By Susan Westemeyer
Thomas Frei's neo-pro season was a turbulent one with Team Astana. The Swiss rider is looking forward to a quieter season in 2008, with the emphasis on sports rather than doping headlines.
The year started out well and ended badly, the 22 year-old said in an interview with radsport-aktiv.de. "I was in good form directly from the start and could ride such good races as Paris-Nice and the Ardennes Classics," he said. "After the Tour, everything was different. It was a very difficult time to concentrate on your job."
A highlight for him was riding the Tour de Suisse, which passed through his hometown of Olten. "That is a unique experience in an athlete's life, when he can present himself before his own front door in such a race, and see so many familiar faces. Just riding the first Tour de Suisse is surely something special for a Swiss rider."
The low point of the season was the positive doping tests from three of his team-mates, from which he couldn't remove himself. "For the public you are simply one of 'them'. I think it was a hard time for every Astana rider, although the team's mood had always been good. The worst for me was in a team training camp in August in Switzerland, where we were jeered at by cars driving by."
Frei started training again for the new season the middle of November, and knows what he wants in the coming year. "I want to make a definite step up and pick up more notice," he said. He is eying his first Grand Tour. "I am in the extended squad for the Giro d'Italia. It would be great to go into my first three week Tour in super form."
Meantime, he has gotten to know the new team managment and his new incoming team-mates at the recent Astana training camp in Spain. "We had a good spirit in the training camp and lots of fun, but we also trained well and concentrated on our work."