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!