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Tour de Pez: This Year’s Cinderella Story Team
The rest day and there are press conferences aplenty to attend. Trouble is, you’re not ‘one on one,’ it’s easy to get ignored and the same quotes will go down in every one else’s notebook. Always trying to be that little bit different, Pez headed up to Sion in Switzerland to attend the less formal get together that Skil-Shimano had organised. Minnows in a shark pool; they might not have won a stage, but they’ve won plenty of hearts – and media interest.

First up, we spoke to DS, Rudi Kemna.

PEZ: Your rider Piet Rooijakkers broke his arm in a crash, early in the Tour, how is he, Rudi?
Rudi: He’s better, now. He’s a guy who talks a lot and I was worried because when I was talking to him, he was very subdued and down. But they had him on morphine for the pain and he was really worried that his career might end; he broke his leg a few years ago and knows how difficult it is to come back. I spoke to him the other day, though and he’s much more like himself, asking when he can start racing again.

PEZ: You were Dutch elite champion.
Rudi: Yes, in 2003 and on two other occasions, I was second in that race; the year I won, I was only at the front for the last ten centimetres! I used my head a lot in races, I would be coaching the team; “do this, do that!” that’s why it wasn’t so difficult to go into management for me. I’m always busy now but I miss being active – I spend so much time sitting in the car.

Rudy was a solid bike racer himself – Dutch Champion is no small feat.

PEZ: Did you ride any Grand Tours?
Rudi: No, I wasn’t at that level.

PEZ: is the Tour what you expected?
Rudi: I was a bit scared; people said that you work from 06:00 am ’til midnight and it’s very hard work and very strict. But they have the race manual, so if you do it their way and you have a good team of people around you, it’s not so bad.

PEZ: Skil-Shimano’s goals for the Tour?
Rudi: Last year at Paris-Nice, ASO said that maybe it would be possible to ride but we decided to wait because our riders were too young, we had maybe four or five riders who could ride, but that’s all. We came into this race wanting to give our young riders experience; we wanted to show in the sprints and we wanted to show in the breaks.

In the stage that Ivanov won, we had Albert Timmer in that break, he didn’t feel good, but we said to him; “you can’t just ride in with the break, you must attack, you must show yourself!” If you sit in the bunch, not feeling good, you can get to feeling worse and worse, but if you attack, it lifts you!

PEZ: Are you happy with how the debut has gone?
Rudi: Yes, of course, we’re not the best team but in four or five years we’ll be at a much higher level. In one of the early stages we got our train together and we were riding against Columbia; Cav and Piet, from our team clashed; you have to have to respect, but you don’t let yourself get pushed around either!

PEZ: And are the sponsors happy?
Rudi: One of the Skil directors is here, not as a VIP, just as a fan – yesterday, he was running alongside the riders on Verbier! Winning is important, sure, but it’s not just about that, it’s about showing, having the right attitude – a fresh attitude.

PEZ: What about ASO?
Rudi: They know us, we’ve ridden their races; Paris-Nice, the Criterium International, they know we’ll show in the race.

PEZ: Are the Dutch press supportive?
Rudi: I have a job to do, so I don’t have time to read papers and websites but I saw a newspaper from back home two days ago. Rabobank aren’t having a good Tour but they’re still a big, important team – but on press coverage, they’re number two and we’re number one!

Pez: Next year?
Rudi: To get to a little higher level, maybe to win a stage, but always to get a little better each year.

PEZ: Are you happy with how your riders have performed?
Rudi: For sure! I know my riders, sometimes you have to give them a hug and others you have to bang the table and swear but all I ask is that they do their best. In the first part of the race we showed, but always we have to think about saving energy for the next day, if it’s not our day. One of my French riders was riding in a group the other day – going hard for about 80th place, wasting energy. I had to say; “don’t be a klootzak!” it’s a Dutch word, not a nice one! The next day, he rode well in the break, he came to me after the stage and said; “well, am I a klootzak, today?”

With Fumy Beppu under siege in the corner by journalists from his homeland, we nipped outside to where team sprinter, Kenny Van Hummel was holding court. Van Hummel rode the last 200 kilometres of yesterday’s stage on his own – fighting a lone all day battle with the time limit.

PEZ: Did you get good support from the crowd, yesterday, Kenny?
Kenny: Yeah, there were a lot of Dutch people on the big climb at the end.

Kenny’s never give up attitude has made him something of a folk hero this Tour.

PEZ: Do you have good recovery?
Kenny: Yes, I recover well, I did a lot of training for the Tour but I’m not a good climber – the team knows that, so it’s a victory for me to be sitting here. And it’s not so far to Paris, now. It was hard climbing through the Pyrenees but I’ve been climbing better in the second week. Yesterday, I was tired and after 25 K I thought I’d have to give up, but then I gave myself a kick up the arse and decided I was going to finish – I beat the cut by eight or nine minutes.

PEZ: Are you enjoying the Tour circus?
Kenny: There’s no other race where there’s so many press – you only ever get to rest when you are in the hotel room.

Don’t think Kenny is a push-over though – he has had an incredible season with a serious tally of wins.

PEZ: What was your biggest race before this?
Kenny: The Tour of Germany and I’ve ridden Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, but I’m not a classics riders really, I’m a sprinter for stage races.

PEZ: If yesterday was your worst day, what was your best?
Kenny: Stage 2; it ended up that I couldn’t sprint because of the crash but I had good position – I was on Freire’s wheel and he was on Cav’s wheel.

PEZ: Have you sprinted against Cav?
Kenny: Yeah, at the Eneco Tour, three years ago, he was already the coming man, I got boxed and he won, but I think it would have been close But he’s really fast now, the fastest guy in the world.

PEZ: Back next year?
Kenny: I hope so, the opening stages are in Holland and not as hard as this year – I’ve gained a lot of experience on this Tour.

With thanks to Rudi and Kenny – there’s still the Champs Elysйes, guys!

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