Team CSC's July training camp, part two
Part 1 of this feature: Keeping a winning formula, is here
The CSC team members who were not at the Tour went through the rigours of a mid-season training camp to sharpen their legs for an assault on the end of season races, such as the world championships and the Vuelta. Sabine Sunderland tracks the riders' progress in part two of this feature.
The air-conditioned hotel bar was the ideal spot to relax after a hard days training, and riders got to play a game of pool or table football, watch the Tour on television or just sit and have a chat to one another. It was the right moment to ask them about their aspirations for the rest of the season.
Fabian Cancellara was enjoying the training camp, "When we don't have a race for a while, like now in July, it's nice to get together with the team and train. We are in a perfect area for it here in Spa. And it's nice the team tries to find different training grounds for us. It's good to be with the guys and you push each other to dig deeper than what you would do at home; it gives you a good base for the rest of the season."
As for his results this season, Cancellara is of course happy with his win in the toughest of spring Classics, Paris-Roubaix. The disappointment about missing out on a Tour de France start is still lingering but he's eyeing other races already.
"The major goal for me in the coming months is the World Championships, [in particular,] the time trial," Cancellara said, "I had three major goals this season: Paris-Roubaix, the Tour de France prologue and the last one is the world championships. I reached my first goal and I do think I could have taken the prologue in the Tour also, but as I didn't go there, I'll be working towards the Worlds.
But Cancellara's ambitions aren't limited solely to that date. He explained that there are lots of other races on his agenda, "Actually, I start every race to win, but at times there are different factors which stop you from succeeding. For example, I'll be riding the Sachsen tour next week. And, in the back of my mind, I know I can win a stage, bring home a victory. It's important to take results in the smaller races, to build my confidence.
"Having the confidence is an important thing for me. There's also Tour of Denmark. I have two small blocks of racing coming and will see what happens with the worlds after that. I'd also like to ride the Vuelta, and I think I'll have a good program leading up to it."
Luke Roberts rode the Tour last year, but an injury in a race earlier in the season spoiled his chances to participate in the Grand Boucle. , "In Philly I crashed and bruised my ribs badly and that caused me to miss the TT in Eindhoven, which I was very sorry about." Roberts said
"I had a rest period scheduled in my program shortly after, so the rib injury wasn't that big a drama really. I'm quite happy with the way I've been building up since and this training camp comes at the perfect time for me. I can work hard here with the other riders and bring the power back. I won't be in my best shape yet in Tour of the Wallonne region, but the Tour of Germany is definitely a big goal for me."
The short prologue TT is ridden almost on Luke's 'home turf', going past the house of one of his friends. He'll surely have a bit of a fan club to please there. "My biggest goal for rest of the year is without doubt the Vuelta's prologue TT trial. That's my ball game." Roberts admitted.
"I'm aiming to do really well in the Vuelta and will try to win a stage there. We'll have a great team leader to work for, and will be going for the overall. It will be another great experience after riding the Tour last year."
Roberts will be putting his hand up to do the world championships if he comes out of the Vuelta in good shape. Roberts said he doesn't want to go if his chance of finishing in the top ten is unrealistic. If he leaves the Vuelta with the same form as he finished last year's Tour, that shouldn't be a problem. Roberts has signed up with CSC until end of 2007. "It's great to have had such big wins with this team this year. It's a fantastic team and I get to [rider for myself]. In Flanders and Roubaix I was good this year. Those will continue to be goals for me in the coming seasons. I think after Bayern this year, I found I progressed in my climbing abilities. Maybe next season I'll refocus on races which are a bit hillier." But for the near future, keep an eye out for Roberts at the Deutschland tour.
While his brother Frank was getting ready to rip the peloton to shreds on the Alpe d'Huez in the Tour, Andy Schleck was working hard in the training camp in Belgium, he was highly motivated, "So far my year hasn't been too good," he said. Schleck crashed early in the season, in Cholet and broke his collarbone.
"I didn't get operated on so I had to stop for three weeks. I had one week completely off and started on the home-trainer after two weeks. In Catalunia I returned to competition, which was tough but good. Then I did Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse. I went well there. I hope to have a good rest of the season.
"I only took it easy three days after the national championships and then I started training hard again. It's okay to train at home, but here you go so much deeper and the training is harder. So I should be okay at the Sachsen Tour after this training camp," [Schleck won two stages in the Sachsen tour, ed].
There's an amusing anecdote to depict the bond between the two Schleck boys. Andy received an SMS on the way back to the team hotel after one stage of the Sachsen Tour. It informed him that Frank was on his way to a possible victory on Alpe d'Huez. Apparently, Andy grabbed his wallet and telephone, and called out to the soigneur driving the team car to pull over in the middle of the city centre. "I know how to find my way back to the hotel, Frank's going to win and there's no way I'm going to miss seeing that!" He went to the first bar where the Tour was on television so he could witness his brother taking a very memorable win.
Sharing experiences with Frank is something Andy's hoping to do for years to come. He had expressed his wish to do that, if possible on the same team at the training camp the week before, "I really like to ride for this team, and not just because my brother is riding with CSC. It's indeed a bit easier for both of us. When I race with him I'm also sharing the room with him. It's like being at home and we are more relaxed. We are all good friends in this team, but to be on the same team with your brother gives that extra touch to it, and I feel good here so I'd like to stay with the team for a few seasons more for sure."
After the Sachsen tour Andy will ride the Tour of Germany, "That's a really nice race for me, a ProTour race and I'm motivated. Last year I went okay in the small races and this year I want to prove I'm good in the big races too. I'd like to go to the Vuelta, but if I don't do that I'll do the Tour de L'Avenir. I would like to do the Vuelta and finish it as it would be my first three week race and it would be a great experience for me." he said.
"If you compare my results, last year I had a good placing but this year I was allowed to do bigger races and I notice I have gotten more power than last year. I'm stronger, I can stay with the better climbers and that's why I'm eager to see how I'm going in the Vuelta. Everyone is telling me to take my time, but I want to go for it."
Karsten Kroon joined Team CSC at the end of last season. He seems very happy and relaxed in the team and has big goals set out for himself, "My season until now has been very good. Look, I rode for Rabobank for nine years and I thought long and hard about which team I'd like to ride for. I chose CSC and up 'til now that transfer has brought me everything I hoped for. Of the five offers I looked at, I chose the team that offered me the least chances to go to the Tour. I wanted to [improve] my chances in the classics and those are the only important races for me, the Tour doesn't matter to me. I'd like to really concentrate on all of those one day races," he said.
The birth of his daughter Sam came at exactly the right time for Kroon, during his rest period he didn't have to race for five weeks, so was able to spend time with his daughter. He even claims her arrival hasn't changed his life too dramatically as far as his career is concerned. "Well, I still train and race as before. It's fantastic really," he said.
"This training camp also comes at the perfect time for me. I rode a good Tour of Switzerland, and got third at the [Dutch] national championships and after that I could take it easier for two weeks, so this is the perfect moment to start back. I'll do Wallonia and some crits and then the Benelux Tour after. Benelux, I want to be good for, so it's great to be able to do this training camp with the rest of the guys right now.
"I want to ride for GC in the Benelux Tour. There's one really hard stage, the last 100 kilometres of Liege-Bastogne-Liege, so it won't be a tour designed for sprinters, nor for time-triallists, so I want to have a go at it. Plouay is another race which I could be doing really well.
"After that the world championships and the championship of Zurich. I think the parcours of the Worlds suits me and I surely want to show myself there. If my form is similar to that of the spring, I expect to get a protected role within the Dutch National Team."
With preparation done and goals set, the CSC squad looks to be ready to tackle the coming months of racing.