PezCycling News - What's Cool In Road Cycling : The PEZ Interview: CHRISTIAN VANDE VELDE

Christian VandeVelde is a busy man. He’s got a house full of relatives at his place in Boulder, Colorado, on the day before Thanksgiving, his wife is at the grocery store loading up to feed the visitors, and he heads to Denmark on December 2nd for his new team CSC’s “adventure” styled camp, where he’ll no doubt have the opportunity to work off any added Thanksgiving pounds; and he and wife Leah have just finished building their house in Girona, Spain.

Somehow, someway, the likable Vande Velde has found time to speak with me on this busy day to talk about what’s up in the Midwesterner’s life, this year, last year, and giant treadmills; all the while jamming a huge bowl of “everything” oatmeal into his face. “Sorry, I’m eating this great oatmeal”, he politely explains.

Christian and I are homeslices, as in we grew up in the same part of the country - Chicagoland, so after talking over some local pleasantries: sports, weather, beer, restaurants, it’s on to the “formal” interview.

PEZ: Looking back at 2004, how do you rate the season in terms of your career - good, bad, ugly and why?

CVV: Generic. I got such a late start with the team assignment and then all the Visa problems, it was hard for a while. In January I was so excited about things going on, making some forward progress, just from my injuries in 2003, taking a physical, then I get a call a week before Paris-Nice, and from there on I spent 80% of my time working on this visa problem, we set a new world record in cutting through all that paperwork. We pulled in all my relatives, my father in law, a congressman, an FBI agent; anyone we knew who could help. It worked out in the end, but just barely… after camping out at the consulates office I got it done in the end of May.

PEZ: It has to be a good feeling of change, to move to a team with English speakers?

CVV: I’m very happy and elated to move. Liberty Seguros was a great experience, to see the customs, the people, the food, it was a great experience, but it was hard. None of the team spoke much English, so I was struggling to get my point across, only to have it misinterpreted because my Spanish was so bad. It (Spanish speaking) got a little bit better, but then I’d go back to Girona, it’s like going back to Boulder – everyone there speaks English, so I’d fall off the Spanish wagon. But at the Liberty dinner table, things just went right over my head. And so far, with CSC, I’ve had a few talks with Bjarne, and the mechanics, and even Basso, everyone speaks some English.

Christian tests out the latest in very very expensive indoor trainers at the Universtity of Colorado.

PEZ: Isn’t it good not to have Manolo Saiz barking in your ear in every TT?

CVV: I didn’t have it so bad, because I never did an ITT, but I would have loved to have done it once, but 60k with him yelling “Venga!” in your ear would be tough! But he’s passionate; he delivers his encouragement with purpose.

PEZ: CSC is an incredibly tough tough team, very strong. 2nd in the ‘04 Tour, a super deep roster that’s obviously only going to be stronger in 2005, CSC staples like Piil, and Voight, what are your 2005 goals?

CVV: I really haven’t formed them, it’s really hard to say right now, I want to wait until our camp to get a feel for the team, and get a little better idea of my schedule. As of right now, a loose schedule consisting of some classics and the Giro, which I am really looking forward to, I’ve always watched it from afar and been a little envious of the guys there. I love the racing in Italy, the customs, the food, (laughs). But yeah, I’m definitely putting the Giro at the front of my ambitions for next year.

PEZ: Tour of Georgia?

CVV: Maybe not if I am doing the Giro, but Philadelphia and the Tour of Texas look very possible.

PEZ: What do you think of stage racing and its potential to survive in the U.S.?

CVV: It all depends on the TV coverage, that’s what puts the money in the promoters pockets, you see all these tours come and go, Coors, Dupont, we’ll always have the Philadelphia races, but if we can really get TV, OLN, hooked in there and market the hell out of it, then hopefully, despite the “Lance Factor” it might just get going. Otherwise, it’s hard to sell. I mean, we have hundreds of places to go that are equal to, if not better than France. The Rockies, the Appalachians, lots.

PEZ: Are you ever coming back to do Superweek again? (ed: Superweek is a misnomer –it’s two weeks of tough racing around the greater Milwaukee area)

CVV: (laughs) I grew up when it was unbelievable! In the 80’s 90’s, when it was all the Tour riders who didn’t get a ride in the tour, but now it seems kind of rough, not sure if I d come back for that.

PEZ: How’s married life treating you?
CVV: Married life is great; Leah supports me big time with our crazy lifestyle. Living 7000 miles from home can be, and is, hard. She is always there for me. Our house in Girona is almost done, so that’s good. We had a great apartment but it’s nice to have your own home, paint the walls if you want, etc.

PEZ: Can you kick back in Girona? Or do you get the rock star treatment when you go outside?

CVV: We were talking about it the other day, the locals don’t bother you at all and I have this false sense of security, you know, they just think we’re locals, then you look at us from afar, and, oh man, we stick out like sore thumbs.

PEZ: Ever going to get back into any track racing?

CVV: Yeah, for sure, with a new indoor velodrome in L.A. one can train year round. I would love to train there, maybe give the hour record a shove, a couple of madisons, 6-days.

PEZ: That’s where you came from, right?

CVV: Yup, I was project 96, with the national team.

PEZ: Why the change?
CVV: Just bigger, better, we did race a bit on the road with the track program, so I got some good exposure with the track team. And some good success in Austria, then got some interest from Postal and a few others, and I definitely wanted to bridge out on to the road. You can go a lot farther on the road than the track. I still love the track from a racing standpoint and a spectator standpoint.

PEZ: Ok, CSC, your “adventure camp” coming up. What are you going to bring?

CVV: I’m bringing my Leatherman (a multi-knife, basically) and my battery operated socks to keep my feet warm…

PEZ: Weapons?
CVV: (laughs) I don’t think so. Zabriskie said he’s bringing his Swiss Army knife…I don’t even want to know!

PEZ: You were spotted training recently on this gigantic treadmill – what’s the deal with that?

CVV: It’s huge! It’s amazing, you can ride your favorite route with a GPS and plug it in to the computer, and this treadmill will undulate just as the route you just did will. If you have the big bucks for a training thing, then I recommend this…I plugged in Skyline Blvd from SF, it’s a horrible climb… I started without warming up and there I am at 12% out of the gate, I’m out of the saddle sprinting to stay on the thing, (laughing) I didn’t want to be doing this in October, so I tried to stop and kind of fell off the back of the thing!

Christian VandeVelde comes from a cycling family as well. His father is a former Olympian, and a movie star, of sorts, playing one of the dastardly Italian Cinzano team members from the cycling cult hit film, Breaking Away. “And people don’t realize those four Italians on screen are 3 Belgians and a Puerto Rican, which is kind of funny. But, it was kind of cool growing up to have my dad in that film, it beats American Flyers with a stick.”

Here Comes the Speed Round:
P: Favorite Star Wars character?
C: Boba Fett

P: Cubs or Sox?
C: Sox! (figures, CVV is a southsider!)

P: Who would you beat up first, Barney or the Teletubbies?
C: Barney, I hate Barney.

P: Favorite Simpsons character?
C: I’ve been watching it in Spanish, so it’s been kind of hard, but, Otto the bus driver and honorable mention to Krusty the Clown.

P: Favorite metal band?
C: Guns ‘N’ Roses, no, wait, I’ll say Minor Threat. They wail.

P: Marinara or Alfredo?
C: Marinara

P: The Who or The Stones?
C: The Who.

P: Favorite beer?
C: Kasteel, it’s a Belgian brew, 11% alcohol and pretty good!
In the States I’ll go local and say Fat Tire, and I have to go with the hometown brew, Old Style!

P:No Pabst?
C: No, I love PBR, but I have to go with Old Style. There’s a bar here in Colorado that sells Old Style in cans, it freaked me out.

Thanks for the time Christian, and from all of us at PEZ, have the happiest of holidays, and all the luck for the 2005 season!


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