PEZ: Who picks the Garmin Tour team, Matt?
Me – I speak to JV [head honcho, Jonathan Vaughters] about my choices, but it’s my decision.
Garmin’s first objective: put Christian Vande Velde on the podium in Paris.
PEZ: How do you make your choices?
First you have to look at your goals for the race – in our case these are, firstly, to put Christian Vande Velde on the podium; secondly for Tyler Farrar to win stages and thirdly for us to take breakaway opportunities in the transition stages.
You start the season with a list of maybe 12/13 guys who you think will be on the team for the Tour.
The Tour is the biggest bike race in the world, it’s at a different level of intensity – you don’t ‘blood’ young guys there, you do that in the Giro or Vuelta.
These 12/13 riders you then put on a programme that you think will bring them into the best condition to ride the Tour – in truth, the team just about selects itself.
Coming into the race we had four riders vying for two spots.
I had to look at the responsibilities we’ll have on the flat stages and select guys who can work selflessly on the front day in and day out – not all riders can do that.
Objective #2: Get Tyler Farrar into position for stage wins in the bunch sprints.
PEZ: Isn’t there a danger of the Ullrich/Zabel situation where you’re trying to do two different things?
Being honest, we’re not going to have guys with Christian at the top of the last col – but apart from Radio Shack, not many teams will.
But Millar and Hesjedal will be with him when there are 20 left in the big mountains and Christian will be very well looked after in the flat and medium mountain stages.
With Tyler’s ability in the sprints we have to put a lot of emphasis on him.
PEZ: Do your riders get upset with you because you haven’t picked them?
No, but sometimes the staff do – soigneurs and mechanics – everyone wants to be part of the Tour.
PEZ: And what about the opposite – riders saying that they don’t want to ride?
That’s very rare, in fact I’ve never had that coming into the Tour, but I have had it for the Giro and Vuelta.
Matt White wasn’t a prolific winner as a pro, but he got his time on the sun on a few occasions – like this stage win at the Tour Down Under.
PEZ: How different is the actual team to your ‘wish list’ from the training camps?
Not too much at all – it’s pretty much the team I envisaged back in December 2009. We’ve no Wiggins, but he’s left – we’ve put Robbie Hunter in his place to support Tyler; and Johan Vansummeren who takes the place of Danny Pate.
PEZ: Giro results – just history, now?
In pro cycling you’re only as good as your last result – you test young guys in the Giro because it’s not at the same intensity as the Tour. The sprints in the Giro are intense but the Tour sprints are at a different level again. David Millar did a super job there but we pulled him and Tyler out after two weeks. You go to the Giro, win stages, then pull out to prepare for the Tour.
PEZ: Which are the key stages in the Tour?
The stage to Spa (2) is a tricky one for us; it’s a stage that Hushovd could win – he’s not as fast at as Cav or Tyler but there’s no doubt he’s stronger.
Look at last year where he even picked up points in the mountains. That Spa stage is one where Hushovd could take 20 points and Tyler takes none – as far as the green jersey goes we’d be playing catch up from the start.
On the cobbles stage (3) you won’t win the Tour, but someone will surely lose it there.
Then there’s an early foray into the mountains, after that we’ll know who has chance to win the Tour.
But it’s the last three days where the Tour will be won. If there’s any weakness in Astana it will be very hard for them to control The Shack and Saxo.
PEZ: What happens between now and the prologue?
For me it’s hectic, from the minute we meet on Wednesday until the end of the Tour I won’t have 20 minutes to myself.
We all meet at the team hotel on Wednesday afternoon and the guys go for a ride; then Thursday there’s medicals, another ride and the presentation; Friday the guys get a chance to relax and then on Saturday the circus begins.
Can Tyler Farrar get his first Tour de France stage win this month?
PEZ: Does time drag for the riders?
It might – but not for me, there’s always something going on and too much to do!
PEZ: You had a bad experience at this stage back when you were a rider.
On the morning of the prologue in what was to be my first Tour, four hours before the start, I crashed and broke my collar bone – the only good thing was that I’d just received news that I was selected for the Olympics; that helped me to re-focus and get over it.
PEZ: Any new Tour ‘trick’ bits or clothing to tell us about?
We do, but I can’t reveal anything to you – it’s the biggest race in the world, it would be almost rude not to launch new stuff!
PEZ: Who can beat Bert?
Lots of guys! He can’t mark everyone himself and his team isn’t the strongest so he’s going to get hit every which way.
Lance, those Schleck boys, Sastre, Cadel, Bradley and Vande Velde – they’ll all try to isolate him because they all know that one on one in the mountains he’s very hard to beat and he’s one of the best time triallists in the world. For me it’s the most open Tour for years!
If you want good answers – ask an Aussie; with thanks to Matt and wishing him and his squadra ‘all the best’ for those 23 days in July.