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Inside Liege With Cummings And Lewis
Part II of the PEZ Ardennes Interview recap… As well as gilt edged Liege roadside coverage, PEZ took the time to get the view from inside the peloton. Barloworld’s former team pursuit world champion and last year’s Coppa Bernocchi winner, Steve Cummings (GB) and Columbia youngster, Craig Lewis (USA) both gave us a look inside the bunch at world’s oldest classic.

PEZ: How did it go for you?
Steve: I was DNF; I climbed off at the second feed; I made a big effort to get with the early break, but I missed it.

Craig: I finished 84th in a big group at 11 minutes.

PEZ: Who was team leader, today?
Steve: John-Lee Augustyn (RSA) and Chris Froome (GB) were our guys for today. John-Lee was 23rd in the Fleche but he blew today at 15 K to go; he’s young but very talented.

Columbia had hopes for Monfort, Lovkvist, and Albasini (here winning in the Basque Country).

Craig: We didn’t have any big favourites but Tommy (Eroica winner, Thomas Lovkvist of Sweden) and Michael Albasini (Switzerland) plus Maxine Montfort (Belgium) all have good form.

PEZ: What was the game plan, today?
Steve: I was to try and get in the early break and grab us some publicity; that sounds easy but what the public don’t see, because it’s never televised, is that there are about 100 guys with the same idea. For the small teams, it’s all they can expect in a race like this; it’s a real battle to get into it.

Steve Cummings did his job and stepped out when he was done.

Craig: Our goal was to protect Tommy, Michael and Maxine until La Redoute – keep them out of the cross winds, make sure they were well positioned on the climbs. It was a funny race because an early break wasn’t allowed to go; my job was to cover any big early break, but since only four went clear I was free to ride with Tommy and Michael to take care of them.

PEZ: Is this your first Doyenne?
Steve: Last year I rode it just one day after Trentino but I actually felt worse, this year. My attitude is that if I don’t have it myself, then I’ll look after our best guys for as long as I can; there’s no point in struggling round in 80-odd place. It’s better to do what you can for your best guys; keep them out of the wind, move them up – if they have good legs then those little bits of saved energy can make the difference at the end. It’s the Disco mentality – look after the leader, keep him in the right position, save his legs.

It took a long while for the day’s break to get away, but when they did, they were given a long leash.

Craig: This is my first time of riding these races – Amstel, Fleche and today. It’s been good learning, there are points in the races where your positioning has to be right, if you’re in the wrong place then you’ll never come back; you have to learn these things.

PEZ: With the distance and severity of the parcours, do you eat more?
Steve: I just eat my normal breakfast, maybe a little more; I like the new stuff, gels and energy bars but some of the other riders like the old school stuff – paninis and custard tarts.

Craig: No, I’m finding these races over 200 K suit me, it’s the first year that I’ve raced these distances but the extra distance is giving me no problem. I’m going to come out of theses three races much stronger than I went in – it’s good for the future.

PEZ: Did the break going to 11 minutes take the pressure off your team?
Steve: I didn’t see anyone chasing it, we certainly didn’t; with breaks like that it’s not so much a case of a chase, it’s just the race gathering momentum as it progresses that brings them back. It was down to Saxo and Caisse to chase, anyway – they were the big favourites.

Saxo didn’t do much in the way of chasing, but they did do a lot in the way of shredding.

Craig: It was ideal for us, yeah, it let us relax a little once it was gone – like I said, it was a strange situation because it took the break a long time to form.

PEZ: How was La Redoute?
Steve: I didn’t get that far; I think that some people don’t understand that you have to do a job in pro cycling; there’s no point in adding fatigue to fatigue, once you’ve done your job for the team, that’s it. I’m going to take a day or two off after this, you have to gauge it right so that you recover but not so much that your body shuts down.

Lewis got the pleasure of riding La Redoute. He doesn’t look too perturbed at this point on the monster.

Craig: It was great, with the crowds; I did it before in the Tour of Belgium but not with that number of fans. Unfortunately, that was where I slipped out the back!

PEZ: Was management happy?
Steve: It’s hard to say, we haven’t talked about the race yet, Chris Froome was 45th – he’s at tough guy, like all those African and Aussie riders; they give up everything, leave it all behind and come over here.

Craig: Maxine was best in 35th place but the team has ridden well all season – we’ve had 18 wins; there’s always a lot of expectation on a team like ours, but this was a very hard race today.

PEZ: Who impressed?
Steve: It’s difficult to say, I wasn’t there at the end, but I did notice that Basso looks very good.

Cummings says Basso looked good. He certainly looked good at the Giro del Trentino. Two weeks till the Giro starts!

Craig: I wasn’t in the finale, but I did hear that Schleck was by far the strongest. Saxo were using up a rider on each climb, shredding the group; they were giving it everything on a particular climb then peeling off, wasted – very impressive.

PEZ: What’s next?
Steve: I’m not sure if I’m going to the Giro, I haven’t been told yet – but next weekend I have the GP Industria & Artigianato and Giro di Toscana.

Craig: The Tour of Romandie on Tuesday – so, I’ve got a day to recover from this!

With thanks to Steve and Craig for taking time to talk to us after what riders were saying was a very tough race.


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