Archive for the ‘Sebastian Lang Tour Blog’ Category

Sebastian had a real tough time today

Friday, July 9th, 2010

I didn’t in fact want to be in a breakaway on stage 7. I just jumped along with a few others and realised that we were away. There are days and races where you have to fight like hell to get yourself into a breakaway and others like today, where you just find yourself in one.

Above all, today’s stage was the longest of this year’s Tour and it was a constant up and down. Altogether I rode 216 kms ahead of the field. At the beginning with two riders for company and on the last climb two Frenchmen attacked out of the field and caught up with us. However, that only lasted a few kilometres until we were swallowed up by the main field. I even realised after 5 kilometres out in front that the three of us couldn’t do enough to win the stage.

A good question now would be: “How can you motivate yourself when it’s obvious that such a small breakaway has no real chance of making it to the finish?”

Your brain keeps telling you that you haven’t got a hope. But because you love the sport so much, you’re pleased that millions of people are going to watch your attack. My wife, my son, parents and many others. These are the small things that motivate you at times like this. In addition, on this stage I was able to scoop two hot spot sprints and was second on another one. This all mounts up to a little bit of prize money for us all at the end and although you only get just a few euros for your trouble, there’s always a bit of cash to be earned.

Physically, I’m really beat and hope that I can now get a really good night’s sleep so I’m significantly fresher than I am now. Tomorrow we have the first stage in the mountains ahead of us.

See you tomorrow, Seb.

What happens before kilometre 0

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Today I won’t report about the stage, as it was a stage for the sprinters and there’s nothing that spectacular to tell. For a change I’ll give you an insight into what hapeens before kilometre 0.

There is not always much time between breakfast and our actual departure with the team bus. Therefore after breakfast we get really quickly onto our second home and it’s off to the start again. We call it our second home because we spend so much time in the team bus with its air conditioning system and this is time which only we spend there. There are exceptions when a camera team wants to film our team briefing before the race. These people then clearly feel that we don’t really like sharing our bus with them.

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Then we move on to our daily discussion about race tactics and the key areas of the stage ahead. Most of the time we leave the bus separately and go to sign-in, where the rider confirms his participation in the stage. It’s then just a few minutes until we set off starting with a neutralised zone. In this year’s Tour de France we’ll be riding 86.1 km that are neutralised. This means that the official race distance of 3642km is not quite accurate.

Neutralised sections of races are certainly not the most exciting but they are there for special reasons. Firstly, most of the time we ride a little loop around the town or city the race starts from so that the spectators can get a really good look at us. Secondly, it’s the last chance the rider gets to check everything. For example, our team directors talk to all of the riders individually over the team’s own communications system and ask me if I can hear them, which I then confirm. It often happens, however, that the neutralised section is used for many other things. For one thing, it may be that one has forgotten his water bottle or to put food in one’s back pockets. But after riding a few metres it can be that one spots a technical fault on the bike which is then put right in time for the start of the race proper. If a rider has a defect or crash in the neutralised section and he doesn’t catch up the rest of the field before the end of the zone, the lead car does not allow the race proper to start until those riders finally have caught up.

Just for the record, whenever you have a 10 km neutralised zone on a stage that is over 210 km, that’s sometimes really demoralising. Nevertheless, this is all part of the competition.

See you tomorrow, Seb

Relaxation coupled with tension

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

After the last few days of excitement we entered this stage in a somewhat more relaxed mood. Most of the teams used this day to conserve their riders’ strength. After the first attack the group was allowed to ride away. Only two teams worked to prevent the gap becoming too big and have the stage decided in a mass sprint.

Although we spoke about the subject of “regeneration” in the daily team talk, during a race there is always tension. In race situations you can never completely switch off and just roll along in the main field. The danger of crashing if you don’t pay attention is very high indeed. There is also the danger when a team forces the pace that you don’t get into the echelon. It’s therefore important for me as a domestique to stay focused and do my job.

The weather is super and I like the hot and sunny conditions very much. The next two days will presumably be stages where the sprinters take centre stage as they are not as demanding as far as the race route is concerned. However, on Saturday we have a small mountain stage and a mountain top finish and the same again on Sunday. Therefore there won’t be much time to hide away and relax in the main field, especially not for a domestique.

See you tomorrow, Seb

General classification re-shuffle and a stage full of surprises

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

After the fourth day of the Tour de France Fabian Cancellara has once again claimed the yellow jersey. Every day really has had its surprises and thrown the general classification into disarray once again. After all the bad luck of yesterday today it already looks a lot better. Jurgen Van Den Broeck didn’t lose a lot of time today and crossed the finish line ahead of many of the favourites. As a team we produced a good performance and everyone in the team supported Jurgen as best he could. Above all it was Jurgen Roelands who after a bad day yesterday again found top form and supported VDB perfectly at the end of the stage.

Thanks to the tyres we didn’t have any punctures, but crashes caused set-backs for Daniel Moreno and Charles Wegelius. However, both riders didn’t suffer injuries that could have put them out of the race.

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One big surprise on the stage was that a rider like Andy Schleck was able to stay with his team mate Fabian Cancellara (an absolute specialist on the cobbles) in spite of the tough terrain and at the same time gain time on riders such as Ivan Basso, Lance Armstrong and even Alberto Condator. Andy Schleck’s brother unfortunately had to retire from the race due to a crash. For German rider Tony Martin, who was caught up in the crash with Frank Schleck, it was also a day of missed chances as he also lost time. But who knows, perhaps there’ll be a good few more surprises before the Tour is over.

Tomorrow it will hopefully be a typical stage for the sprinters. Let’s also keep our fingers crossed that the 9 roundabouts in the final 5 kilometres of the race don’t cause any nasty crashes. I also hope that I can watch a little bit of the game between Germany and Spain tomorrow.

See you tomorrow, Seb

A stage like I’d never experienced before and never actually wanted to…

Monday, July 5th, 2010

At the briefing on the bus we got clear instructions for today’s stage. That’s because we missed a great chance to get a rider into the breakaway yesterday. We are, after all, a Belgian team and the Tour is passing through our country. After a strong team effort we did manage to get two riders in today’s breakaway group, but

it all turned out a bit differently and we certainly didn’t feel that luck was on our side. After a technical defect with Jurgen Van Den Broeck we got him back into contention after 130 kms. Then I crashed when I hit a parked car with my handlebars when riding uphill. I again managed to fight my way back to the main field which was moving along at a very brisk pace and a few kilometres further on there was yet another big crash on a slippery descent. Mickael Delage sustained bad injuries and had to retire from the race, and Jurgen VDB also fell off. It felt like about 2 minutes until the replacement bike came. It was just total chaos. Around 40 riders went down and team “Saxo Bank” kept on going. We gave everything again to try and get Jurgen back into main field. Blimey was I beat after all that, the first 120km riding in the wind to keep him at the front and then the series setbacks. But that wasn’t it because on a steep descent about a quarter of the riders in the field found themselves on the floor and I went flying over the handlebars. I cut open my elbow and it was badly swollen and I had a grazed and bruised hip. And all this 32km from the finish with total chaos everywhere.

If you now want to ask me how I feel about all this then simply….

It’s great that tomorrow we also have the cobbled roads of Roubaix. For me that was enough excitement racing through Holland and Belgium. Hopefully everything isn’t too sore when I get up tomorrow morning.

The worst thing for me is that Fabian Cancellara decided that nobody gets points although Jurgen Roelands had a great chance of scooping the green jersey. I think it’s unfair to keep on going when none of your own riders are involved in a mass pile-up and then ask others to wait later on in the stage. All the teams have to deal with the difficult conditions and circumstances that can occur on any given stage.

See you tomorrow, Seb

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Stage from Holland to Belgium is mega…

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

After yesterday’s prologue in the rain we today set off in beautiful sunshine for the stage from Rotterdam to Brussels. The “Erasmus Bridge” in Rotterdam was the starting point for the stage as the city said thank you and goodbye to the Tour. After hearing the French and Dutch national anthems and a 10,6 km neutralised section the riders set off on the 224 km opening stage. We had a similar stage in this year’s Giro d’Italia. However, the two races were radically different. On the one hand it was the general riding tactics of all the teams and riders and on the other hand the average speed of the race. In spite of the strong cross winds during the first 80 km the 195 riders stayed together. However, there’s one thing that the two big stage races have in common; that’s the many crashes that happen on such fast and hectic stages.

Today it was my task to constantly stay with Jurgen Van Den Broeck and to keep him at the front of the race. Then it’s possible to avoid all these crashes and dangerous situations. However, after the race I was knackered and the massage and one hour’s relaxation really did infuse me with new spirit.

Masses of spectators – that really was unbelievable. There were so many people on-route and in Belgium even more. The third largest sporting event in the world evokes pure emotion. One couldn’t even hear the radio communications because the people were shouting really loudly as they cheered on the main field as it whizzed by. It was also pretty dangerous because despite the wide roads one repeatedly had to slam the brakes on. In certain places the road was so packed with spectators that it was only half as wide. It’s then like the eye of a needle and if you are sitting at the back you have to break down to speeds of around 20km/h and accelerate back up to 55km/h again.

Tomorrow we start again and then we’ll get our next surprise. There will be some climbs in the Ardennes we have to overcome and this should make for an exciting finale.

See you tomorrow, Seb

Germany one round further, Swiss wins the prologue…

Saturday, July 3rd, 2010

Unfortunately, I was just warming up when the Germany- Argentina game was going on. Therefore, after the 1-0 for Germany I had to fully concentrate on the race. As it had started to rain, I headed out onto the course even before warming up and did two laps to test the level of tyre grip in the light of the wet conditions.

My sixth Tour de France began at 17:10. The people out on the course were just unbelievable inspite of the bad weather and as I already said, I gave absolutely everything. However, I already knew beforehand that it wouldn’t be enough for a top finish. Nevertheless I’m pleased that the race has now got underway and I haven’t felt so good on the bike in a long time. For that I have to say a big thank you to Canyon, Michael Rich and many others. After all the health problems I had I can now only look forward and will again work my way up to the form I had in the past.

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Everything can’t always run perfectly in life, so when I followed the closing minutes on television I certainly felt a little bit different inside. That’s because the prologue is my special discipline and you then automatically want to achieve more.

Just a quick word about Fabian Cancellara – today he impressively answered in his own sort of way all the questions about his doped bike. In my opinion he is, and will remain, the strongest rider against the clock. I would also sometimes be pleased if I had a motor on my bike, especially on the tough mountain stages. :-)

From tomorrow the actual everyday racing gets underway. You get up, have breakfast, pack your bag and get on the bus to drive to the start. After that it’s just a question of getting yourself ready for the stage and away you go. After the stage you get on the bus and drive to the next hotel. Then it’s time for a massage and dinner. This is how it goes from one race day to the next. Sometimes the time passes so quickly that one doesn’t even get chance to phone the family. That’s one of those things about the Tour de France and what makes it different from other events. And that’s why one relaxes even more after the big loop is finally over.

See you tomorrow, Seb

Who’ll lose the Tour de France on 06.07.2010?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

On stage 4 of this Year’s Tour it certainly won’t be clear who is going to win the “big loop” but we’ll at least know who’s lost it. Before the training session on the route I hadn’t expected the closing stages to be like this however it’s now clear to me that the final 40 kms are no picnic. There’ll be 7 cobbled sections in total, the 4th being crucial for the outcome of the stage. From then on we’ll be riding in the opposite direction of the route that the classic race Paris-Roubaix follows.

Even in training one can see the difference between riders who have or have never ridden such cobbled sections. It’s sure to be a great spectacle but may mean for one or two riders that they are no longer able to achieve a high finishing position in the general classification. I’m thinking above all of riders who could otherwise challenge for a finishing position in the top 5 here.

We saw Team Sky and also the HTC Columbia team training on the course. We’ll be riding special 28 mm tyres from Continental. I have already used this very wide tyre once this season. The tyre provides better damping and gives the rider a greater feeling of safety in the corners on the cobbled sections as well as being less susceptible to punctures. It’s certainly a strange feeling that something as simple as a flat tyre could change so much for a top rider at the end of this stage.

It’s just two days now until the race finally kicks-off in Rotterdam. When the Tour de France starts for us the German national football team will be playing in the quarter-finals of the world cup against Argentina. As I’m not really a football fan and certainly have less knowledge of football than others, I nevertheless take my hat off to these athletes and am very proud of our national football team. I of course also hope that they are able to win the game.

See you tomorrow. All the best, Seb

Leaving home…

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

I packed my bag today and set off for my 6th Tour de France. Many will now be asking why I must arrive on Tuesday because the Tour doesn’t begin until Saturday. That’s because this year we want, as a team, to ride and check out the first key stage of the Tour which takes place on Wednesday. Then we’ll hopefully be well prepared for the 4th stage on 6.7.2010. The stage comprises 4 cobbled sections similar to those of the one-day classic Paris-Roubaix. We are also not the only ones who will be inspecting the route. As far as I know several other teams in the race will be doing the same thing.

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This morning it wasn’t easy for me to say goodbye to my son and wife-to-be. At such times it comforts me to think of all the wonderful moments we experience together as a family. It’s also an opportunity to reflect on what’s ahead. This gives one the support and strength to look forward.

First of all, I’d just like to say that I decided not to fly. That’s because I had two bikes and several wheels I needed to take with me. Therefore the best choice was to go in my own car. After a drive 670 km I arrived in Waragem, where our team base is. In the meantime I know this route like the back of my hand because I always used these motorways when I was on my way to the classic races in Belgium in the spring.

From tomorrow onwards, as a racing cyclist one counts every single minute until one finally rolls down the starting ramp and the Tour de France really gets underway.

I am also very nervous about how I’ll start the event. The long break between the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France was very important not only to regenerate, but also to be able to have a very good build-up with regard to training. However, one doesn’t have the comparison to other riders and one is therefore uncertain how good one’s own form really is. I also had a stomach upset and after that a bout of bronchitis. Such little set-backs do certainly make you feel that little bit more uncertain about your form.

On Saturday I’ll finally see how the next three weeks are going to pan out for me.

I wish all readers as exciting a Tour as I’m surely going to have. Have a great time and happy reading.

See you all tomorrow. All the best, Seb