Frankie Andreu – Still passionate about cycling after all these years
If you are reading my site chances are you already know who Frankie Andreu is. A quick primer: he was the backbone of the U.S. Postal team with rides in the Tour de France as well as the Classics. You have also seen him on television doing pre and post stage interviews during the Tour and in the recent past he had done stints at Toyota-United and Rock Racing as a team director. This year Andreu is once again behind the windshield this time for the Kenda presented by Gear Grinder squad. When I saw the press release linking him to Kenda I mentioned the obvious; his experience to any team would be invaluable. What I didn’t know about Frankie was his no-nonsense approach to directing a team. I’ve spoken to Frankie before and to me he always seemed an easy going guy. However, he expects results from the team and is expecting them to race hard and aggressively. If they don’t, well…
Browne: You have been a team director before what has made you want to return?
Frankie Andreu: Mainly I missed it. I enjoyed working with a team and it’s something I loved doing. I have been speaking with Chad Thompson for the past couple of years and in 2009 the talks became a little more serious. For me it’s a way of getting back into the peloton.
Browne: Are you going to be behind the windshield at all the races? This is a full-time gig?
Andreu: This is a full-time director at Kenda. Doing tactics, strategy and logistics as well as helping the riders achieve their goals. I want to grow this team into a powerhouse team in the next couple of years.
Browne: The team this year has a modest budget. What do you see as some of more immediate goals of the Kenda team?
Andreu: Our first immediate goal is the Tour of Taiwan. That’s definitely a major goal of ours. It’s difficult because it is really early in the season and it is our first race, so you are not sure on how the riders are doing. You have to rely on them training at home. After that we have a good criterium team in which we can be very competitive at NRC events like Speed Week and the USA Crits Series. We have also brought on a nice balance of climbers, some overall workers and time trialists. In some smaller stage races, five to six day races, we can be competitive. I expect the team to win and I won’t expect anything less than that.
Browne: Of the riders on your team roster who do you think we should keep an eye on?
Andreu: Phil Gaimon is a good climber and came from Jelly Belly. Stefano Barberi I brought back to the team. I worked with him from the Toyota-United days. I think this guy is a very talented climber but has always been in the position of being a worker. I would like to see him come out from that role and start achieving some of his own objectives. Chad Hartley has had injuries in the past and I think he has recovered from that and is training well. I think he is going to be coming back to the top of his game. Then we have some sprinters like Chad Burdzilauskas and a super strong rider in Jake Rytlewski. This guy is an animal! I think the best thing about the team is how aggressive they are. The guys are not ones to just follow. They like to attack and race aggressively. If we can continue doing that, that will pay off big dividends with these guys. And that’s the way I like to see bike races. You do better when you are aggressive, rather than being on the defensive.
Browne: Is that the Frankie Andreau influence: the aggressive nature?
Andreu: These guys already have that aggressive nature so I am just trying to instill that in them. I’m going to tell them when we are at a big race just because some of the bigger teams are there, doesn’t mean we change the way we race. When you are aggressive, that is how you get into the breaks and win races. I’m going to continue giving them that confidence to attack whenever they want to.
Browne: The economic climate for cycling is tough right now. Some ProTour teams are losing their title sponsorship at the end of the year, while other teams are having to cut back. Races are also disappearing off the calendar. What do you see the future, domestically, for cycling?
Andreu: That’s a good question, because there seems to be more races disappearing than appearing. Without the bike racing there isn’t a need for teams. Hopefully the economy will start to turn around and a lot of companies have put the brakes on their marketing objectives. Hopefully they will start to see the value of cycling, which will bring more events. It’s a fight because everyone is fighting for the same dollars. Cycling is widespread, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Browne: You have been in the sport and have seen the ups and downs in cycling. Why do you keep coming back to it? Are you crazy?
Andreu: It’s my passion. Someone asked me the other day what was my long-term goal. My passion is cycling, and I love doing the commentating and announcing. I love being part of the team and directing. I love working in cycling. I work hard at trying to stay involved in the sport and I think I do a good job. My experience is wanted in different areas and I would love to stay in the sport as long as I can till I’m forced out or have no choice.
Browne: You mentioned commentating, are we going to see you on Versus?
Andreu: I’m pretty sure the Tour de France again. That’s the only thing I do. Versus has cut back a lot with their programming. And again I’m lucky I’m able to go to the Tour de France. I love my job over there running around and it’s fun. The play-by-play is something I really enjoyed doing, but I won’t get into that for a long time.
Browne: What are some of the team’s long-term plans?
Andreu: We are doing a couple of international races and I think long term. We like to be able to grow the budget and grow that depth of the roster. We have a great roster right now and it is up to the riders if they want to remain on the roster. They need to train and race hard. If they race hard, they will stay on the roster. If they don’t come up to that challenge there are lots of riders out there that don’t have contracts or other riders that are looking for teams. I think that riders that are on any team should realize they are benefiting from finding a team and are lucky. They need to make the most of that opportunity. Eventually I would like to have a powerhouse team for the US but also expand into doing some international races.
Browne: You mentioned that riders are lucky to be on a team. It brings to mind Burke Swindlehurst who is racing solo. That’s a unique situation.
Andreu: I saw that and it is very unique. But as you well know, in criterium and road racing the team is really essential. With Burke, he is such a great climber so he can go to climbing races and make his own way. But it will be tough. I definitely don’t want to see the sport going with individual riders scrounging for individual sponsors like mountain biking does. The beauty of the sport is its team aspect. What I think Burke is doing is smart because it keeps him in the peloton and keeps him racing. Burke’s a great climber and if he gets good results someone else will pick him up and that will be his way of getting back in.
Browne: Team owner Chad Thompson seems to be working like a dog to get the team going. What do you think motivates Chad to pound the pavement, work the media and work any angle he can?
Andreu: I think a bit his pride. He has put a lot of time and money into building this team and he wants to see it succeed. Also, the passion. He loves cycling. He used to be a rider and loves riding. I tell you he is one motivated individual and I have enjoyed working with him. Like you said, he is always out there pounding the pavement, always positive and reaching out to everybody. He works his tail off to find that sponsors to make this thing work. I have to give him credit. He is 100% committed to the team and to see that passion is similar to the passion I have for cycling, which is great. He’s a good boss.