To follow Frankie Andreu's career is to follow almost every significant American cycling development in the post-Lemond era. He raced the Giro with legendary 7-Eleven team - and did that race a total of three times, he joined the fledgling Motorola team and became teammates with Lance Armstrong. He raced at the Olympics in 1988 on the track and in 1996 on the road. He raced numerous classics, and eventually fell into the role of trusted domestique for Lance Armstrong at US Postal.
After retiring in 2000, he began careers as both a cycling broadcaster (covering the Tour de France and other races for OLN and VS), and as a team director. He and his wife Betsy gained notoriety after they were both deposed in the SCA promotions lawsuit against Lance Armstrong. Frankie lost his job with Toyota United soon after. In September 2006, Frankie admitted that he used EPO for a few races in his career, including the 1999 Tour de France, won by his teammate Lance Armstrong. We got Frankie on the phone and chatted him up.
schmalz You were an Olympian twice, right?
Andreu Yeah, ’88 in Seoul, Korea, and ’96 in Atlanta.
schmalz How is it different, because ’88 was amateurs, and ’96 you went back after being a pro, is that correct?
Andreu That’s correct. I couldn’t do ’92 because I had turned professional. But the biggest difference for me was that in ’88 I did it on the track in the points race, and in ’96 I did it on the road.
Andreu In ’88 I was young, I was riding well, but I was in over my head. There were a lot better points racers out there. So, for me, making the Olympic team, was pretty much all I wanted, and going to the Olympics was icing on the cake. I was able to be there, and I tried my best, I got 8th and that was great. ’96 was a little bit different, because we had Lance, there was more pressure, it was in the US, so we were representing our country, so, there was a lot more to deal with in making the team, as well as doing the Olympics.
schmalz You were 4th in the road race?
schmalz How did that play out? ‘Cause you were working for Lance in the road race?
Andreu Yeah, 100%. Working for Lance, and people had written about it, we didn't know he had cancer at the time... So we were sitting there, working for him, we made a break of, like twenty, it was me and him in there, and then guys were attacking, we were covering moves, and then three guys went, which was, Richard, Pascal Richard, Max Sciandri, and Rolf Sorensen. They got a bit of a gap, like twenty seconds, and they were holding it. It was only, like, a couple of laps to go, so I turned to Lance and said, “Hey, you want me to bridge you up there? You gotta get up there.” And that’s when he finally told me, “I don’t feel good.” I was like, ok, so I can go? He’s like, yeah. So I just waited for a good opportunity to try to bridge the gap, and I got semi-close, but there were three guys, three medals, they saw me coming and they put down the hammer so I just stayed out there solo no man’s lap for, like, two laps. That was hard, oh my God.
schmalz Fourth at the Olympics must just suck...
schmalz Being one out of the medals must just be kind of... bad.
Andreu That WAS bad. But at the same time that was a very good result for me, and if you compare that to, say, a World Cup race, granted this was the Olympics, but if I got fourth at a World Cup race... I was actually very please I ended up getting fourth. Because I could’ve ended up getting nothing, and that would’ve obviously been worse. So, I just looked at the positive side of it. Sure, I would’ve loved to have medaled, but that was huge...but that’s bike racing, you know, you lose all the time.
schmalz True. And what was the Olympic village like? Did they have a great duty free shop? What was it like staying there? Did you stay there?
Andreu I stayed there after my event. Before that, everyone stayed at Stone Mountain, which was 40 minutes outside Atlanta, and we trained out there, we came in, we did the race, and then afterwards I was done, I had free time and I wanted to experience the Olympics, so I stayed in the village. And that was great. In ’88 I stayed in the village the whole time. The best part for me, was that on TV you see all those superstars, you see all these people competing. And in the Olympic village you’re eating you see these guys walking down the street, you’re eating right next to them, so you’re eating right next to these famous athletes that normally you’d never get up close to see. That was, for me, the best part of the whole thing.
schmalz Well, Seoul was probably a different culture to go through, and I’m sure you had a tough time adjusting to the culture of Atlanta. I’m sure it was a big culture shock down there...
Andreu It was good, it was all good. It was a very good experience, and we had a lot of fun, the Olympic village and all that stuff. For anybody, obviously, if you have the chance to make the Olympics you should do everything you can to go there. There’s nothing like it.
schmalz I’m always curious about the smaller countries that send cyclist to the Olympics. The countries that have one racer in the road race. Are those guys in over their heads?
Andreu Oh, COMPLETELY in over their heads, and everybody in the race does everything they can to stay away from them. And in ’96, it was kinda weird, it was a pretty big mixture of amateurs from these isolated countries, and the professionals. So, the first part of the race was pretty hectic, there was a good amount of crashes and trying to avoid that stuff. Nowadays, mostly the field are professionals, there are some still, kinda one-off’s from isolated countries, there in over their heads. They have no chance, they don’t have the fitness to be able to do 250k in a race, they’d be lucky to finish that even if it wasn’t a race, if it was just a ride.
schmalz So you see the guys with the ‘Belarus’ on the back of their jersey you might want to just speed up and try to get away?
Andreu Yeah, just stay away from them. At the same time, these guys attack, and you saw that this year, in the Olympic road race, you saw some guys attack very early on, they got a 14 minute lead. Not one guy even flinched. They didn’t worry, they knew the distance itself would take care of the problem up there.
schmalz What do you think of the current way of selecting the Olympians in the road race? I think they go on what they’ve done during the year, and there’s some automatic selections. Do you think they should do it that way or should they put it out there and whoever wants it the most and whoever is willing to center their year around the Olympics?
Frankie and George Hincapie at the 1996 Olympics
Andreu I think a combination of both. I think automatic selection by what you’ve done in UCI races and the Tour, to grant automatic selections. At the same time, I think they should have an Olympic trials race. I think they should give an opportunity to guys who race in America who maybe don’t get those opportunities racing in Europe, to have a selection race. An Olympic selection race would be a draw for the American public and a big draw for American cycling, and give everybody a chance to be able to get another automatic spot by winning, and you can have a coach’s choice because you always have to have a coach’s choice because you never know what can happen.
schmalz Because I think some of the guys after the Tour are just tired...
Andreu Yeah, I think, if you look, Rebellin was the only guy up there who didn’t do the Tour, and of course Rebellin is a class of his own. Doing the Tour is necessary in order to have that endurance, the fitness, to be able to do well at the Olympics. So, it’d be very hard to just race in America to try to get ready for an event like that. You need the competition in order to be able to do well.
schmalz What’re you up to these days? What’s your job?
Andreu That’s a good question! Combination of things. Doing some race announcing and broadcasting, doing some bike camps and bike reviews for ProCycling magazine, so kind of a mixture of different things. Looking at some different opportunities for next year.
schmalz I have a very specific question about the Tour coverage. It seemed like Phil and Paul were in some kind of a lit closet near the end of the stages. It looked like they were being held hostage. What kind of booth were they in? Were they in some sort of little tiny truck? What was that?
Andreu It is a little truck, it’s called the tribunal. It’s a double decker...not a bus... but this complex. And they have TV monitors in front of them, and each different nation, their announcers all sit right next to each other with partitions so they have a small space and they watch the monitor and they comment or announce the race. And sometimes it was lit and they have a green screen behind them and they would just impose whatever image they wanted on the green screen behind Phil and Paul when they were on camera and talking to the viewers at home. And the rest of the time they just sit there and they look at the TV monitor and call the race. But they are in a very small area along with everybody else at the finish.
schmalz When you were out on the road doing your segments, how were the crowds? In America you get a lot of ‘Hi Mom’s’ in the background. Were the crowds like that? Were they pretty polite? Or were they just behind barriers and you didn’t even notice them very much?
Andreu Some people said they thought the attendance was down. But, let’s say a million people, let’s say it’s 800,000 people. You don’t notice any difference. It was crowded. And some of these stage starts, literally, the first five kilometers out of the town, it was ten deep. I mean, it’s crazy. There’s tons of people and they’re all screaming and yelling for all their favorite riders and they’re holding up signs... Oh, you definitely notice it. There’s people everywhere, and at the finish it was just as crowded. It was crazy.
schmalz I’ve been to the Tour, the ending has a carnival like feel to it.
Andreu It is, it’s an incredible atmosphere, and it’s hard to describe. You try to describe it to people by putting it into words, but words don’t really give the feeling that you have when you’re over there, and everybody’s screaming and the riders are coming by and chaos afterwards, and everybody going where the team buses are, the riders all over the place... And in the mountains, some people are there two days ahead to get their spot on the mountain, and the mountain is packed. And of course you see the sea of people as they jump back at the last minute. There’s nothing like it, and there’s no other sport in the world you can get that close to the riders and you can spray water on them or hand them a water or hand them a newspaper at the top of the climbs...
The other thing that makes cycling kinda cool is that the day before, you can ride on the exact same course the riders are going to go over, so you test yourself if you want to, against the times that these guys are doing on certain roads.
schmalz I sprayed water at some guys at an NBA game, but it didn’t go so well...
Andreu You probably got booted!
schmalz Everybody likes to watch the Tour coverage on Versus and nitpick and be very...
Andreu Oh, they’re critical!
schmalz They’re critical. What would you do to make it a little better? Not that it’s terrible, but what’s your dream scenario to make the Tour coverage better?
Andreu I guess for me to do the announcing! (laughs)
schmalz Ah, there you go!
Andreu That’s something that I enjoy doing and would love to do. But Phil and Paul, of course, are the voices of cycling and they do a fantastic job, so it’s very hard to break in to. But no matter what position you’re in, except for Phil and Paul, everybody just gets ripped into. I mean, there’s Bob Roll haters and lovers, there’s Frankie Andreu haters and lovers, people ripping into me all the time, and Robbie... Even Craig Hummer, the guy who replace Al Trautwig for this year. You’re never going to please everyone, but as it is I don’t know what else they could change. I think that the coverage is pretty good. One thing they don’t have any control of, would be to have your own motorbike in there so you could focus a little more on some of the American riders and maybe get some coverage of them in the peloton, of what they’re doing at certain times. But you’re limited to what the world feed is, and generally the world feed likes to concentrate on the French influence.
schmalz And if we had our own moto we definitely would’ve seen when Christian VandeVelde fell on the mountain this year.
Andreu Possibly we could’ve seen when he fell, or even for that time when he got dropped on the mountain going up... There was a time where we didn’t know where he was. He was in no man’s land, kinda off the back, and they were focused on the lead group, so we had no idea how far back he was. But, that guy, he did a fantastic ride, he was unbelievable at the Tour, and did a great time trial, and pretty much did everything right. You gotta give credit to his team for keeping him protected the whole time, too, to be able to keep him up there and be fifth place overall, they’ve gotta be extremely please with that.
schmalz Oh yeah, everybody was really excited for Christian. That was a great ride.
Andreu Yeah, I know Hincapie was extremely disappointed in the one stage where he descended into the finish, where he didn’t win. He got dropped at the top of the...I can’t remember all the names of the climbs any more...
schmalz That finish was crazy!
Andreu Yeah, it was a crazy descent. And the guy who made the mistake there was Menchov, ‘cause he lost some time there, he lost some time on another stage, if you take the time that he lost, that guy could’ve been on the podium of the Tour. That descent was...everybody that came off that descent said it was nuts coming off the descent into the finish and that it was hair raising and they were on their limit the whole way.
schmalz And even after the finish line, 100 yards after the finish, there was a 90 degree turn that they had to negotiate.
Andreu It was extremely narrow there. It was probably the weirdest finish that they’ve had in the Tour, being so windy and twisty coming into that area. It was extremely narrow, and then right after, yeah, they had barriers right there, so they had to stop right away. That was a massive scrum, it was crazy trying to interview everyone there.
schmalz I was expecting a sprint but it just never flattened out, it just kept going downhill until they got to the finish.
Andreu It got more and more strung out, but it was great for Cyril Dessel ‘cause he won.
schmalz During the Tour they have the "percentage of work being done at the front" statistic. You have any idea how they figure that out? Do they just guess?
Andreu I think they just kinda guess. Somebody’s obviously paying attention to kinda figure it out. They have the chips on the bikes that can give GPS coordinates and figure out where everybody is, and the timing of the finish. But, as for the percentage of work I don’t know. And it was pretty cool was having the SRM data with the power and the watts and the heartrate, and the Polar stuff. All that stuff adds a lot to the coverage – seeing which riders are suffering or doing well, and it would be cool if they could expand that to more riders. But a lot of the guys, they don’t like to have, even though this thing only weighs 100 grams, 150 grams, it goes on the back of their seatpost. A lot of the riders, whenever they hit the mountains, it was ‘no, no’, they didn’t want it. Even though it doesn’t weigh anything, many guys wouldn’t use it, to have that information broadcast all over.
schmalz Well, there’s no way you could get Rasmussen to put on on there, the guy doesn’t even want stickers on his bike.
Andreu Yeah, there’s always the weight freaks that think ‘every little bit’... Obviously you see guys at the tops of the climbs, they’re tossing water bottles, they’ll shed everything they can to save weight, to give them the biggest advantage to keep in that first group.
schmalz That seems like such a waste of time now, because you have the bike weight limit, why waste time stressing about that?
Andreu Honestly, I think the bike weight limit was a rule that was a good one at the time, and it needed to be in place because all this new wave technology was still unproven, but carbon fiber technology and other technology is improved and now it’s sustainable and it’s reliable. I don’t see why we still need that bike weight rule, and it’s a huge penalty for the little guys. They have a super small bike, that thing’s gonna be light, and they have to put on a heavy water bottle cage or add weights to the bike... These guys can get away with a lot lighter bikes and it’d be just as stiff as any of the other bikes, and sturdy and safe.
schmalz They should just do what they do with helmets, a strength safety test. Run the frames through that, and if they pass they pass.
Andreu Yeah, I agree.
schmalz That would make the most sense. And it’s not the time to be old technology zealots. You just need to let the bike manufacturers make the lightest best bikes they can.
Andreu I agree with you. And everybody’ll benefit. As long as it can stay safe and stay reliable, if they have the test that can prove that, then they can definitely reduce that weight limit to make it more fair for everybody. That’s the UCI. Obviously they’ve had a lot of problems dealing with the ASO and other rules and regulations. This year and last year they’ve been cracking down a lot on time trial positions with the position of the aerobars. The Floyd Landis position, where the aerobars are straight up – if he wants to ride like that I don’t see what the difference is. If the handlebars have to be horizontal – what’s the difference? It doesn’t matter. Granted, you’re not putting a fairing on the bike.
schmalz What they did is they took away a lot of the excitement in the time trial when everybody would unveil these outlandish designs, it added to the fun of it, to see what they would try to come up with technologically, and to see that kind of innovation going on. They just threw that out the window.
Andreu And you still see manufacturers push the envelope. Certain bikes, with the water bottles and water bottle cages, they have these big huge triangular bottles that fit in the cage that fill in the whole lower of the bottom bracket area between the seat tube and the down tube. The new Giant had this huge head tube triangle, almost like a fairing kind of thing... Everybody’s trying new technology. I agree with you, they should let ‘em run with it and see where it goes.
schmalz Sometime I find the time trials uneventful; sometimes you’re just watching a guy panting. I think what they need, they need to bring in some sort of aero guy who can get a telestrater and examine everyone’s position and geek out on that. Show us where they’re gaining, where they’re losing, do an on bike analysis of what the time trial positions are. ‘Cause otherwise you’re just watching a clock ticking and a guy pedaling.
Andreu Yeah, I’ll agree with you again in saying that the more information the better. To have someone explaining that, or to show the watts and the power, the heartrate, all that data, all that information that can be live and transmitted, I think is an added benefit to the viewers at home. At the same time, Versus has to be careful not to get too tech oriented, because there’s a lot of people who don’t really follow cycling or don’t understand all of that, so they have to keep it in simple terms to appeal to the masses.
schmalz True, very true. What age did you starting racing at?
A young Frankie with race winner Gordon Holdeman, the nemesis of his youth
Andreu I started out at ten, I started young. I went through the midgets, the intermediates, juniors, all that stuff. I’ve been racing forever.
schmalz Do they even have the midget class any more?
Andreu No, now they have age groups, 10-12, or 13, 14, 15, 16, they divide it up that way.
schmalz Calling you midgets probably wasn’t too complimentary.
Andreu(Laughs) I never thought about it, I guess, yeah. Some areas called it cadets, every area had a different name for it... It’s good. That’s important, I think, to keep the development of these young riders, to keep them interested and keep it fun, to be able to keep developing the sport. ‘Cause all the old guys, now, you got Levi, you got Hincapie, a little bit VandeVelde, Julich, Horner, you could go on, Freddie Rodriguez, all these guys. All these guys are the same age, so in the next two years a lot of guys in the pro peloton are going to be retiring, and there’s a little bit of a gap, where we don’t have that many riders coming up.
schmalz When you were younger, was it evident right away...did you win right away when you started racing?
Andreu No, not at all. I got dropped in the beginning, especially midgets and intermediates. I got dropped from a lot of the races because the speed was so fast early on. It took me a long time. I didn’t start doing well ‘til I was a junior, 16, 17,18. I did ok. I’d go to Nationals, I’d get fifth, fourth, and stuff like that, but, I wasn’t winning a lot. It took a long time to start doing well. Juniors, I started doing better, I was fortunate enough to join 7-Eleven when that started up, doing mostly the track program. I grew up on the track, did a lot of track racing. A lot of the best riders now out there, have a track background, from Stuart O’Grady, Bradly McGee, Robbie McEwen, etc. I think track helps out a lot. A big transition, when I turned pro in ’89, to get from that track, criterium mentality, to get into this road endurance mentality, that took a couple of years to build up that endurance and power so I could be competitive.
schmalz Were you a big Greg Lemond fan? Were you one of those guys that was inspired by Greg Lemond?
Andreu I was inspired by Greg Lemond for sure. He was amazing, and watching that, obviously, I think everybody remembers that. But when I was younger, growing up, I didn’t even realize there was a Tour de France or even racing in Europe. I just raced bikes ‘cause it was fun. It was a blast racing outside, traveling, doing all that. And as I got older, again, juniors, started realizing there was a whole other world out there, and that was when 7-Eleven was a big powerhouse team, Davis Phinney, Harvey Nitz, Kiefel, all these guys, those guys were the ones I saw and related more to as my heroes.
schmalz You turned pro in ’88?
schmalz First it was 7-Eleven, and it was mostly domestically?
Andreu Yeah, mostly track, domestically. I joined 7-Eleven in ’84 in the track program, turned pro in ’89, and that’s when I first ventured to Europe in the fall that first race was the Tour of Holland. And just kinda went on from there.
schmalz You came up in the era where the doping was more rampant than it is today. Did you notice things right away when you went over to Europe?
Andreu No, no. I didn’t notice things until ’95, ’96. Where things started just started...speeds just started increasing, guys were getting faster and faster, sprinters were making it over climbs where they normally would never make it over. And that continued...geez, I guess until now. It’s definitely getting better, but there was a long time there where things were just out of hand, it was crazy.
schmalz There’s an interesting story that Lemond told, where after he won in ’90, and he was training the Tour the next year, and he was hitting the same numbers that he was doing the year before, so he thought he had a great shot. Then he showed up at the Tour, and guys that he normally trounced were just riding away from him.
Andreu Yeah, you see the extent of the products that the guys were taking, the Festina affair, Operacion Puerto, there was a lot of stuff out there that teams were organized doping and riders were taking it. That stuff made a huge difference ‘cause guys would attack, and they wouldn’t look back, they’d just keep going.
You see the difference this year. These guys, they were afraid to attack. Groups were staying together. Guys would go and then blow up, or guys would get dropped. A lot of changes going on this year, and also with all the internal testing that’s going on, I think that’s making a big difference in the attitude that everyone has, it’s definitely completely different than it was back then.
schmalz And the only guy that was able to jump away and do stuff in the mountains was Ricco, and I guess that didn’t turn out so well for him.
Andreu Yeah, that didn’t turn out so well, but it was exciting watching him.
schmalz Yeah, exciting rider, generates quotes like a bonehead, but what’re you going to do? The one thing about your EPO admission was that it came at a time when you had nothing to gain by it. It was shocking to hear it, it wasn’t something you felt you had to do to control some spin... It seems like something you had to get off your chest.
Andreu Well, part of it was that the sport itself was just going downhill, and it seemed like nobody was learning from the past, paying attention to the past. I was being asked a lot of questions about doping and what was going on in the Tour, Tyler, Floyd and other guys that were coming up positive, I kept talking about it. But it became harder and harder for me to talk about, and to explain knowing my past. So, I decided to come out to get it off my chest to show there was a huge problem in the past and to say we can’t keep continuing to go down this path and to say we need to change to be able to protect these riders ‘cause I don’t want any of these young riders that are coming up to have to go through the experience of that whole time period I did or have to do what I did.
schmalz You took it for a few races in ’99, correct?
schmalz I have questions on the nature of the EPO. You were doing it yourself, correct?
schmalz Did it work?
Andreu Yeah, definitely.
schmalz How long did you have to use it before you felt any effects? Was it like Popeye opening up a can of spinach, or was it kinda slow, or...?
Andreu No, it’d be kinda like you’re taking vitamins and it’s kinda slow, it takes a while for your system to adjust and adapt to it, so you have to take it for a while and then you start feeling the effects of it.
schmalz How did you know how much to take? Weren’t you afraid of taking too much and turning your blood to sludge?
Andreu Back then the UCI just had a rule where you had to stay under 50% haematocrit. So, that was something that, well, it got complicated. They didn’t have a control for it, so you stay under 50, you’re not going to get kicked out of the race. And when I took it, I wasn’t trying to get to 50, I was just trying to stay level and not be dropped every single time I got on the start line because everybody else was taking stuff. So mentally I guess I collapsed and I did what I thought everybody else was doing, obviously that was wrong, and that’s why I came out and talked about it. But it was a difficult decision.
schmalz I think that’s the saddest part of that era, that even the nice guys had to do this stuff, or felt that they needed to do it. It wasn’t just the guys with the black hat stroking their evil moustache that were doing it. It seems like everybody felt the pressure to have to do it.
Andreu Definitely guys felt the pressure. A lot of it was survival. A lot of it was keeping your job or just being able to participate in the race, you know? There’s a lot of guys who get on the start line, realistically I’m starting a mile behind them. I was fine with that, I’d just do my best, do what I could do, but after a while, that gets kinda old and kinda grating, and like I said, I made a wrong decision. I collapsed and joined in those ranks.
schmalz I think after Festina, one of the side effects was that it got scary, and it wasn’t team administered any more, it was just guys doing it themselves, which could be a huge Pandora’s box ‘cause they are injecting something into themselves and there are things that could go terribly wrong.
Andreu Exactly. It was not a smart thing to do, for sure. I admit that. And nowadays, you see riders going out to find their own doctors on the side, whatever country they’re in, and maybe it’s not a team oriented program, but you could see with Operacion Puerto, there was a lot of riders who were going to see this doctor, and other doctors, and getting a program. And for me, what was amazing, with the Festina affair and Operacion Puerto, was when you saw the list of stuff that some of these riders were taking, the stuff that these teams were providing, it was crazy, it was overwhelming. I could not believe the extent that all that stuff was out there.
schmalz The thing’s that’s never talked about is that occasionally it doesn’t work for people. And I think that there’s a lot of casualties of people who try stuff and it didn’t work out for them. And then they’re just left floundering.
Andreu Every individual is different, you don’t know how you’re going to react to it. For some people, a little bit would make them fly, for others, people would probably have to take a lot. There was definitely a dangerous period where riders had very high haematocrit levels and you saw that in some of the deaths that occurred in cycling. That’s the big scare for sure.
schmalz Now your wife Betsy, she’s the one that busted you with the thermos? (Vials of EPO were transported in thermoses to keep them cold.)
schmalz Is it worse that she caught you than the UCI?
Andreu (Laughs) That’s a good one. Both would’ve been bad, for sure. But definitely the wrath of Betsy coming down was very hard, for sure.
schmalz Did you feel paranoid all the time, that you were going to get caught? It was probably pretty stressful.
Andreu No. Not at all. Because, like I said, it wasn’t a matter of going up to a limit where I thought I was going to get caught. It was staying at a level that allowed me to survive and be competitive. So I was never really worried about getting caught. And that’s how it was, I think, for most of the riders back then.
schmalz So you were testing your haematocrit level the entire time, you just knew you were under that.
Andreu Yeah, yeah. I was a good way under that. Everybody would be testing. I’d go to a lab, or they have spinners where I’d borrow somebody’s test and keep on top of that stuff. Even before I took EPO, you’d go to a lab to get your blood tested anyway, just to make sure that you’re feeling ok, your iron’s ok, your haematocrit, just to check up.
schmalz What was your haematocrit before you took EPO? Do you remember?
Andreu Well, it varies. The problem is, when you’re racing, you’re racing a lot, you’re getting tired, and that’s when you’re in a state of overtraining, that’s when it started to drop. So, the object was to keep it at 45, 46, 47, something like that, where it wouldn’t drop. And if you could just keep it there, then you’d feel better. But other times, you’d drop to 40, 38, stage races or whatever, you’d go way down, and the only way to get it back up would be to rest.
schmalz Did you have to do it during the Tour?
schmalz So you’d prepare before the Tour.
schmalz Gotcha. You were deposed in the case with Lance, was it a month after you were fired from Toyota in some sort of bizarre confluence of events there? (A month after the L.A. Times and NPR did their pieces on Frankie, he got fired.)
Andreu Yeah, that’s what happened, pretty much. It was...
schmalz Just a coincidence?
Andreu I came back from the Tour in July and I got a call or an email, I can’t remember what, tellling me I was gone.
schmalz Do you think that was a coincidence?
Andreu Ahhh, you know, who knows? They had their reasons, it could’ve been the negative publicity of everything that was going on at that time, whatever reason they decided, so, whatever happened it happened and it’s done.
schmalz Because that was before your admission that you had used EPO.
Andreu That’s true.
schmalz And then you went to Rock Racing, which is another entire story.
Andreu The Rock Racing thing in ’07 was great. It was great being with the guys, doing all that, I enjoyed it, then in late '07, leading up to ’08, in the wintertime working on setting up the team next year, things just got kinda crazy so I decided they were just going in a different direction I was so I decided to leave.
schmalz And working for Michael Ball is working for Michael Ball.
Andreu He can drive you crazy, working for him.
schmalz He seems a little volatile, not like he gets angry, but thing might change and shift quickly. So...that would be...Michael Ball...
Andreu Yeah, exactly. But, you know what, the image thing and all the stuff that he’s done I think is pretty cool. It’s great marketing. At that time with the attitude that everybody had with the sport, the way he was going into the sport, was a little different than what I had agreed upon. But he’s got a lot of money, he’s got a lot of good riders, and that whole bad boy image is very appealing to a lot of people, and it’s kinda... I saw them at Tour of California with all the trucks and the logos and all that stuff, it’s flashy, it’s very flashy.
schmalz Well, there’s not a lot of money coming into the sport, so it can’t be terrible. Not a lot of people are leaping up to take on sponsorship, so I guess he is in the minority.
Andreu Exactly. And that’s something that with the problems in the sport that has affected the sponsorship... I think that’s what brought about a lot of the change in the attitude of the UCI and the ASO, and teams, and riders. Economically, financially, they were all getting hurt, because sponsors weren’t coming into the sport any more. And we see now with Garmin and Columbia, and there’s sponsors that are starting to venture back in, which is good. I don’t know what’s going on with Credit Agricole. I don’t think they’ve found a new sponsor. Same with the other big one that hasn’t found a new sponsor, Gerolsteiner.
schmalz Right. Now with the current culture, say, for instance, at Slipstream, do you think... This is kind of a tough question to pose to you, but do you wish you were a neo-pro now, instead of the era you were in? Do you wish you could come up in the culture where teams are actually testing their riders and the sport seems a lot cleaner than when you were a pro?
Andreu I think it’s more fair for everybody. I think it’s definitely more fair for many of the riders that are racing now, and give them a better opportunity to show off their skills. Whereas before, I don’t think that opportunity necessarily was there. Unless you were taking stuff. It’s definitely a cleaner culture, which is better for everybody.
schmalz That’s a hard thing to regret, coming into the sport at a time when it was, uh...
Andreu I’m sure there’s other people... I mean, Jan Ullrich against Lance Armstrong or whoever was second every time to Miguel Indurain...a lot of things are out of your control.
schmalz And you were so close to winning that stage on the Champs Elysee in ’94. Dammit, Frank!
Andreu Yeah, that was a good one. Every time that Champs Elysee comes up, they play that replay. After three weeks of racing, your legs react differently than what your mind is thinking, and I went for it and I thought I had a great chance, and I just got passed just before the line there.
schmalz How did that work out? It was Eddie Seigneur?
Andreu Eddie Seigneur, yeah.
schmalz Was he in the group, was it a bunch sprint behind you?
Andreu No, we were in a break almost the entire race, which was a rare thing. We were away, I don’t remember how many guys, let’s just say 7 or 8 of us. And we were all coming in, there were a couple of good sprinters in the group, and I didn’t want to wait for the sprint. And I knew Eddie Seigneur, and I knew there was another guy that was a good time trialist. I figured one of these guys was going to attack at some point, and the cat and mouse behind was going to happen, and that was what I was counting on. So I decided to attack first going into the tunnel. So I attacked first, got a big gap, and I thought some cat and mousing was going to happen behind, but when Eddie Seigneur went, nobody reacted to get on his wheel. Then it just became a drag race, and he ended up passing me just before the finish line there.
schmalz That’s heartbreaking. It was heartbreaking for me to watch, I don’t know how it was for you.
Andreu You should’ve screamed louder at the TV.
schmalz I think I even threw something at it. I tried my best.
Andreu In disgust that I lost!
schmalz Well, it was also like the year George barely lost Roubaix when he was coming into the final with Boonen and I think George went too early and it was just disappointing too, so...
Andreu And Paris Roubaix, that’s a classic unto its own. It doesn’t matter how strong you are, you could be the strongest there and we’ve seen that with George Hincapie, we’ve even seen that with Johan Museeuw, where that one year where he flatted, I swear, like two k from the finish when he was in that lead group. You never know, crashes, flats... Not always the strongest guy wins. Definitely you have to be strong, but that race is a little bit of a lottery. You have to be super fit to do well but there’s so many other obstacles you have to get around in order to get to the finish line first.
schmalz It’s definitely a lottery. And what’s up with the showering together at the end? That’s just one of the strangest traditions in sport.
Andreu Tradition! Tradition! Cycling is built on tradition. You go into this cement, I mean this thing is nasty, you into these cement stalls and cement showers, and it’s just, it’s great for the photographers to get all the naked photos.
schmalz It looks like it should be used for livestock.
Andreu Honestly. That’s about what it’s like.
schmalz Is the water warm at least?
Andreu No, it depends. If you get there early the water can be warm. If you’re way off the back the water’s cold.
schmalz Oh god. So which race of the classics was your favorite?
Andreu Roubaix. Just because it was so different. You could do road races all the time, race on cement, climbs, you do that 90 races. Roubaix, Flanders, with the cobbles, it’s so different, it’s so unique, there’s so much prestige that those races definitely set themselves apart from the others. As crazy as it is, I get very very motivated along with a lot of other guys for Paris Roubaix.
schmalz Did you ever race suspension forks at Roubaix?
Andreu Yeah, I did. Rockshox, definitely. I think for a couple of years and then...I dunno. It became a fad and everybody was using it, and it helped ‘cause your front wheel stayed on the ground. I even used a shock stem one year.
schmalz I’m assuming you guys aren’t getting any Christmas cards from Lance Armstrong these days.
Andreu No, pretty much no contact, which is fine by us. There was no contact before that case, we were both doing our lives, everything was fine. And then, kinda, obviously crossed paths, so...not much contact with anybody from that crew.
schmalz When you did use EPO, I think you claimed you felt, not overt pressure, but pressure in the air, that you needed to do it so you could continue with the team. Is that correct?
Andreu It’s survival. Anybody who wants to keep their job, just because if you can’t finish races you’re not doing well, you’re not going to be kept around. Doesn’t matter what team you’re on. Personally, it was a choice that I made.
schmalz Definitely never an announcement from the team that you have to take this or you’re gone?
schmalz That’s good, there wasn’t anything overt like that? Especially not after the Festina affair.
schmalz So what’s next?
Andreu I enjoy doing the broadcasting, I look forward, hopefully, to doing the Tour again. Each year, I just have a one year thing with them. I’m looking at some different opportunities for next year. And, right now I can’t really say what’s going on, but we’ll see. I enjoy directing and working for teams and I’d love to be able to do that again, but there’s not a lot of teams out there, and those are a few coveted spots, but I’m working to get back into the peloton.
schmalz Hopefully you’ll be able to get back into a directing position? Do your odds seem pretty good?
Andreu We’ll see. I enjoy doing that, so that’s something I would like to be able to do, so we’ll see.
schmalz Well, thanks for your time, Frankie, I appreciate it.