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Tour Talk: The One And Only Johnny Hoogerland
Up at the Saxo press conference it was all very 'correct' and professional - just as you would expect from a perfectionist like Bjarne Riis. The team's tactics are the same; calculated, efficient - albeit Contador has an opportunistic streak in him. Half-an-hour down the road from the Saxo press conference is the Vacansoleil 'do.' Vacansoleil is a team which punches above it's weight and whose riders could never be accused of over analysing; 'let's go!' is the Hoogerland and De Gendt philosophy.

Take the press conference, there's supposed to be a formal part from 1:00 pm until 2:00 pm - with 'moules, frites and pils' from 2:00 pm 'til 4:00 pm.

And at this point I would like to make it clear that the lure of free mussels, chips and beer had no influence whatsoever on our decision to attend this function - well, maybe a little.


But when we arrived around 1:30 there were steaming pots of mussels everywhere, plates of golden brown frites abounded and the beer was flowing.

I was wading through my kilo of mollusks, dipping my frites in the mayo and glugging my cold beer when Vacansoleil's ever helpful PR, Frank Kwanten appeared with - Johnny Hoogerland.

Give the hands a quick wipe and . . . .

PEZ: Is the race getting too dangerous, Johny?
Johny Hoogerland: The Tour is safe enough - it's the just the speed and the stress that's the problem.

PEZ: Did the crash take away some of the joy of wearing the mountains jersey?
JH: Maybe a little, but it's been a dream of mine to wear that jersey for one day; but I actually wore it for six or seven days.

I didn't have time to enjoy it on the day of the crash, though!

PEZ: What were your sensations the day after the crash?
JH: It was very painful but at the same time it was a very heart warming experience from the point of view of the terrific support I received from the public and from my team.

PEZ: Have you had an apology?
JH: Flecha and I received the exact same hand written letter.

PEZ: Will you be taking action against the car driver.
JH: I don't know yet; that's in the hands of my agent.

PEZ: What's the rest day format?
JH: I've done one hour on the bike; last night I was on a Dutch TV show from 11:00 pm until midnight so I'm hoping to be in my bed for 3:00 this afternoon.

PEZ: No discos?
JH: No, no - I don't do that stuff anymore.

On Queen's Day which is a big celebration in Holland, I said to my girlfriend at 10:30 pm; "that's it, I'll leave it to you, I'm going home to bed!"

Maybe I'm getting to be a boring guy?

PEZ: You've ridden all the Grand Tours, how do they compare?
JH: The Vuelta is not so stressful, the Giro is pretty stressful - but this . . .

The Tour is just at a different level - crazy.

PEZ: Give us one memory from the Pyrenees.
JH: The Aubisque, I nearly quit, it was so hard - I felt horrible.

At Luz Ardiden, I was not so bad, but on the Aubisque, Borut Bozic had to push me for three kilometres.

It was a delayed reaction to the crash; my body was trying to recover from the injuries, but also cope with the demands of riding a hard stage - it was too much.

Yesterday (stage 15), I felt better, but not as good as before the crash.

Before the crash I was thinking of a stage win; now I'm just thinking about getting to Paris.

But I feel better today and I'd like to get in the break tomorrow if I feel good.

The most pain is in my thigh.

PEZ: What do you like least about the Tour?
JH: Nothing! Some guys say the transfers are long; but in the Giro they were crazy, especially from Sicily and on the second last day.

PEZ: What would you change about the Tour?
JH: I'd make the flat stages flat, at least for the last 10 K - no climbs, so the GC guys aren't getting involved.

PEZ: Will you get a chance to recover, after the Tour?
JH: I have a criterium at Boxmeer on Monday; then another on Wednesday - I think I'm riding ten, my agent organises all that.

PEZ: You're at a high level now, but it took you a while to get there - why?
JH: I don't know, it doesn't help that there are only two pro teams in Holland, now.

I've been serious about my approach to the sport for five or six years now.

PEZ: And is it true that the mussels come from your home town of Yerseke?
JH: My uncle owns the company - their offices are 50 metres from my house!


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