By Mark Zalewski
New to the American racing peloton this year is the Rock & Republic team, sponsored by a designer jeans company out of Los Angeles. While the team and sponsor have recently arrived to the sport, the person they landed to come in mid-season and direct the team is certainly not. Frankie Andreu is one of American cycling's most well-rounded individuals former racer turned director and TV personality. Andreu will be directing a bigger Rock & Republic team in 2008.
This time last year, the future was anything but certain for Frankie Andreu a Midwest boy that had served the US Postal machine faithfully for twelve years, racking-up nine Tour de France finishes, before retiring and heading to the other side of the sport. For 2006 he had what looked to be a promising career as a team director going with Toyota-United.
But that came to a screeching halt when he was unexpectedly sacked by team owner Sean Tucker for uncertain reasons. While Tucker refused to give a reason for the firing, many thought it was strange timing combined with the leaked testimony by Andreu and his wife regarding Lance Armstrong.
This left Andreu without a secure job and little prospects for the immediate future with the season ending in two months time. But like a cat, Andreu managed to land on his feet, and he seems to be in as good a place as ever. During the season the new Rock & Republic team brought him on as directeur sportif, his commentator contract with the American broadcaster of the Tour, Versus, continued and his new team has posted some major wins, resulting in an expansion for next year.
"The end of last year I was out for a little bit, and the beginning of this year," he said. "I liked to watch and pay attention to what's going on and I missed being at the races and missed not having a group of guys to bond with and share the experiences with... so in that aspect I was happy to get a call to come on board. I'm looking forward to next year because we are growing and looking to be more competitive in all different types of races."
Andreu was referring to new signings for next year, which he kept close to the vest, at least in terms of names to respect their current contracts. "Almost all of the guys we have this year are staying, unless they leave. So it only leaves three or four spots open for climbers and TT guys, because we already have a great crit team. We have the sprinters but we need guys who can do some damage on the road. Ideally we will find guys that will secure us invitations for California and Georgia, which is difficult to obtain."
The US market for riders seems to be healthy, at least according to Andreu. "There are so many domestic teams that it's a battle. We have a couple signed and a couple irons in the fire. But it's not easy, all the teams are looking and buying, and this year it seems there are a lot of rumours and transfers earlier than ever! I wouldn't be surprised if guys this year are already talking for 2009. It's like the NHL [Professional Hockey - ed.] draft where you can buy the rights to somebody early on for later. You have to be quick and ready to commit yourself to whoever you want."
As a well-respected former pro, Andreu uses his background as an edge when talking to possible riders. but the market is wide open for any of those riders. "To be honest, I was already talking to three or four of those guys in June, not even knowing what was going to happen with Discovery."
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