Thursday was the biggest and baddest bike racing day in the history of bike racing. That is a bold statement, I know. How could I know that, you are asking? Well, first of all I am older than dirt. If you are older than dirt, you are just wise. At least, wiser than I was when I was not this old. There is something in that, just not wisdom.
It all started for me last year. We knew we wanted to sponsor another team, we knew we wanted it to be a team based in Europe. We had the RadioShack team as our team based in North America, we were ready to have a team based in Europe.
While watching the Tourmalet stage last year, both John Burke and I made note that the crowd favorite was Andy Schleck. I had met Andy on one of the rest days earlier in the race and I had to agree with the crowd that there was no question that he was a great rider with a great attitude. The combination was convincing from the start and it had convinced the crowd on the mountain that he was their man.
Negotiations for sponsorship of a team are never easy, and there were plenty of moments in that process where it did not look like it was going to happen. In the end, Trek just wanted it to happen so bad that I did not let the challenges of negotiation stand in the way. We worked and worked at it, and in the end – presto, Leopard Trek was born.
We have gone through some good times and some tough times with the team. Fabian was the man in the spring time, but he did not win as much as we all expected. The situation for the team at the Giro with Wouter's accident was a horrible time. But they have always represented us as the sponsor in the most professional way. They have integrity and they are our partners. They are truly great representatives of Trek and it is an honor to be the sponsor. But, starting a team from scratch is not easy. All of the logistics and getting all the staff to gel and work together does not just happen. It was a huge amount of work, and there were plenty of doubters in the cycling world. My hat is off to Brian Nygaard (@nygaardbn), Kim Anderson, Ben Coates (@trek_ben) and all the rest of the crew. It was a huge undertaking. There have been plenty of bumps along the way, but yesterday made it all pay out.
I remember when the Tour route was announced. Andy told me that the stage to Galibier would decide the race. He told me that the goal of the weeks before that stage were to stay safe and not loose time. He told me all the way back then, that he would be attacking on that stage. The night before that stage, I did not sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with my heart-rate racing.
I sat down in front of a television from 2pm Central European time. I did not leave that place to go to the bathroom, to get water to find food – nothing. I camped out my space and did not relinquish it for anything.
At 60k to go, Andy launched. He did not look back, he did not hesitate, he did not wait to see if any other favorites would follow… He just manned up and took off. I could hear right through the TV the rest of the GC contenders saying “That is futile. He will never hold that on the descent… He will never hold that across the flat to the Galibier…We will bring him back on the slopes of the Galibier” We all know that did not happen.
I remember Kim Anderson telling me a few weeks back that it was going to be a great race, and that the team is ready. I trusted that he knew what he was talking about. I walked around with a glow for days after he told me that. He knew.
As I sat there watching, I was a nervous wreck. In the later parts of the race a crowd of 35 people had gathered around with me. Most were thinking that I was a lunatic. I jumped out of my chair. I chanted “Go Andy, Go Andy.” I yelled at the television, convinced that I could make myself hear right through the screen. I had Eurosport in German on the TV screen, I had Europsort in English going on the lap top, and I was following #tdf twitter search for even more info. (There is no better way to watch a race than with a combination like that.)
I was freaked out during the stage. I still am today.
The Tour de France is not over. Anything can happen yet. There is another hard stage today, and a TT on Saturday. Alberto had a bad day yesterday, Andy – Frank – Cadel could have bad days today. The TT is coming and Cadel/Alberto is a specialist at that. No matter what happens in the rest of the race, yesterday cannot be changed.
Yesterday, Leopard Trek showed they knew what they were saying and what they were doing. Yesterday, they were just superior – period.
Out. Watching racing.