Jeff Louder, riding for Colnago-Landbouwkrediet, finished the Tour of Belgium in style...in the attack (SOLO!) for over a 110 km.
Sunday was a good day for me. I really wanted to get away and when I saw the way the peloton was reacting to the wind, I felt I had a chance. It was definitly a suicide break. When I attacked I had to ride on a straight road for almost 12k, straight into the wind. It was brutal. Once I got over that it got a bit easier until the feed zone. After that it was very exposed. I was riding so hard and going so slow, battling the wind. The course was difficult, up and down all day. I saw the video and saw that two teams were chasing me. It was a great experience and once I can walk again, I'm sure I'll be stronger for it. It's a good sign for Philly.
Now that the Tour of Belgium is finished, it is time to look at the upcoming goals: one of them of course the US pro championships in Philadelphia.
How has your season been going so far and how does the USpro championship fit into that?
The championship is my big goal this season.
This should kind of save my season as I haven't had many results yet.
I worked a lot for my teammates Michel Vanhaecke and Rolf Sorensen and I missed part of the season because of some health problems.
First I had pneumonia, then some problems with my Achilles heel.
I wasn't able to do all the races I planned to do.
I missed Liege and Amstel and also my chance at the Giro d'Italia.
This is actually my second come back this season already.
Who are your toughest competitors?
Ehm, I don't really know the US riders very well, so it's pretty difficult to tell.
Of course, the European-based riders like Tyler Hamilton or Fred Rodriguez will be in good form. George Hincapie also looks very good.
Who are your favorite riders?
Well, I try not to idolise riders... I mean, I have to ride with them, next to them.
It's a bit harder if you have a poster hanging over your bed of one of then.
If I really have to name one, I would say Johan Museeuw. He's really a rider I respect.
A down-to-earth guy and the way he
wins...with real determination and honesty.
What is your favorite race?
Rund Um Koln!
I didn't race it this year as it was just the day before the 3 days of De Panne, but I really like the race. It gives a good sensation, the organisation is good and the German fans are really great.
I also like the Tour of Flanders, because it transforms you for a day. It's hard, but you don't feel your legs....
It's long but it goes by in seconds.
Just the history of the race, the fans, it's a real nervous race. A true Classic.
What's the difference between German and Belgian fans?
German fans like every race, every rider and will just be happy.
They are just there to look, while the Belgian fans are a bit cynical in a way.
They know a lot... maybe even a bit too much.
They want to see suffering, a war and they support specific riders.
In Germany they are already happy that the race is passing in their area and they support everyone, even the last rider gets cheered on, no matter how much behind you are.
It's a bit different in Belgium, because it is such a huge sport.
When did you know you wanted to be a cyclist?
Although I grew up with cycling - my father was a cyclist - the inspiration came from somewhere else.
It was 1996, when Bjarne Riis won the Tour de France.
He wasn't really a wonder kid, he had to grow.
His previous results didn't predict he could win the Tour, not like Popovich now for example.
He's got a lot of publicity, especially after the winning the Worlds U23 last year. Riis inspired me because I
wasn't too special on the bike when I was younger.
When I saw what he did, so late in his career, I realized that I had the time and could make it if I was determined.
What's it like racing in Europe?
It's like playing basketball in America!
To ride a bike and to be appreciated and admired, that's great.
How do you like Belgium? The chocolates, the
(laughs) I came over in 1998 so this is going to be my 5th year here by now.
I like it here.
No regrets coming here.
The weather is good, just a bit of a shame that there aren't any mountains and no good trout streams. Besides the lack of nature, I really like the culture in Europe.
In the US everything is new and feels rushed.
Here, when you park your bike in the square and sit down for a coffee across from the 1000 year old cathedral, you can't help but relax. I like both worlds (I love a Latte to go) but if I had to choose
I'd take the old world tradition over the new world trend.
Have any of the older pros in your team helped and thought you anything that helped you?
Yes, this year especially. I learned a lot from Sorensen in a very short time.
I was his domestique in the 3 Days of De Panne and the Tour of Flanders.
I learned more in two weeks than in my whole pro career.
Also Marty Jemison, an ex-pro from Salt Lake - my home town - who I can always turn to.
If I'm having some problems, or questions, I just give him a call.
He helped me a lot.
He helps me get some perspective.
How did you meet Marty Jamison?
I met him at a race in Salt Lake when I was a cat. 3.
He had just returned from Europe with some good results.
I had very little idea about who he was.
That day he dropped everyone and soloed for the win.
I was impressed by his style.
Very down to earth and friendly but also a serious competitor.
He won the USPRO jersey in 1999.
Would you recommend to other American riders like yourself to come to Belgium?
I would definitely recommend it, but only if this is your true desire. You have to want to do everyting it takes to be pro.
You also have to be realistic.
Some Americans just come over but they're not cut out for it, they?re tourists with the disguise of being a bike racer.
You have to be very committed and open-minded.
It's not easy to adjust to a new country and being far away from home, so you need to be open to the new culture you're stepping into.
Everything here is so different than the American way.
But, like I said, I would really recommend it.
Do you have any last message to pass on to your family and friends?
Thanks for cheering for
That would be the most important message of course. And keep on cheering for me!
A friend told me that he saw my name on one of the Bergs at the Tour of Flanders, so that was really nice. Unfortunately, I didn't see it myself, (I was crosseyed) but thanks to whoever did that!
And then it was time for his massage and we had to say goodbye...
Hopefully we can meet again very shortly!