schmalz So, you are the most interviewed pro on our site so far. I don’t know what that qualifies you for, what sort of prize, but, you’re the winner right now, so…
VDV I got my NYVelocity poster on my garage wall, but I got respect for you guys, too.
schmalz So the poster came?
VDV No, the poster from the Christian rollers. I ripped on down off the wall on the way out of the building.
schmalz Oh, that’s funny, ’cause we’re making you another one and Andy’s sending it today.
VDV Oh, really?
schmalz You’re going to have two posters.
schmalz So, you have doubles. Everyone who pulls into your garage is going to know you’re famous.
schmalz Right now, you’re on the cusp of probably the most important batch of winter training of your life. Is that fair to say?
VDV Yeah, actually, it IS pretty fair to say.
schmalz Does that add any extra pressure?
VDV Yeah, I think it adds a bit of pressure here and there, but I usually would panic a couple of times this winter…horrible weather, and you see what everyone else is doing, but at the same time, you realize how long a year is, and last year, I did the same thing almost to a T, and this year I feel better and stronger than I was last year, so I need to relax and not worry about what other people are doing in warmer climates.
schmalz Yeah, that’s the difference between you and everyone else. Other people are going to Majorca and Hawaii, you’re doing it in Illinois, aren’t you?
VDV Yeah, exactly. But I’ve done my time, and I’ve done serious hours in the gym, and I’m stronger and I’ve worked on all my weaknesses, the PT, my back, things I couldn’t do if I was riding a lot. So I really…I made the best of it.
schmalz So were you riding a lot outside in the cold, in the elements and everything else?
VDV Oh yeah, there was snow drifts yesterday, and I dragged my dad out there. I did a nice loop and rode with him 45 minutes afterwards. He was not happy. I was out there, I think it was in the teens, single digits for wind chill yesterday.
schmalz How do you do it? Do you do a five hour ride in that stuff?
VDV No, no, no, man. I haven’t ridden that much at all. I just go and get the work done, and if I need to I go on the trainer afterwards. The worst was there was a two week stretch after New York, where I had to ride inside, and that was absolutely horrible. That really got to me. But if the sun’s out, I get out on the road.
schmalz That’s murder. What do you do when you ride indoors? Do you watch television…
VDV I watch old Tour tapes, Giro, I usually watch biking ’cause if I’m watching a movie I’ll pretty much grind to a halt and sit down on the couch and watch the movie. I need to see someone actually working hard in front of me to motivate me. Even that stops working any more.
schmalz So do you ride rollers or do you ride the trainer?
VDV I ride a trainer, Saris made me a spin bike all to spec for me, with all the same cranks and Q factor and all that. They did a really great job. I rode that more than I would’ve liked to this year.
schmalz Pays to be a Tour contender this year, eh?
schmalz So you have a custom bike to while away the hours indoors and try not to go crazy with.
VDV Exactly. I get my fan set up and my sweat rag underneath me and I’m good to go.
schmalz So what’s your secret to dressing when you go out in the teens?
VDV Just quality clothes you know? Pearl (Izumi) gave me a lot of great clothes for braving the elements. I’ve got two different kinds of tights, depending on how cold it is. One, pretty much like fire retardant pants ’cause they’re so water resistant, wind, and all that. The other one’s more form fitting, for when it’s not super cold. It’s layers, I have a balaclava that goes over my face so it keeps my face and neck warm, I don’t know, man. It’s ridiculous.
schmalz What underwear to you wear?
VDV Undershirt you mean?
VDV Ummmm, I don’t know if I should say that.
schmalz(Laughs) I wasn’t asking about on the bike. I’m asking what you’re wearing right now.
VDV Oh! I’ve got Calvin Kleins on.
schmalz Thank God, that’s good to know. So I think we’ve made it about six minutes into the interview and I haven’t yet asked you about Lance’s comeback. And I’m required by law to ask about Lance’s comeback. Um, Lance is coming back. Did you hear?
schmalz So, does that change your plan at all?
VDV No, the main thing is that it helps motivate me, to see how hard he’s working, coming back, how professional he approaches getting ready for a race, getting ready for the season, things like that. It’s cool. I bought the Outside magazine to read on the plane on the way down there, it fires me up, I won’t lie. Seeing that, seeing what else he’s doing, things like that. But there’s so many good riders in the Tour de France. Andy Schleck, three or four other guys on his team, Contador, Levi, Kloden, Popovych. There’s some serious talent on that team you gotta worry about. There’s not just one person at the Tour, Giro, Tour of California, all the big races these days. Whether or not…does that hurt me or help me, I don’t know. Nor is Lance going to be the end all factor in me going fast or not going fast.
schmalz And you’re doing the same program as last year, right? You’re doing the Giro first, then do the Tour.
VDV More or less. Talking about California, then the Giro, it’s a little different with some races not being there, and us being a ProTour team, we have to do other races, that’ll change things. But Tour of California, Giro, and the Tour will be the same, so that’s fifty days of racing right there.
schmalz So are you training to do anything drastically different, or are you just doing the same thing you did last year? Because you really didn’t have any problems in the Tour last year. You had a bad moment, but… Does that mean you just scrap everything and start over from scratch, or do you just do what you did before?
VDV No, we’re doing very similar, a lot of weight work right now, getting strong, and altitude camps. But pretty much the same thing, but maybe a bit more intensity, a little more fine tuning, I know what I can and can’t do now. I worked on all those things we started last year, but now it’s easier ’cause I know what I’m doing, compared to last year when I just started doing the weight programs. I started doing the intervals, I started doing all the things that were new to me. So hopefully it’ll be easier, just bring it up another percent or two, and hopefully go that much faster.
schmalz Now when you’re in the weight room, besides all the meatheads making fun of you, what are you doing in there? Is it heavy weights? Do you do low weights a lotta reps? What’s your plan?
VDV It’s lower weights a lotta reps. But, I’ve been training now, I work really hard in the gym. People know I’m doing something, not sitting around talking. Lately they’ve been watching me more than I’m watching them. They’re asking me, “What’re you training for?” How the hell are you supposed to respond to that?
schmalz “Have you heard of France?”
VDV Yeah, the Tour de France. “What is that?”
schmalz Oh, god, that’s amazing. Yeah, there’s this race, maybe you’ve heard of Lance Armstrong. They finally get it after that I guess.
VDV Exactly. If I said Lance, they’d say, “Oh yeah yeah, of course!” So I don’t even bother.
schmalz And don’t mention that you’re trying to beat him, because that might cause trouble, I don’t know.
VDV Yeah, true.
schmalz You don’t want to be the guy who beats the guy who beats cancer. That would be awkward.
VDV Stop putting words in my mouth, Dan!
schmalz I’m not putting any words in your mouth! Those are my words, so I’ll take the heat for those. So it’s mostly just light weights, and you just…it’s probably a strength and endurance thing at the same time, then.
VDV Yeah, exactly, just smashing yourself so you get tons of lactic acid so almost like you’re doing a ton of sprints, more or less. You do that over and over and over again, it’s hard, it hurts like hell actually. Then you go out and try to ride your bike afterwards to ride all that stuff out and feel like a bike rider again, more or less.
schmalz On the bike, have you been doing intervals the whole winter, or have you been doing, like, turning it over, just basically riding?
VDV You do intervals in the gym for the most part, and then I get out and ride my bike when I can, I just try to get some endurance and a little bit of intensity here and there. But not much at all.
schmalz Are you doing long hours? How many hours a week are you riding on your bike?
VDV No, not at all, not much. I don’t even want to say, man, ’cause it’s not much.
schmalz It’s like 45 minutes here, 45 mintues there…
VDV Yeah, more or less, I think you’re doing more when I read your plan, how many kilojoules you’re getting a day, intervals…
schmalz I’m totally going to kick your ass in July, so you’re going to have to watch out.
VDV I’ve got time to catch up.
schmalz I would suppose. It seems like it’s a departure from the normal winter training of old. It seems like when your dad was training in the winter it was probably just ride miles and miles and miles, ride really slow, wasn’t it?
VDV Yeah, exactly. To be technical my dad was a six day rider, so all he did was ride in the winter, he didn’t really ride much in the summertime. But you’re right, the old school way was to do base miles and base miles and base miles. But that really does shit, in all honesty. All it really does is prepare you for the Race Across America, it doesn’t prepare you to go fast. Intensity and being specific about the way you’re training has taken its place.
schmalz You’ve been a pro for about twelve, fifteen years now. If you don’t have base miles by now, I don’t know where they’re going to come from.
VDV Exactly. That’s part of my freak out session last month, that’s what was told to me. Twelve grand tours behind you or so, start catching up and give you a little bit of added advantage in your older age. The one good thing about getting old.
schmalz Yeah. Those miles kinda add up and stay with you I guess.
VDV Yeah, man, it’s just a turbo diesel engine right now.
schmalz That’s good to hear. How’s your time trial position? Have you been working on it?
VDV Not as much as l’d like to. I’ll be here in Silver City the next three weeks, so I’ll get plenty of time to work on that, mess around with it before I go to the Tour of California.
schmalz You did the wind tunnel test already, didn’t you?
VDV Yeah I did. We did some a little bit but for the most part we didn’t change too much, it’s really hard. It’s hard to perfect genius, you know?
schmalz(Laughs) Exactly. How do you improve on something that should be carved in stone?
VDV You just can’t make it any better!
schmalz I’m sure they had you wiggling your thumb, tilting your nose…
VDV Keeping one eye shut, that helped a lot.
schmalz That’s a great idea. Depth perception is just overrated. One eye shut and close the nostrils, see how that goes. That’s brilliant planning, you never hear that kind of aerodynamic detail.
VDV Yeah, but it throws off your equilibrium a little bit.
schmalz Who’s going to be on the Tour team? This is premature, obviously, but have they started talking yet?
VDV I think every team, no matter who you are, even an Astana, all the way down to us, we have a Tour team, who could go to the Tour, if everything’s going really well, some guys to set up the game, things like that. You keep it open, I want it that way. Every team I’ve been on, if you’re going really fast, you’re going to go. If you have some experience, you have a good head on your shoulders, and you’re riding your bike strong, then the best man should always go to the Tour de France. There’s no, just because you’ve done the Tour twelve times, fifteen times, doesn’t mean that you just have a spot. We’re going to take the best nine guys, the best team of guys to the Tour. Of course, there’s five or six standouts that we’ll be leaning on, the core guys. Like Wiggins, Zabriskie, myself, go on from there.
schmalz And you’ve got to keep Zabriskie from falling on his ass again.
VDV Yeah, you know what, as long as he goes fucking fast in the TTT, I’ll still take him
schmalz Yeah, exactly. Is there a TTT in the Tour this year?
VDV Yes, sir.
schmalz It’s early, though, isn’t it?
VDV Yeah, it’s in the first week, it’s just north of Girona.
schmalz And I forget whether they’re doing the squirrelly time thing again, or if they’re doing basic time.
VDV Straight up, it’s straight up.
schmalz Well, you guys have to be kinda excited about that, then.
VDV We’re very excited. I mean, we did really great last year in all the TTT’s that we did, and we hope to continue that streak.
schmalz What do you think the secret to your TTT’s is? Is it that you’ve practiced it?
VDV Good riders, good technique, preparation. You know, it’s a lot of work. There’s no shortcuts when it comes to TTT’s. Unfortunately you can’t just get out there, jump on your bikes, and hope to ride as a team. It’s discipline, work, no matter how many good riders you have. So you gotta just work at it, and really put some thought into it, hopefully you’ll do well.
schmalz I think that the teams that have a lot of TTT experience, it really shows. The teams that don’t just looks like a disaster.
VDV Oh yeah, it’s easy to see the ones who don’t care, just go through the motions, to the ones who put some serious work into it. The Postal Service of old…Francaise des Jeux, they don’t even care, they just want to make the time cut. Postal Service was absolutely just caning it. There’s drastic differences between teams out there in the Tour.
schmalz It would be always one year you’d see some poor sprinter hanging on at the back of a TTT and doing the last 20k on his own, straggling in by himself. It was pretty brutal to watch. We wish you best of luck in the coming year, hopefully you can make it through the training there in Chicago. I don’t know how you do it.
VDV That’s why I’ll be in Silver City now for a while.
schmalz So you get to go to the warmer climates…
VDV Yeah, I’ll get my base, I’ll get to work on what I can, hopefully my wife will have a safe pregnancy when I get back, get back out to the Tour of California.
schmalz Yeah, you get to work on your tan lines, you get to get your farmer tan going.
VDV If that happens, I’ll be ecstatic. But first things first, take the tights off, the thermal jerseys, the balaclava, then I’ll be happy.
schmalz So you don’t have to take twenty minutes to dress up before you go out for a ride.
VDV Yeah I know, Jesus. My bottles were ice yesterday in less than an hour, that just tells you, ok?
schmalz Ah, the secret to the bottles is to buy insulated bottles.
VDV I do that, my father had his, I do have insulated bottles.
schmalz And you had a couple of blocks of ice later. It only makes it freeze slower, they still freeze.
VDV But the end all, this is the trade secret, is to put half shot of Grand Marnier, depending on how you feel that day, and it will not freeze.
schmalz So that’s one I can get behind! I have no qualms on that one.
VDV Grand Marnier, Scotch, stuff like that, Grand Marnier has a little more sugar, you know?
schmalz I gotcha now, I see how you’re working. You’ve just been a little tipsy on all these rides.
VDV I don’t know where the hell I’m going, man! I’m lost out there. That’s the whole secret! You get a little drunk you finally find your way back home, it’s four hours elapsed time.
schmalz It’s over quickly, the trick is to find your way back.
VDV That’s why I don’t have a Garmin on my handlebars, you know.
schmalz Yeah, just say you neglected to bring the Garmin and keep the sponsor happy. I know what you’re saying, you can’t say it, but I know what you’re saying. Well, best of luck, Christian, and thanks for talking to us again.
VDV Alright, thanks, buddy.