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Just Another Day in the Office………
 
By Janna Trevisanut
Date: 5/23/2002
Just Another Day in the Office………
 

By Chuck Coyle
Team 7Up

Most cycling fans know all about the major players and the riders to watch when it comes to a certain race; like Johan Museeuw at Roubaix or Lance at the Tour. What most people don’t think about very often are the rider’s teammates that keep them out of the wind, protected and fresh, which in turn allows them to shine at the end of a race. This team-oriented type of rider in the pro peloton is called a domestique. They (actually WE) are much more than just helpers, they are the welders that can keep a peloton glued together until the base of the last climb or until the final 200 meters dash for the line.

This spring, after winning in Redlands, CA, everyone in the US was looking to Prime Alliance’s Chris Horner to take home yet another victory at the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, CA; and win he did. Most people talk about how incredibly he rode in order to win those two huge races back-to-back (do not get me wrong - it is a Herculean feat) but few talk about how hard his entire team worked for him so he could continue his California sweep. Besides people "in the know," I doubt that too many folks, excluding Horner, approached Prime Alliance's Alex Candelario after the stage race and complimented him on his work at the front during Sea Otter’s crit. Rather, Alex will just have to be happy knowing that part of Chris’ victory is also his.

Domestiques are not necessarily riders who are not strong enough to be a threat for the victory; often times these riders have to sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team. They may be told by their director to ‘soft-pedal’ a time trial so they will be fresher for a following road stage or they may be told to ‘sit-on’ a break that they could potentially win out of because it may not be beneficial to their team leader.

This was the case in last year's Amstel Gold race in the Netherlands. USPS team leader Lance Armstrong was in a two-man break with Eric Dekker from Rabobank and the move looked like it was going to be the winning combination. Deckker’s director pulled the team car alongside of him and told him not to work in the break because he did not think Eric could win against Lance. Deckker ignored his director (I think this was influenced a bit by LA) and continued to contribute to the breakaway. Dekker ended up out sprinting Lance and took home the victory for Rabobank. If he had not won I can not imagine what would have happened to him, he probably was reprimanded very heavily as it was!

99.9% of the time personal goals have to be put aside and the result for the team must come first. It is impossible to do consistently well without the full support and effort of your team. This is what I do on the 7-Up/Nutra Fig cycling team, I will do whatever it takes to get one of our riders across the line first, if the team wins then I win. If I lead out our sprinter Dan Schmatz for the win and you see a photo of him with arms raised crossing the finish line, I am guy in the background of the picture "posting" it too. This was sort of what happened at this years Tour of the Gila.

During this stage race it was our team's day-to-day job to keep our team GC leader, John Lieswyn, out of trouble, out of the wind and at the front of the race at all times. If John flatted then the whole team would drop back and bridge him back to the field. If I flatted, it was up to me to try and get back into the race all on my own. The rest of the team would definitely look out for each other but keeping John protected was job #1.

On the third stage my team loyalties were put to the test. We thought it was going to be an easier day because there was not that much climbing and we should have been able to sit in all day and let Team Mercury set tempo at the front (that is a long day for their domestiques). A quarter mile into the race I flatted, got a new wheel from neutral support and started chasing. My teammate Doug dropped back and after about 15 minutes of all-out chasing we finally regained contact with the group. Immediately after chasing back on to the group John came over the radio and said that we all had to get to the front to chase down a small group that had snuck up the road.

I went to the front and chased at 120% until we brought back the attackers. We had now been racing for only an hour but I had been going all out since the gun went off. We caught the break on the bottom ¼ of the first climb of the day, after catching them it was as if I had dropped anchor. I was shooting backwards through the field at an alarming rate and soon found myself yo-yoing at the back of the pack trying just to hang on until the top of the climb. With about a third of a mile to go I finally popped and instantly started to lose huge amounts of time, when I finally hit the descent I knew that it was now or never to try and regain contact with the bunch.

Again I found myself chasing all out for the 3rd time already that day. After another 20 grueling minutes I managed to claw my way back on. I had now been going all out for over 2 hours and had not even had enough time to take a sip of water. I got a much-needed break as the peloton snaked its way down through the Gila National Forest’s hair-raising, unmarked roads. We soon hit the long rolling valley that would take us to the final climb of the day, I was looking at this section as a well-deserved break from all of the sweat that I had lost.

That is when John came on the radio saying that he had a rear wheel puncture. We all stopped, I gave him my wheel so he could get back into the fold ASAP. I got my second wheel of the day from neutral support and again started chasing. I caught back on to the rest of the team and again helped bridged John back to the pack. After we got back into the group a few friends of mine were laughing saying that every time they saw me I was either attacking off of the back of the peloton or just getting back from chasing on.

Quite literally 5 minutes later my Canadian teammate Charles Dionne came over the radio saying that he had a front puncture. Clark Sheehan & I both stopped and after Charles received a new front wheel we helped bridge him back up, that was my 4th maximum effort for the day and that was on top of just trying to keep up with the natural progression of the race.

By the time we hit the final climb of the day I was cooked. I tried to hang in as best as I could but it was an act of futility. I eventually settled comfortably into a small groupetto and finished up the day hoping that we (by we I mean John) maintained his good GC positioning.

After that full day of racing we rode back to where we were staying, grabbed a quick shower, a bite to eat and then Doug & I headed off to do a 7-Up promotion at the local Food Basket. We signed some autographs and did interviews with the local radio station "The Rock of the South West." The lady from the station asked how I did that day expecting that since I was a pro I must certainly have been in the top 3. "Well, " I responded, "I guess not so good, I just did some work for the team…….."

Thanks For Reading!

Chuck


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