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Vande Velde on his 2009 Tour de France: My mental effort tenfold harder

July 30, 2009 |  2:06 pm


Christian Vande Velde didn't say whether he called because he had read the last item of my Tuesday blog, referring to my missing the conversations we had during the Tour de France.

If not, he certainly had read my mind.

When we spoke late Wednesday, three days after he finished eighth in the Tour, Vande Velde was about to be on the move again. He will leave his European training base in northeastern Spain on Friday and travel west to the Basque country for Saturday's 141-mile Classic of San Sebastian, one of the premier one-day summer races in Europe.

The field is scheduled to include the one-two finishers from this year's Tour de France, Alberto Contador of Spain and Andy Schleck of Luxembourg.

Vande Velde missed San Sebastian last year because he was on his way to Beijing for the Olympics but finished 15th in 2007.

Before we spoke about his plans for the rest of this season, I asked him a couple summary questions about the Tour de France.

Q: You have ridden seven Tours and finished six*.  How did the 2009 race compare in difficulty?

A:  It was as stressful as any of the ones I have done. You had the pressure of the prologue in Monaco and the team time trial four days later, but then everything stacked up in the final week -- the Alps, the final time trial and Mont Ventoux.  I would like to see them spread out the difficulty and the stress a little more.

Q: How did your effort compare with that of previous Tours?

A:  My mental effort was tenfold harder because I didn't come in with ideal preparation (he missed several weeks of hard training after fracturing ribs and vertebrae in a May 11 crash at the Tour of Italy).  Knowing that, it adds to your stress. Then I crashed three times.

Q: A guy I ride with wanted me to ask you what's up with all the crashes?

A: I'd like to know that, too. I might have been able to avoid one of them, but I had no chance on the others.

Q:  What is your schedule after San Sebastian?

A:  I can't wait to get escape to Wisconsin for a little bit of vacation. [He was in vacation mode Thursday, according to his latest tweet, in which he described celebrating a ride to the beach with lobster paella and beer.]

Q: Races?

A: I have to decide whether I will do the Tour of Spain [Aug. 29-Sept. 20] or the Tour of Missouri [Sept. 7-13, in which he is defending champion]. If I do the Tour of Spain, I will come home for a week or so and then go back. If not, I will do the Eneco Tour of Benelux [Aug. 15-25] and then come home for good before Missouri.

Q: Would you like to do Spain to show what might have happened in France with better preparation?

A:  I would like to be on the podium or get a stage victory in a Grand Tour [the three-week races: Italy, France, Spain] this season, but I'm very pleased with what happened in the Tour de France given the circumstances.

Q: What is your status with the Garmin-Slipstream team?

A: I have one more year on my contract, and I'm really excited about next year.

Q: What will be different about your race schedule?

A: The big difference is having the Tour of California move (from mid-February) to May, which is the same time as the Tour of Italy. I plan to race California, then spend the time before the Tour de France just training. Before that, I will do some of the spring classics and Paris-Nice.

-- Philip Hersh

*Vande Velde's Tours: 85th (1999), withdrew after breaking arm in crash (2001), 56th (2004), 24th (2006), 25th (2007), fourth (2008) and eighth (2009).

Photo: Christian Vande Velde bit off something he couldn't chew in the 11th stage of Tour de France, but he had an eighth place on his plate when the race ended. Credit: Joel Saget / Getty Images