An interview with Brett Lancaster, August 25, 2007
After a terrible crash in his first Tour de France Australian Brett Lancaster (Milram) is slowly getting back to racing. He currently rides in the Regio Tour, a stage race in south western Germany that also featured a stage in France. Between massage and dinner Lancaster talked to Cyclingnews' Bjorn Haake from the hotel's nice terrace that offered a view on the hill side where the riders will have to battle it out on Sunday in the final stage.
Brett Lancaster is back racing, but it doesn't mean he is completely pain free following his crash in stage one of his very first Tour de France. "I still have problems today. I feel strong, but whenever I put too much stress on it my right leg just gives in." Not that he hadn't tried a thing or two. "I had all kinds of work done starting right after the crash. I went to see osteopaths and everything."
He admitted it is getting better, albeit slowly. A frustration for someone ready to show his full capability. He has the management's confidence to start the Vuelta a España, but told Cyclingnews that "I will make the decision after the stage on Sunday. There is no point in starting a Grand Tour if you can't be a 100 percent."
" " -Lancaster reflects on past accidents.
Not that this was the most bizarre crash he ever had. "I hit a cow in 1998 when I was training with the national team in Mexico." He lost lots of skin, and got to experience a Mexican hospital for the first time, but "it was actually pretty good." And the cow? "She ran off, didn't she?" the Aussie laughed, indicating the 'four-wheeler' was OK.
His latest crash also happened in a country where he rarely rides or races, in England. There were some fifty kilometres still to race in stage one when "I hit a centre divider and just went down. My side hurt pretty badly." He went on to bravely finish the stage and thought with some work by the medical staff "I could get better after a few days," but it just didn't work out that way. "After five or six days it just got too painful," and the Australian had to quit his first Tour de France, starting a negative trend that also saw his compatriots Michael Rogers and Stuart O'Grady crash out of the Tour.
The latter had the worst spill of them all, coming down hard at some 60 kilometres an hour. "I was in Monte Carlo about two and a half weeks ago and Stuey was just released from the hospital then. But he'll be back soon," Lancaster emphasized that O'Grady is very tough. The crashes that took out most of the Aussie contingent of this year's Tour were bad, but Lancaster reminded us that things can be much worse.
Late last year 21 year-old Scott Peoples died in a training accident. Both Lancaster and Peoples hail from Shepparton, Victoria and "I often trained with him when I was home," Lancaster said of a very young talented rider whom many had given chances to move up to the pro ranks. In fact Peoples was riding by himself on the same training route the duo often tackled. "The driver claimed he never saw him [Peoples]. But it's crazy, the road is completely straight there."
The accident happened just a day or two after Lancaster had come back from the team's photo shoot prior to the 2007 season. He mentioned that the court hearings just concluded and the driver lost his license for three years. "But it doesn't bring Peoples back," was the somber conclusion that there is no real justice for preventable accidents like that.
Speaking more about car drivers and cyclists sharing the roads, he observed that drivers seem to be always in a rush these days. "People are stressed. They have to go to work and they never have any time anymore. Not even ten seconds," the Aussie thought it was getting worse in Australia. He preferred Italy, "where the streets are narrower, but even though they drive somewhat crazy over there the Italians give cyclists more space." At the end of the day though, he acknowledged "it always depends on the drivers, no matter which country you ride in."
Back at the Regio Tour things went a lot better, with his captain Alessandro Petacchi winning the first stage in a bunch sprint. With the rest of the route a very hilly affair, one would think the sprinters' days are over, but the optimistic Australian reminded us that "last year the final day ended in a bunch sprint," despite the six tough laps in the steep vineyards.
Lancaster had done the race last year, and so remembered the toughness of the final stage, but hadn't yet given any thought to this year's time trial. "Is it the same course as last year?" he asked, revealing that he hadn't looked in the road book yet. Finding out about the 12-odd percent on the first hill, the ups and downs and the final flat part with a likely headwind didn't quite bode too well with him. But he thought the course should suit his compatriot Michael Rogers of T-Mobile very well.
"I think he [Rogers] can win the overall," albeit acknowledging he didn't really know too much about Dueñas. The fact that the Spaniard is a climber and recently did a good time trial in the Vuelta a Burgos was acknowledged by Lancaster, but it didn't make him change his mind, repeating that the T-Mobile captain is the hot favourite to get the leader's jersey in the time trial.
As for his winter program it is already set with the Olympics in mind. Paris-Tours will be his last road race of the season ("If I don't ride the Vuelta I will do the Tour of Poland instead.") and then he'll be back on the track. "I haven't ridden on the track since the last Olympics," Lancaster admitted but made clear his goal is to get to the Beijing Olympics. "An Olympic gold medal, that is just one of the best experiences as an athlete," the member of the 2004 pursuit gold team wouldn't mind repeating it.
There will be a training camp in Büttgen, Germany after the road season and in mid-November the Australian national team will have a camp in Adelaide. "We [Graeme Brown, Bradley McGee, Luke Roberts and Lancaster] as the defending champions get an automatic invitation to the camp. And we all want to defend the title. But there is also Stuey [O'Grady] and the younger ones are knocking at the door as well," the fast man realized that it won't be an automatic invitation for him. "I have to race at least one World Cup event on the track."
His team Milram is understanding. "There is only two weeks between the end of the 2008 Tour de France and the Olympics, which is not enough time. So I may ride the Giro and the Vuelta instead. Or I may stop the Tour earlier, " although quickly assuring that it shouldn't be for the same reason he quit this time.