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Frankie Andreu at Helm of Toyota-United Pro
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 2/7/2006
Frankie Andreu at Helm of Toyota-United Pro
 
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 Director hat 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 camp?

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 weeks). 

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 director?

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 after?

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 after it. 

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 (California). 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 time together?

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 with them.

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 California!

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 America.

For sure!

You can find out more about Toyota-United Pro Cycling at Toyota-United Pro Cycling

Photography provided by Celia Cole

 

 

 
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