

WF: I’ll be staying home here in Girona and recovering and training before heading up to Belgium for De Panne and Flanders. We’re not doing Ghent-Wevelgem, so we had back to Spain and then back up for Roubaix.

VN: What are the team’s expectations for the northern classics?

WF: I’d love to have a good ride in Flanders. It suits me well and the entire team is focused toward Maggie and Julian (Dean). We want to try to animate the race early and get out in an early breakaway. It would be great to set them up if you can hang out there, then when they get up, you can have one more rider to help out later. Maggie is really focusing on Roubaix. We have a lot of smaller cards to play at Flanders, with Julian, Tyler Farrar and Danny Pate. It’s really a matter who can find the legs in the right place at the right time.

VN: After the classics, you’ll take a little break?

WF: I get a little break and I head back to Colorado and hang out in the mountains for a few weeks. Then I come back for Dunkirk, Picardie and Catalunya, then I head back for Philly week. After that, there are a whole lot of question marks.

VN: Any chance that you’ll get a nod for the Tour?

WF: There is some, but right now I want to focus on the spring and hope things can fall into place.

VN: What’s your favorite style of racing?

WF: I like aggressive, dynamic racing, not just going to a bottom of a climb and go. I like challenges in a course, with crosswinds and elements that you have to think about a little bit. A lot of the northern classics suit me well. I was on the podium at the U-23 Flanders.

VN: What kind of racing do you think you can evolve into?

WF: I’d like to look toward races like Flanders and individual stages in grand tours. As much as anything, I view myself as a strong support rider for my leaders. I’m pretty good in that role, to be one of the last guys for the leader in the crunch.