Archive for the ‘Seppel’s Tour Blog’ Category

My lucky charm

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Faith moves mountains and in our case hopefully faith will propel us over the mountains on tomorrow’s stage. Before the start of every stage I kiss my wedding ring and believe firmly in my two loved ones back home. That gives me confidence and self-belief. It’s also supposed to give me protection and the strength to overcome these difficult obstacles. Some call this faith; some call it having a lucky charm.
You’ll find that virtually every rider in the peloton has one of these larger or smaller lucky charms. Some have it on their helmets; many have their luck y charms on a necklace or have a tiny cuddly toy, bracelets and all the rest of it. I always wear a necklace with my engagement ring hanging from it as my lucky charm. In addition, there is also a medal on the necklace with the images of my wife and son engraved on it. Emilio also gave me a cuddly toy after all my stuff was stolen during my last winter training camp. The lucky charms that I had had with me for years were gone in a flash. Hopefully my lucky charms won’t just protect me on the dangerous descents, but together with my loved ones at home, guide me over the mountains ahead and give me the necessary stamina and strength. After all, today it’s the Queen’s stage and after that the short but extremely difficult ride to Alpe D’Huez.
So long,
Seb

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

Rest day number two and a haircut to boot …

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Ahead of the final and second rest day of the 98th installment of the Tour de France we first had to overcome stage 15. Thanks to the strong winds we didn’t get the rain that had been forecast; however the wind made it a very nervous stage. After just a few kilometres five riders made off from the main field and it therefore became very quickly clear to all the riders that there would be a sprint finish at the end of the stage. The stage was finally won by Mark Cavendish, who scooped his 4th stage in this year’s Tour and continued to extend his lead in the green jersey competition.

The tail wind was blowing so strongly from the left that the entire main field was very nervous all day long. The sprinter teams wanted to have their men at the front and the riders challenging for the overall classification wanted the same. In fact, basically everyone wanted to be at the front and the traditional fear of going flying in the cross wind did the rest. It was a very unpleasant stage with so many rides through small villages and a constant changing of direction on the route both before and after. If you are further back in the main field, when you come out of the village you can be as far as 500 metres off the front of the peloton. All you can then see is a long chain of riders. You know exactly when it’s time to get out of the saddle and sprint. This concertina like ride really softens you up in the long-run.

After the stage we had a four hour bus ride to the next hotel. We all did without the massage and at quarter to ten we had dinner. We all then fell into bed exhausted and I slept like baby.

We then eased our way gently into the final rest day. You stay in bed a little longer, don’t pack your things and don’t need to go to the start. It’s all just that little bit easier. We then went for a one hour potter on the bikes and after the ride treated ourselves to a nice cool drink.

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I rode the first few kilometres on the photographer’s motorbike, who I’ve known for a long time now and whose bike I also rode on the Champs-Élysées last year. The boys didn’t look in too bad shape and Jelle Vanendert was riding nicely tucked in in my slipstream.

We used the rest of the day to be checked over by the osteopath, have a massage and get a haircut. It was all pure luxury, but tomorrow it’ll all be a distant memory when we reach the Alps and have a very tough last Tour week ahead of us.

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Sporting greetings from Seb

Stage preparation

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Third stage victory for the team in this year’s Tour de France. Jelle Vanendert wins the toughest Pyrenees stage in 2011 alone. Therefore as well as André Greipel’s birthday we’ve got one more big reason to celebrate this evening.

 

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In this article I’d like to give you a deeper insight into what you might not always notice when watching the event on television.

The Tour de France is the most important event of the year for a cycling pro. Alongside winning the world championship road race a stage victory at the Tour de France is something of major prestige for any pro rider, to say nothing of the overall victory. That is for sure the pinnacle of any rider’s career.

The high profile of the Tour de France has above all changed the way teams prepare for this race over the last few years. The race favourites all check out the stages well in advance and also ride the key stages themselves in order to get an impression of what the climbs and descents are like, as well as the approaches to the mountains. Jurgen Van Den Broeck also did this together with Herman Frison. Our Sporting Director also prepared a hand-written sheet as a supplement to the road book, where the precise details of the individual mountain stages are listed. Philippe Gilbert and other riders then study exactly how particular climbs are in detail.

Together with all this preparation on the evening before the stage and again before the start of the stage we take a look inside our road book. This book includes all the stages and shows us the route profile on a map, altitude profile, approaches to the finish and danger spots in the last 5 kilometres and a route plan with times and average speeds. In addition, the road book contains information about the length of the neutralised section of the stage, the length of the individual mountain sections, the average gradient of the climbs and where the feed stations are located on route.

As you all can see, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into each stage and we pay a great deal of attention to all these variables and there are one or two who have even experienced it all on the bike.

Seb Lang

French Bastille Day …

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

On 14th July the French celebrate Bastille Day and this means a great deal to them. There were thousands of people at the start, who wanted to cheer on Thomas Voeckler and celebrate his lead in the race. He is currently wearing the yellow jersey and has succeeded in defending it on this very first tough day of the Tour in the Pyrenees. I couldn’t really believe that after just 4 kilometers the 6-man leading group was already formed because for all French riders Bastille Day is something really important. In my very first Tour de France it took well over an hour until a breakaway group was able to escape from the main field.

Generally, on nearly all stages there wasn’t much resistance when a breakaway group formed. For two days now it had taken longer until somebody had got away from the peloton. In my eyes, this is above all because the riders have been saving there reserves of strength much better. Nobody just makes crazy attacks any more, but considers carefully when he should put the hammer down. This also changes the tactical decisions that are made and also the course of an entire race. When talking to Jens Voigt he told me he was sure that Thomas Voeckler wouldn’t defend his leader’s jersey, to which I replied that I was sure he would.

The entire range of ability in the field of riders is much closer together than it used to be. This is even the case among the top riders in the peloton. There just isn’t anyone who can totally dominate everybody else any more.

Today, our Omega Pharma-Lotto rider Jelle Vanendert produced an excellent performance in today’s race. Finishing second on such a tough mountain stage is worthy of great respect.

Despite the exertions of the “Col du Tourmalet” I personally enjoyed the stage. I’ll never climb this mountain in the saddle again and with so many spectators watching. During the stage I thought of a film which I can strongly recommend to you all. “Phantom Pain” is a film about cycling and the myth of the mountain.

Sporting greetings from Seb

That was more than enough rain thank you very much…

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Of all my appearances in the big loop, this is the one I have suffered most in. You can all call me a fair weather rider if you like but I’m just about fed up to the back teeth with all this rain. Alongside all those hair-raising stages in the first week of the Tour, sunshine has been in short supply in this year’s race. Nearly every day we’ve been hoping for an improvement in the weather conditions. Some of the riders are slowly running out of clothing. Racing shorts, jerseys and socks don’t look so great after two days riding in the rain. It’s above all the socks and shorts that can no longer be worn after such long rides in the wet.

André has really got going now and was able to scoop yesterday’s stage victory. He has therefore proven to all his critics that he isn’t just capable of winning stages in minor events. After finishing second on today’s stage he almost grabbed his second stage win of the Tour. One can therefore safely say that Mark Cavendish and André Greipel are the two fastest riders in this year’s Tour de France.

As far as speed is concerned, from tomorrow we’ll be seeing quite different numbers on all our bike computers because tomorrow we arrive in the Pyrenees and then it’ll be really competitive. One thing is for sure – it won’t be a showdown between Cavendish and Greipel and the men who really want to challenge for the yellow jersey will have to lay their cards on the table for the very first time.

As every day on this year’s Tour I’ll be hoping for sunshine tomorrow and that the rain holds off completely.

Soaking and sporting greetings from Seb.

A dress rehearsal before the grand opening…

Friday, July 1st, 2011

It’ll be my seventh Tour de France this year. That’s something I am really proud of. This event is the highlight of any season in pro cycling. Therefore the demands we place on ourselves and those from outside are all the more intense. From the point of view of the media the Tour is still one of the biggest 3 sporting events there is and it attracts millions of TV viewers, but also spectators on the route. It’s a mega show we are taking part in that has a different script every year

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In this event neither the team managers nor the sporting directors or riders leave anything to chance. Everything is thought out and planned well in advance and we also have the best equipment available to us. Every year technical innovations appear which are designed to be just 0,005 kilometres per hour faster than the competition.

The stage routes are also looked at closely during the preparation phase. Jurgen Van den Broeck, for example, rode the mountain stages in the Pyrenees and the Alps for training in order to get a better impression of what to expect. Meticulous preparation for every eventuality is an important key to success. How well do you know the route? How well do you know your rivals? How do you make the best possible use of your own team? This is the reason why we and so many other teams spent three entire days checking out the routes of Saturday’s and Sunday’s stage.

Today, Friday 1st July was a kind of dress rehearsal for the first stage. As a team we rode the final few kilometres of the opening stage and discussed at length tactics and what would be the best line to take in a sprint finish. Every rider now knows the challenges and dangers we’ll be faced with tomorrow. It’s a finish that will be well suited to our Belgian champion Philippe Gilbert. However, it’s necessary to point out right from the outset that the competition on the ‘big loop’ is extremely tough and as we all know, despite the great preparation when the real thing actually starts things can always go wrong. We are therefore awaiting the start with both great excitement and inner uneasiness.

Whilst our top sprinter André Greipel will be ridng his first Tour de France, Jens Vogt is heading for his 14th start in the event. Despite the great difference between the two riders, both will be just as excited and nervous about the start. Exactly the same applies to the other 196 riders starting this year’s Tour de France – myself included……

Vive le Tour
Seb

Instead of ice-cream and Jacuzzi – riding through France on my bicycle…

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Rough tarmac, dangerous rides through villages, long and steep climbs, heat and rain, wind and 198 bike pros with just one vision. The riders taking part in this year’s event will be motivated up to their teeth when on Saturday 2.7.2011, the first 191 km stage gets underway. It will be quite a different Tour this year; a far more edgy and unpredictable affair and also very exciting.

I was somewhat pensive and sad when I left my home behind. It was wonderful in my adopted second home Erfurt over the last few days. Deep down inside, however, I will always remain a true son of Sonneberg. I just had to say that because these mixed feelings have a variety of causes. On the one hand there is the enforced and renewed lengthy separation from my nearest and dearest, and on the other hand the uncertainty of how I’m going to cope with the coming few weeks, because in contrast to last year, where I didn’t ride any events after the Giro d’Italia and started the Tour de France 2010 as fresh as a daisy, this year I’ll have 8 days of racing in my legs by the time the big loop in France gets underway.

There are also the worries about how the future of the team is going to pan out and indeed my own future! I came to the Tour with a thousand questions and won’t be able to answer all of them. As far as the future is concerned, I am more relaxed than nervous. I and my teammates are now waiting excitedly for Saturday and that we are once again in the thick of the action. Even at today’s training session it was noticeable that everyone was a little jumpy. This is because everyone places great expectations upon himself and doesn’t know if he can live up to them. Before the race one is in a physical state that resembles discomfort. It’s therefore better if these days are few and far between. It is not a time of total relaxation, but rather a phase in which one focuses on one’s aims and ambitions.

Our team is very strong and all nine of us will be doing our very best to make a real impact on the Tour de France. Because you never know, it could be the last Tour de France for us. I am looking forward to writing reports and articles again during this year’s event and if there is the possibility, then you’ll all get something really brilliant on Canyon’s Facebook page.

All the best,
Seb