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Bingen Fernandez and Nikane Mallea Chat Transcript
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 10/9/2003
Bingen Fernandez and Nikane Mallea Chat Transcript
 

Thanks to Bingen and Nikane for being here!!

Question: Bingen: What is the difference between Kelme and Cofidis as teams?

Bingen: Kelme focuses mostly on Spanish races and its riders are mostly Spanish. Cofidis has a more international team with riders from many countries. Cofidis concentrates on most of the classics and big races.

And yes, we unfortunately have less Belgians now. I am sad to see Jo, Nico and Chris go. I am quite disappointed to lose those three. They were such a great crew and a lot of fun to be around.

Question: For both: You run cycling tours - I am not a good cyclist - could you accomodate me?

Bingen & Nikane: No. Just kidding (Laughter all around) It depends on each group. We work with each tour to tailor ride lengths and difficulty. Sometimes we end up riding 4-5 hours and other times an easy 1-2 hours with coke and donut breaks.

Question: So then you find out the guests' capabilities and work with that?

Bingen & Nikane: Before our tours we work with our guests and plan our itineraries accordingly.

Question: Where exactly do you go on the tours? How does it work? What tours do you plan for next year?

Bingen & Nikane: We run two type of tours mostly - we cover the big races like the Tour and the Vuelta and then we do custom camps. This coming year we will be doing the Tour, Vuelta and then custom camps for groups of clients.

Question: Can you say a few words about the custom camps?

Bingen & Nikane: Custom camps are great. Usually a group of friends contacts us and tells us that they would like to plan a cycling camp in the Alps, Southern Spain, etc., and we organize everything for them. The service is similiar to our other tours, with massage, a mechanic, etc.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about this year’s TdF tour? How did it go?

Bingen & Nikane: How couldn't this year's Tour be a blast? It is hard to imagine what it is going to be like next year with Lance going for #6 with Ullrich.

Question: Your guests watch some of the stages?

Bingen & Nikane: This year we covered the Pyrenean stages and watched the stages from various points. Sometimes from the tops of mountains, sometimes from the start, sometimes at several places...the Tour is better to watch than ride - believe me!

Question: Bingen: In your Vuelta “Shameless” journal, you talked about two instances in which riders did not assist their team leaders. Who were they and what happened? Were there consequences after that?

Bingen: I was hesitant about sending that journal entry. Obviously, as many of you probably guessed, it happened within my team which made things a bit stressful for a few days. As much as you want me to spill the beans and tell you who it was - I won't. I think that might be a bit shameless. I would love to tell......really.....but won't.

Of course the rider knows who he is. After that stage he spent four days with his head down. Ok, so this is the biggest clue I will give: He was staying in the same room as Luis Perez, which made matters worse and even tenser. It happened with Banesto as well, on a different stage.

Question: What are some of the unwritten “rules of the road?” What happens when a rider neglects them?

Bingen & Nikane: Riders who don't follow the unwritten rules of the peloton end up being an outsider. And in the end riders gang up against them, unfortunately - the main reason that you just follow the rules.

Here is another rule...on our bathroom breaks....usually when you need to take a bathroom break, you ride up ahead of the pack and take your foot out of the pedal and pull off the side. When one is peeing the peloton usually slows down and other riders who need a pee break take it also. Sometimes a rider goes up to the front and acts like he is going to take a pee break, but instead his main intent is to slow the peloton down a bit. But this is frowned upon.

Question: A pee-tease!

Bingen & Nikane: Yes, a pee-tease! If you have to pee, you should pee and not do it for other reasons. If more riders keep taking advantage of these things we will never be able to slow down for bathroom breaks. We do pee on the bike as well. You have to.

Question: Nikane - do the women have the same rule?

Nikane: It is not that easy for us. Especially for us that have bib uniforms. I always envy T-Mobile with their seperates. Maybe they switched - bibs have their benefits as well as disadvantages. (Laughter)

Question: In some race this year, while driving the Schreoder feed vehicle, I saw the girls all hunkered down in the bushes on the roadside!

Nikane: That happens too. Usually if there is a crash--there is a pee break! (Laughter)

Question: By the way, congratulations to Spain and Somarriba! AUPA ESPANA!

Bingen & Nikane: Zorionak Joane!

Bingen: I was riding with Joane's husband [Ramón Gonzalez Arrieta] yesterday and he told me that she was in good form.

Question: Both of you: In a grand tour (Bingen, i.e., the Vuelta, Nikane i.e., the Grand Boucle) does the day to day stress strain the team? How does everyone manage? What is the biggest challenge of a long stage race?

Bingen & Nikane: The big tours are tough. Mostly because they become mentally exhausting. The hardest thing is that you do a lot more suffering. On the smaller tours you can suffer for a day or two to finish, but that is different on the long races. The whole team is much happier on smaller tours. Big races bring big time stress to every rider, and all team staff and directors.

Question: And then if there are mistakes, there's no place to hide...

Bingen & Nikane: Exactly.

Question: Will Ramón Gonzalez Arrieta come back in the pro peleton or has he retired for good?

Bingen & Nikane: Ramontxu has definitely retired but he still puts in a ton of kilometers each week just riding with Joane.

Question: Who is your best friend at Cofidis and in the peloton - I know you talked a lot about Laiseka in your journal and his 'peloton' challenge.

Bingen: At Cofidis Iñigo is my 'socio' or partner. We end up calling each other all the time when we are not racing together as well.....I think I would still say Iñigo. Before I came to Cofidis Igor Flores with Euskaltel was. Laiseka... well I train with the guy almost every day. We have known each other and ridden together for over 13 years... UFFA!!

Question: Is Igor Flores a cycling agent now? I was told he set Pablo Urtasun up with CSC as a Stagiaire at a meeting in Girona.

Bingen: Last year, Igor Flores finished the TDF in last place and Euskaltel kicked him off the team even though his contract even though his contract was not over. Igor is now living well off the bike - and he is happy.

Question: Last place is AWESOME! Right Andy? [Andy was Lanterne Rouge in the Daily PelotonVuelta Fantasy Game] Finishing last shows true grit.

Bingen & Nikane: There is a status that comes with last place. There was actually a fight last year with a CSC rider as to who was going to take last place.

Question: What's the hardest day you've ever had on a bike in your pro career, Bingen (mentally/physically)?

Bingen: My hardest day....which one? My first year as a professional was tough.

Question: But both Marek Rutkiewicz and Angelo Lopeboselli are leaving - two great talents!!

Bingen: About Marek and Lope.... I agree. Lope and I are good friends..... They are still young and are impressive for their age. I think that Cofidis is making a mistake in letting them go. But Cofidis looks to have a good line-up for next year. I think we will be very strong.

Question: As a young professional, do the experienced riders take you under their wing, or is it really more of a dog eat dog world? Who helped you, if anyone?

Bingen: There are a few good folks who help you out and teach you things but there are just a few. My first year as a professional was with Euskadi (the precursor to Euskaltel-Euskadi). There was an entire team of us that entered the professional ranking together - it was like a big family with lots of support.

Question: I wanted to ask Nikane her thoughts about women's cycling in Europe - what's the outlook from the riders' side.

Nikane: Things are tough in Spain. If ONCE and Banesto are having hard times finding Spanish sponsors imagine what it must be like for women. Other countries like the Netherlands are much more supportive.

Question: Yes, exactly - is there anything that looks hopeful?

Nikane: This year with Joane [Somarriba] we were able to attract more sponsors which is great for women here. The sponsor will continue on through next year which is a good for us. There are two teams here - Sabeco and then the Sabeco-Bizkaia-Spuik-Panda Software. Women rotate between the two teams. Obviously the 'A' team is the latter.

Question: So you will ride with them next year? Next year will be the same sponsors in Somarriba's team?

Nikane: That is the plan. I ended my season before it began this year, it seems. I am hoping to start early for next year and hope to have a good year. Yes,I think that the same sponsors will be around. I think that there is a possibility of pulling in a few other top riders.

Question: Do you know - even vaguely - your race programme for 2004, Bingen?

Bingen: Not yet. Usually it stays about the same. We have training camp in January and that is usually when we are given our schedule.

Question: Bingen, what about Euskaltel's manager? What's your opinion if you can say something about it?

Bingen & Nikane: Miguel?

Question: Yes.

Bingen: Miguel is a great guy. I have known him since I was nine, I think.

Question: I had a dream you won on Acebo in 2004, Bingen, so make sure to vote for Asturias!!!!

Bingen: Well, one year I was fourth on Acebo and 5th in the general classification.

Question: Bingen, how did you get into cycling? Was it a family thing?

Bingen: My cousin raced, and I started to watch his races and got into it.

Question: By the way, I also dreamed Lance won this year's Tour De France, so be aware...

Question: Anything about Millar in your crystal ball?

Bingen & Nikane: Anything about Nikane??? (Laughter) Anything about Bingen in the Pais Vasco??? (Laughter)

Question: Bingen, I wanted to ask about positions in the team - is the domestique position "honored" in general?

Bingen: Sometimes it is honored. But it is only honored by those who know everything that a domestique must do. I get many thanks with Cofidis. Millar and the Belgians are always overflowing with their gratitude. It was tough at Euskaltel because no riders, no directors, would thank you for your work.

Question: So even in the team, that might not be the case?

Bingen: Some riders are more appreciative than others. I think that it is mostly the directors, rather than the riders at Euskaltel. They are interested in wins only.

Question: How about you, Nikane, how did you start cycling?

Nikane: I started cycling competitively here in the Basque Country. I was a competitive commuter before that in Portland [Oregon] but never raced.

Question: Did you grow up in Portland?

Nikane: I grew up everywhere. I lived in the Midwest when I was young and then came west. I lived most of my years in Nevada and Oregon.

Question: When did you go to Spain, Nikane, and how did you and Bingen meet?

Nikane: I came to Spain in 1999. I met Bingen on the bike, of course, while out training.

Question: Bingen, what about Astarloa, do you have good relations with him, did he call you to ask about Cofidis?

Bingen: Igor and I get along well. He did ask me ahead of time about what I felt about the team and if I was happy. I told him I was.

Question: Are the Cofidis riders satisfied with their season this year? I know the managers might look at things one way and the riders another...

Bingen: It started out rough and we had a lot of bad luck the first half of the year. The sponsor and the director always want the team to be in the top 10. This year we fell below which caused a lot of stress between management and riders.

Question: Do they just apply more pressure, or do they do things that are actually helpful? I just have no idea what it's like...

Bingen: Cofidis is actually a fairly relaxed team.

Question: No Saiz-type vengavengavenga then?

Bingen: Usually the more stress that is put on the team, the opposite happens and we don't ride well. It is not easy to ride with so much stress. Well, they usually say allez, allez, allez......

Question: And the management is aware of that? That would be good....

Bingen: Sometimes. But it is a tough thing.

Question: Is Moncoutié a health freak, with plants and alternative stuff?

Bingen: Yes, he is definitely into the natural stuff.

Question: What's the most apalling weather you've ridden a race in (and finished)?

Bingen & Nikane: I think that for both of us the Col de Madeline was the worst. I (Bingen) had to stop at least 15 times on the way down just to warm up my hands and keep going. Nikane got hypothermia last year on the Col de Madeline during the Tour. It is horrible. When you are so cold that you can't move, you can't steer your bike...nothing.

Question: I always found it interesting when the spectators would hand the riders newspapers for the descents.

Question: I always wondered if newspaper helped that much...

Bingen & Nikane: And luckily they do. Newspaper helps a lot to break the wind and keep in the heat. Team staff will also have warm drinks to hand you at the top before the descent.

Question: I read that if you're really cold (and desperate), it helps to.... pee on your hands...

Question: Only if you're a man...

Question: LOL, if it's a boring day in the peloton, you can just read it, too...

Bingen & Nikane: I know of riders who actually pee themselves to stay warm!!! LOL. I have yet to read a newspaper while on the bike.

Question: Bingen, you were in Tour l'Avenir, when Beloki lost the race - you're talking about this Madeleine day?

Bingen: No. I think it was 2 years earlier.

Question: Worst crash you've been in?

Bingen & Nikane: Worst crash?

Question: Yes, either biggest or...the one that had the worst effects on you.

Bingen: Crash....in 1995 in the Tour l'Avenir, another rider's front chain ring basically sliced my knee in two. I never finished that race but surprisingly, I finished that stage. My second worst crash was in this Vuelta.

Question: Ok ok, how about happier things after this question: Favourite place to ride?

Bingen & Nikane: My favorite place to ride is around here in my training territory or any other place, as long as it is not a race.

Question: And what's your favourite bike? I won't tell Cofidis...

Bingen: All the bikes seem to be the same after so many years. Orbea makes good bikes, though.

Question: I was wondering if there are any up and coming new riders, male or female, that you could tell us about...ones to watch...

Bingen & Nikane: New upcoming riders - Valverde is one. We are fortunate here in the Basque Country to have lots of cyclists, both amateur and pro.

Question: Which riders are in your grupetto for trainning, Bingen?

Bingen: I train with the orange crew mostly - Laiseka, Mayo, Etxebarria, Horrillo...

Question: This is a question from my close associate, Crazy Jane.... Is Oscar Sevilla as charming as he seems?

Bingen: Sevilla? Yes, he is a good guy.

Nikane: My opinion: from a girl's perspective. He is cute but has chest hair!

Question: Where did you learn to speak (and write) English so well?

Bingen: It is easy to pick up languages in this job. I started to learn English and French from just hearing it. Nikane has helped a bit and I always asking end up asking her for translations.

Question: Wasn't there a photoshoot of some Spanish riders nearly naked a few weeks ago?

Bingen & Nikane: Naked shoot. Yes. With Oscar!

Question: Whoa, is cycling in Spain really that bad?

Bingen & Nikane: Cycling is having a rough time here in Spain.

Question: Were you one of the riders approached for that photo, Bingen?

Bingen: No, I never got asked to do the shoot, but Iñigo was asked.

Question: Do you guys have secret codes for communicating with teammates in the peloton?

Bingen & Nikane: Secret communication....with Euskaltel we spoke just spoke Basque. With (rider name omitted), he (secret code omitted) to let you know when to move to the head of the peloton - this is so the director does not hear.

Question: You mean, your director or other teams' directors?

Bingen & Nikane: It is a Mafia with teams and radio signals. Everyone does what ever they can do to hear other teams' broadcasts. (Rider name omitted) does it so the director won't know that other riders may not be in the front. Also so other riders nearby don't hear.

Question: Um - I'm not going to be able to print this part of the chat, am I....

Question: Is there a lot of problem with wireless computers and heart rate monitors?

Question: Wow.....cycling espionage! Can you use secure radios?

Bingen & Nikane: The technology is better than the secure radios. Teams worry about having equipment to catch other signals more than having secure equipment themselves.

Question: What about interfering signals with so many riders in the peloton? Is that a problem? I do research related to wireless systems, sorry about the questions.

Bingen & Nikane: Sometimes we get feedback because of all the different signals, but it isn't that bad.

Question: Bingen, do you have the time to follow Spanish amateur cycling sometimes?

Bingen: I do keep up with amateur cycling. I have the opportunity to ride with many of the ones here and see them as they mature as cyclists and go pro.....

Question: Bingen do you know the new amateur Basque star Julen Goikoetxea; can you tell me something about him, did you train with him?

Bingen & Nikane: Who does Julen ride with?

Question: He is still a junior; I think he is in Hamilton.

Bingen & Nikane: I don't think I know him by name.

Question: He rode in your hometown race with amateurs and made a great race.

Bingen: Hmm. Yes, I was riding in the Vuelta then. I will ask around.

Question: What about a guy like Jokin Ormaetxea (he´s very good)?

Bingen: I think so, too. Ormaetxea has had a tough time finding a team for the coming year, a pro team, that is. Places are so tight right now in the pro teams.

Question: What do you think the quality of the up and coming Spaniards is?

Question: So what will the amateur guys do? Stay on in their clubs hoping for next year?

Bingen & Nikane: I think that there are many very good riders but not enough opportunities out there for them. Eventually some of them end up leaving the sport because they can not advance to pro. Usually those guys say they will do one more year in their amateur teams, then one more, and eventually reality causes them to move on.

Question: There has been a lot of talk regarding low fan attendance at the Vuelta. What is your opinion?

Bingen & Nikane: The problem with the Vuelta is that it is during the peak of the futbol/soccer season here and soccer takes first seat here in Spain. The Vuelta used to be in April but they changed it several years ago.

Question: Did you ride the Vuelta Murcia in Marzo [March]? I was there, but I felt virtually alone. There were VERY few people watching except at the finish, but even then it was easy to find a good spot.

Bingen: This year I did not ride the Vuelta of Murcia. Things are different here in the Basque Country. The support here is incredible. Let me know if you plan to watch any other race - any of you - it would be great to meet you all.

Question: Are you going to go to any race in the US any time soon? What's funny is that one of the shop-sponsored teams in my area has a uniform that's almost exactly like Cofidis. The first time I ran into them I almost flipped over my handlebar!

Bingen: I don't think Cofidis has any plans to race in the US.

And then it was time to go, after Bingen and Nikane spent three hours with us. The goodbyes:

Daily Peloton: Maybe we can do an interview soon - I'd like to hear more about your tours next year. And thanks also from our crew - who say bye to the best cycling writer on the net!

Bingen & Nikane: We will have to come visit the chat room more often. Thanks for having us! See you on the road or at the race. But if you see a cyclist in a Cofidis uniform eating donuts at a gas station - remember, it is not me. Until next time, Ciao!

 
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