Archive for the ‘Sebastian Lang Tour Blog’ Category

Senseless cavalry charge …

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Apparently everyone was so relaxed after the rest day that it was a real cavalry charge. After a little more than two hours racing we had already clocked up 105 kilometres and an average rate of watts of around 310! Not until the senseless cavalry charge was over were 10 riders able to break away. I also tried to get away again and again, but couldn’t quite manage it and it was probably better that I didn’t either. I just wouldn’t have had the legs to stay up there at the front today.

Despite all that there was one positive thing that came out of today’s stage – it was over more quickly. However on Wednesday and Thursday we have two very long days ahead of us. Now I’m counting down the days until I reach Sunday, and I’ll finally know that I’ve completed my seventh Tour de France.

Before the race we still had plenty to laugh about. Firstly, Philippe Gilbert completed the final kilometre to the start on the bus. As on every other day, the press was standing in front of the bus and wanted to do an interview with the Belgian champion as well as with Jelle Vanendert, who is currently leading the king of the mountains competition. Marcel Sieberg then slipped on Philippe Gilbert’s jersey for a laugh especially for the press and we were rolling round laughing on the floor of the bus. After that André Greipel pulled on the polka dot jersey and went outside and we just couldn’t control our laughter. So as you can all see, even when we have to endure such mega pain on a daily basis, the general mood in the team is good.

See you tomorrow in Italy
Seb

Goose pimples and other emotional moments

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

When one hears over the Radio Shack airwaves, “Go on Lance, go for it, this is the last big climb in your career”, I’ll unfortunately no longer be up there were the action is. I then find out everything that’s happened on the stage from one of Lance Armstrong’s colleagues.

It was the last climb of this year’s Tour de France. After the rest day yesterday today was the last stage in the Pyrenees with a mountain top finish on the Col du Tourmalet. This stage finishes 2115 metres above sea level and we once again rode a good race as a team. Jurgen VDB in particular battled on until the finish line and really gritted his teeth. He was therefore able to defend his 5th place in the general classification.

An unbelievably large number of fans crowded the roadsides for all the mountain stages. However, today on the Col du Tourmalet all hell broke loose. When you have to ride through the really narrow gap between the screaming masses you do feel somewhat different. Now and again you get goose pimples because the experience is so emotional. On the few occasions when people start screaming out your name you do feel really great. It’s really great that despite all the discussions surrounding the sport there are still sufficient people who can see the difference between black and white. This makes it clear to me that it’s worth carrying on because there are enough people out there who don’t take any notice of what’s said or written in the media. There are many people who can form their own opinions and don’t need the media for that.

It was a very difficult day’s work for me and the moment I’m forcing the pace at the front of the field it’s just as emotional as a ride through the crowds in the mountains. Photographers capture such moments on film, camera teams send these pictures around the world and reporters report live on the race action. A good friend of mine recently wrote to me to tell me how great it was for him to watch me suffering live on T.V. But seriously, thanks to all my friends back home I am motivated to overcome my weaker self day in day out and am really happy when they get to see my face even though it looks somewhat disfigured at times!

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Tomorrow I’m hoping for a typical stage with a sprint finish so I can simply coast along in the main bunch. There are just three days left and then my 6th Tour will be over, but perhaps it won’t be my last.

See you tomorrow, Seb

Kook Eiland – A chef team with years of experience

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

The Tour de France is rightly the most difficult and toughest race that any rider can take part in. That’s not just because of the 21 stages that must be overcome and the three weeks of racing on the trot. After all, there are two other annual stage races which last for three weeks. However, in contrast to all the other races, for the Tour de France every team nominates its top riders and is focused right from the start of the season on achieving the greatest amount of success in this prestigious event.

We riders have to deal with all kinds of circumstances every day. The long stages over 200 km, the weather which can lead to sizzling battles or crashes in the rain and of course to extremely high maximum and average speeds. We also have to deal with stage routes which again and again prove to be tough. The Alps and the Pyrenees also need to be overcome if you want to make it to Paris. This means that all we’ve basically got time for is cycling, eating and sleeping.

Food is an extremely important part in the life of a pro cyclist. Most teams now have their own cook. Even before the Tour starts it is decided what the riders need to eat and what types of food should be prepared. Our chef team from “Kook Eiland” is really first-rate. The boys are always on the ball, always know exactly what they’re doing and deliver absolutely mega meals. Sometimes I think I’m living in a dream world after having ridden a tough and tortuous stage. You sit at the table and are served with one course after another. You never have to wait long until you have something in your stomach and the food is always sufficient and well presented. Even on a rest day the chefs make sure that the lunchtime meal doesn’t contain too much carbohydrate. At the end of the three weeks of racing we’ll have eaten some of the most diverse meals. One thing, however, always stays the same and that’s that we eat pasta and rice in the evening as well as pancakes and a type of “French Toast” for breakfast made with an eggs, milk and lemon mix, which is gently fried in a pan.

When one is back home again, it is unusual that nobody cooks for you in the mornings and evenings and you have to put your hand to cooking again. Therefore as you can see we are not just spoilt with a daily massage, but are also surprised again and again with culinary delights.

See you tomorrow, Seb

Ruthless battle in the team classification

Monday, July 19th, 2010

One should never try to predict how a race is going to pan out or concoct special scenarios because one thing I’ve learned in all my years in pro cycling is that there are sufficient reasons why a stage is ridden tougher than one might expect.

Let us assume that we’ve only got two riders in the general classification who are going for the overall win in the Tour. I don’t think I need to mention their names. Then take the stage route and the team talk in the bus into consideration and you already think you know what’s going to happen on today’s stage. However, appearances can be deceiving because the very narrow point margins in the battle for the green and polka dot jerseys open up other possibilities. But that isn’t everything because there’s also the team competition. If you now throw all this into one hat along with 100 highly motivated racing cyclists, you really do create an explosive mixture. Today it took a total of 89 kms until a 10-strong group was able to break away. In the early stages of the race we rode a possibly record-breaking average speed of 47.6 km/h. However, it was never possible to put together a suitable group of riders and create a different and more pleasant race. Once we had the wrong rider in the group because of the chase for the polka dot jersey, another time it was the same thing with the green jersey. Then we had the problem that the Radio Shack team had one rider missing in the group, so Caisse d’Epargne rode at full steam ahead.

Therefore these two teams will continue to eye each other and serve up new tactical surprises in the coming stages.

Whilst Jurgen VDB once again put in a superb performance, the rest of the team also got through this second stage in the Pyrenees very well. Tomorrow it’s the Queens stage and after that the rest day. To be perfectly honest, I have a great deal of respect for tomorrow’s stage and am even in awe of it. If you really want to know why I feel this way, then simply take a look at the stage route on the Internet because with all the unexpected factors I’ve already mentioned it’ll be a fast and painful start.

There’s a really nice saying that Leif Hoste told me this spring after a serious crash and a stage that just didn’t want to be over.

Today will end just like every day does

See you tomorrow, Seb

7 days to go, 12 climbs of the 1st and 2nd categories, and uncountable metres of elevation

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

It’s like counting backwards, only it takes a good deal longer and is much more painful. After today’s first stage in the Pyrenees there are three more ahead of us. Therefore I’m now counting backwards and cancelling every one of the next three days out of my memory. At the mountain top finish in AX-3-Domaines Jurgen VDB demonstrated once again how strong he is at the moment. We, just like him, hope that he doesn’t crack during the next few stages and can therefore continue to fight for a superb overall finish in the general classification.

We all started the Tour de France together with a major aim, namely to achieve a position in the top 10 with our team captain. Every kilometre in the wind, every climb, every bottle, every energy gel, basically everything we’ve done so far has brought us such a long way. The big difference to last year also is that we now work together much better as a team. This is exactly what motivates us domestiques to suffer and enables us to ride at the absolute limit. Call it pleasure or fun, but seriously, it’s simply the case that tasks like these do give you a great deal of pleasure at the end because all the hard work you have put in is rewarded with a pat on the back or a big thank you from the team management.

Right ok, so off we go into the next stage after a good dinner and a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow I’ll report about the work of our cooks and why it’s necessary that we have them and how much difference they can make.

See you tomorrow, Seb

Part TWO – We’re a team, and that doesn’t just mean the riders…

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

Today we’ll begin with the only two women in the team. Firstly we have Valérie D’haeze. Although she is not on location with us, she is the person we turn to with all almost all organisational questions. She coordinates all our event entries, makes the travel arrangements for everyone on the team and much much more. After two riders pulled out of the race Velérie was responsible for making sure that they got home. Without Velérie a great deal would go haywire on the team. Secondly we have Brunhilde Verhenne. She deals with everything involving PR. She is on-location with the team and tries to coordinate and plan how to best deal with the daily pressure from the media. She also takes care of VIP guests and their access to the riders at the start and also their transport while a stage is underway. The VIP guests ride along in two mini buses and can then get out at certain places along the route where we then ride by.

Why do we need a team doctor? He’s responsible for far more than one might think. He organises our nutrition, and also what we eat both before and after a stage. Unfortunately, he is also often needed when a rider has a crash and his wounds require treatment. The doctor is also there to complete tasks such as supervising doping checks and after every stage he is required to find out if a rider needs to be tested. He also arranges visits to hospital when x-rays are necessary, carries out body fat measurements and weight checks, but also urine tests to find out if the rider has drunk enough fluid. In addition he drives along the route of every stage in advance so he can locate the dangerous areas on the course and know where the nearest hospitals are in the case of an emergency.

The control centre of the team, or the sports management as it’s known is led by Herman Frison, Marc Sergeant, Roberto Damiani and Marc Wouters. Marc Wouters always drives with the doctor ahead of the race and can thus relay us key information about what is happening on the stage for example, what a climb is like, the approach to the climb, the descents, are there any areas where there’s a hefty cross-wind and above all how dangerous the run-in to the finish line is. The two main people in the team Herman Frison and Marc Sergeant follow directly behind us riders, give us tactical instructions and make the key decisions about what we should do on the stage. Before every stage we always have a general team talk in the bus where we already find out what our aims are for the particular stage. Herman Frison and Marc Sergeant concentrate exclusively on the general classification and therefore have an overview of the critical situations and moves on the stages. Roberto Damiani drives in the second convoy of cars and looks after the dropped riders from our team or rides along behind the leading group in the event that we have a rider in there. We use English over the communication system so we all know exactly what’s going at any particular time.

As you have now read in the two reports, there’s a hell of a lot involved in the running of a team. And believe you me, if I went into every single detail I’d have a great deal more to tell you: telecommunications licenses, what you need for the breakfast pack, allocation of hotel rooms, the transport of all our equipment etc., but unfortunately I’m a bit exhausted after the 2000 kms we’ve already completed in this year’s Tour.

See you tomorrow,
Seb

We’re a team and that doesn’t just mean the riders…

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Our team is always made up of many different people who all fulfil an important task and today I’d like to introduce you to the team working alongside us riders.

We’ll start with our bus driver Roger Van De Maele, who drives us to the start of the stages and then later on to the next hotel. However, that’s not all he does. He is responsible for looking after all the team vehicles and washes them regularly. He also has to make sure that all the teams’ communication devices are fully charged and operating correctly both before and after stages. After the stage is over he makes sure that everything is prepared for when we take a shower and that refreshments are available. He also washes our towels and cleans up after us.

We are in capable hands with our four physiotherapists Joachim Lapaege, Marc Van Gijsegehm, Hans Van Hout and Kurt Wouters. They give us our well earned massages after the stages and now and again they see to our other little aches and pains. However, that’s only a small part of the daily work that they are required to complete. They also take turns in making sure that all our baggage is brought to the next hotel every day and is available to us in our rooms. They prepare the drinking bottles for every stage, as well as our food, wash our and their own clothes daily, look after our team cars and always keep an eye open that everything we need is in them. A day can often start as early as 7:00 in the morning and finish as late as 22:00 in the evening. Before the start of an event they collect the riders from the airport and then also take us back to an airport when it is over. They also do all this before they themselves can head for home. For the Tour de France we’ve also got Steven Vrancken on board, an osteopath who is constantly rectifying our positions and always checks us over once again after a crash to make sure everything is alright. This is something which really is important.

As our racing bikes really get some stick and have to cope with a hell of a lot, they are maintained every day by three mechanics who share all the work between them. Our three turbo-tinkerers Nick Mondelaers, Dirk Tyteca and Steven Van Olmen are reliable and sometimes have to burn the midnight oil to get the bikes ready for the next stage. Every day there are at least two mechanics on the stage, with one sitting in each of the two team cars. They help us during the races when we have a mechanical problem or if after a crash your bike is no longer fit for the road. We have two cars because one is always behind either the main field or the leaders and the other one either supplies the dropped riders or supports a breakaway group if we happen to have a rider in there. During the three weeks of the Tour de France the handle bar tape will be renewed three times, the chain once, the tyres are checked regularly for damage and changed if it’s really necessary. Every day after the stage the bikes are cleaned and given a quick inspection. If there’s a little crack in the paintwork, it may be that the entire frame is replaced. It’s therefore hardly surprising that the boys normally have their hands full.

As you’ve all seen and read that’s a hell of a lot of people who are involved in the team and we haven’t even mentioned the complete management team, the PR people, the catering team and the team doctor yet. I’ll write something about them tomorrow…

See you then,
Seb

Sebastian Lang: When you no longer know what you’re doing…

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Yet another stage in the Alps, again a battle against one’s weaker self and a fight to achieve the aims of the team. Depending on how such a stage begins also decides how you’re going to get through the day. The first climb of the day was the “Col de la Colombiére” after 16.5 kms and was the first tough nut we had to crack. When the good riders in the peloton then started attacking it was all hands to the pumps and during moments like these it’s just a question of hanging in there. After all, the stage is 204.5 kms and if you already have problems really early on, then that could spell the end of your Tour de France.

Tour-de-France-Etappe-9-Seb

Now it’s a simple fact that riders like me just aren’t among the top climbers in the Tour de France. That means I have to ride beyond my limits so that I don’t need to be worried about not finishing the event. While the top riders in the Tour de France still have plenty of reserves on a climb, your heart is already in your mouth and the sweat is running down your face. This means that you simply can’t think straight and you do things that you normally just wouldn’t do. Then you charge down the descent with all the other riders and God only knows how you got down to the bottom in one piece. Your glasses are so covered in sweat that you ask yourself at the end of the stage just how you were able to look through them. Sometimes I really do believe that your body blocks out your brain functions to give you just that little bit extra power. It’s really crazy when you try to remember certain parts of the stage and find that you just can’t.

Tour-de-France-Etappe-9VDB5

This is what distinguishes a pro sportsman from an average athlete. Because who voluntarily pushes himself over and above the most extreme limits?

See you tomorrow,
Seb

When the tarmac melts…

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

Today’s stage represents the completion of a third of the “Big Loop” and I can tell all of you out there that it was the first start to a Tour de France stage that was really typical of the event we know so well. In contrast to the attacks on previous stages, today it was considerably more competitive and tougher until the breakaway group came together. We had Mario Aerts up there in the breakaway and therefore just concentrated on Jurgen Van Den Broeck in the main field.

The intense heat over the previous few days had caused the tarmac to become so soft that it made the road surface heat up like a ceramic hob. These enormously high temperatures also tend to cause unexpected crashes, just as it hit both Cadel Evans and Lance Armstrong today. As a rider you have to treat your brakes with a great deal of respect because immense heat and overheating carbon rims can cause the brakes to behave totally differently than in normal conditions. Cornering is also made that much more difficult when the condition of the tarmac is constantly changing.

Carbon is now widely used in frames, rims, stems and seat posts. Even the manufacturers of cycling shoes mainly use carbon in the production of the soles. This firstly makes the shoe super stiff and secondly provides for a better transmission of power to the bike. However, there’s also one disadvantage: aching feet. When the temperatures are so high, the feet can quickly start aching. So don’t be surprised if you all experience that at some point because it’s exactly the same for us.

See you tomorrow
Seb

3320 metres climbed in the Jura Mountains on the first mountain stage…

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Stage 8 was also the first in the mountains. As is usual for Seb Lang, he unfortunately can’t report on what happened at the end of the stage. After all, I had my own problems in the last 30 kilometres and was well behind all the action that was taking place on the stage. Despite the long race yesterday my legs weren’t so bad and I coped fine with the first four of the six climbs in total on the stage. Our tactic for today was to get a rider into the leading group. Matthew Lloyd and Daniel Moreno were the riders we thought would be the most able to step up to the plate. However, neither of them managed to get into the breakaway group. This caused us to miss out on valuable points in the battle for the polka dot jersey but we are still extremely focused on our main aim and Jurgen Van Den Broeck is still right up there in the general classification.

It wasn’t just the route of today’s stage that gave one or two riders a hard time today but also the high temperatures. It’s on days like these that the rider needs a great deal of fluid and drinks nearly 14 bottles during a 5-hour race.

RADSPORT / TOUR DE FRANCE / 7. ETAPPE / 10.07.2010 / ROTH

When you want to collect drinking bottles, that’s sometimes not all that easy. This is because riders from other teams also want to get to their team cars at the same time to take on water. I then simply have to be patient until my team’s Sports Director wins the war of words in the queue of cars and can take up a position behind the first neutral service vehicle. We already had guests in the team car who felt so sick during a mountain stage that they had to stop to take a break. I can tell you that the vehicles have to take a lot of stick and the Sports Director has to be a really good driver.

As you can see, it’s not only a stormy affair in the peloton itself but also the guys in our team car are pushed to their limits.

See you tomorrow, Seb