Frankie Andreau has worn many ha
Frankie Andreu has worn many hats in his cycling career. He's been a
rider and director for U.S. Postal. He's been an on-air journalist for OLN
during several Tours de France and early season cycling shows. He's been a
motivational speaker to many varied groups. Now he's wearing the Team
once again, but this time he's wearing it for a team that hopes to revolutionize
the concept of a domestic cycling team in the United States. Partnered
with team owner Sean Tucker, Frankie and his co-director Harm Jansen have set
out to create a franchise cycling team that will encourage a fan base to be part
of their adventure and to create a team that will always be called United Pro, even
when sponsorship changes. The Daily Peloton had the great privilege of
talking with Frankie just prior to their big team unveiling.
Daily Peloton: Hi Frankie. Are you glad to be back home from
Frankie Andreu: Yeah, that was a long camp.
Daily Peloton: That is a long time to be away from home. Your
kids are little, aren't they?
Frankie: Yeah, six, five and three.
DP: Oh yeah, that's a long time to be away from them (almost two
Frankie: You know, camp was kind of chaotic because we were just trying
to organize everything. It was kind of crazy.
DP: But from the riders I've talked to it sounds like you are well
on your way to making it happen, so that's exciting.
Frankie: Yeah, it's great. Things are coming along just fine.
I mean the best part is that the riders are getting along fantastic. They
have jelled, it's just super. A lot of laughing was going on at camp.
These guys were having a blast, which was fun to see.
DP: I know you were a rider for many years and you always wrote very
entertaining journals. I used to always love to read your Tour diaries.
Then you went into broadcasting for OLN. How did those first television
jobs come about?
Frankie: I think when I was a cyclist and had done rider interviews I was able to speak, ummm, fluently, I guess I should say. I'd done some good interviews and some
animated interviews that were funny and delivered with some passion. So I guess John
Carter who was the head producer for cycling at OLN at the time asked me if it
was something I'd be interested in trying to do. I'd always thought about it
and wanted to do color commentary, like Phil Liggit and Paul Sherwin. I'd
love to do what they do, but they are so fantastic at what they do it makes it
hard. So it was something that interested me a lot. I followed up with
them and boy, the first couple of years were rough! There was such a huge
learning curve! I literally knew nothing when I started. They'd be
talking all their technical talk and I had no clue. It was difficult.
All of that first footage...I mean that was bad.
But now you look comfortable and like you're having fun.
Yeah, now I feel more comfortable and I've learned how to relax into it.
At the same time, it's difficult because you don't do it for eight months and
then you're thrown back into it. Then you have to remember how to do it.
I heard that OLN might not have Phil and Paul live at the Tour this year; that they might just be in studio.
I have heard nothing concerning cycling in 2006; I'm a little at a loss to
what is going on.
Well, at least you have a new gig with Toyota-United Pro.
That's true, but I enjoy the television work and it's something I want to
continue to do and pursue.
So when you were a rider, did you visualize yourself as someday being a
When I retired in 2000, I was a director with U.S. Postal Service for two
years. So I did that. Yeah, it's something I thought about.
When I did it with Postal, I liked it. I enjoyed doing the
logistics and enjoyed working with the team tactics and all that. So when
I got out of that and started doing the television, this opportunity (with
Toyota-United Pro) came around and I was looking forward to working with the riders and
being at the races and being able to put together a team that hopefully will
dominate here in America. So I jumped at it.
So you were contacted by (team owner) Sean Tucker?
I ran into Sean at Redlands in 2005. He started talking to me about his
ideas and his different concept and model for a cycling team he was putting
together. And honestly what appealed to me was the different way he
planned to market the team. It was so different from the traditional team.
So we talked a few times, kept moving forward, and I signed with him in June or
July and we've just been working like mad since then to get the right riders,
sponsors, all of that.
I've heard other cyclists say they think they would be good directors
because they've been riders and know what is good for riders. Do you feel
that way now that you're working with riders again?
I don't think it's necessarily knowing what's good for them. I think
it's more relating to what they are doing, because I've done what they are
doing. I can understand their position and understand what they need to
do in order to be a professional cyclist. It involves being professional all the
time--not just on the race course but off the bike too, dealing with the media,
dealing with sponsors, creating an image for oneself. Many cyclists ignore
this part. I like to bring it all full circle so they are aware of all
that, so they can keep building their careers both on and off the bike.
So far, what has turned out to be the most difficult thing about putting
together a new team?
The hardest part has been that the sponsorship and some of the ones we've
partnered with have come on so late. It's been a lot of scrambling and
hurrying. We've been working a long time, but finding just the right
sponsors and right partners has taken a lot of Sean's time and just came
together a few months ago. So there has been much to do.
When it came time to hire your riders, how did you decide who you would go
Harm and myself spent a lot of time talking about who we'd want on our team.
We wanted some proven, established riders. So we went and targeted some of
the best guys in America that we thought would fit in with our team. And
we took into consideration compatibility and personality with the riders we were
picking. With some of the young riders, well, they are a bit of an unknown
and not proven yet. But I think they will come up to the level of the
other riders. So we put together a hit list of what we wanted and we went
Did you get any flack or resistance from other team directors once the
word got out that you were trying to pull away the top riders?
Not at all. It's part of the sport, part of the business. Harm
and I fully expect that at the end of 2006 other teams will try to pull away our
riders. That's part of the business; that's how it works. We did get
a little joking around, which is normal.
Are any of your guys on multi-year contracts?
No, all single year contracts.
So who are your team captains on the road?
Well, it depends on which kind of race we are going to. For example,
for Tour of California coming up, Tony Cruz will be our captain. He's more
familiar with the Pro Tour teams that will be coming over and of course he has
loads of experience. Probably the same for Georgia. For some other
races it might be Chris Wherry, because he might be more familiar with the
American style race and course, especially since Tony has been racing in Europe
so much. Those will be our two main guys for captain on the road.
But we might have different guys other than those on the course who are actually our
leaders for that race, maybe Chris Baldwin or (J.J.) Haedo or (Ivan) Dominquez. Just
depends on the course profile.
Can you name your Tour of California team?
Yeah, it will be Cruz, Wherry, Baldwin, Ivan Dominquez, Haedo, Jose Garcia,
Mariano Friedrick, and our new Kiwi, Heath Blackgrove.
Either he's a phenomenal talent or he's coming from summer racing in New
Zealand, but he has been flying! He was the strongest guy at our camp.
How did you feel things went at camp?
Great! I could not believe how good the training was around Thousand Oaks
And the weather was perfect. It was obvious that everyone got along
really, really well. The riders were riding well, and for us this was the
time to put our first foot forward as a team, so it was good.
Did you do any special team-building exercises to help them mold into a
cohesive team, or did you just let things take a natural course as they spent
They were just out riding on the bike, and then coming back to the hotel and
hanging out, and before you knew it these guys were just joking with each other
and rolling with jokes and laughter. Nothing specific for team building;
they just jell on their own. Harm and I were just laughing right along
Will this team eventually be a Continental Professional team?
Yeah, our goal will be to go to Europe, but my feeling is that we need to
dominate here in America first and not rush on that.
What goals does the team have for this year, and what needs to happen to
make you deem this first year a success?
We're going to shoot for a stage win in Tour of California, a stage win in
Georgia, and to be a dominate force racing here in America. We know there
are other teams we will have some heavy battles with. So as long as we can
come out on top a good amount of the time, we'll be happy with that. The
other part is just to continue for the team to jell and to continue to get
stronger. Obviously we're building our future here, and moving forward, so
it will be interesting to see how these guys continue to develop as riders.
We'll focus on big races, National championships. Obviously we'd like to
keep the jersey with Wherry or someone else. So we have the same goals as
other teams: we want to come out and dominate. We're not going to be
happy being in second place. We're preparing to be a major force.
So you're ready to do it, straight out of the gate in two weeks at Tour of
That's what's so crazy. The first race is a big one and it's so early.
Usually we aren't racing this early. Oh well.
We'll take what we can get. We don't get too many stage races in
You can find out more about Toyota-United Pro Cycling at
Toyota-United Pro Cycling
Photography provided by Celia Cole