Brian Vandborg Interview: New direction with Team SpiderTech
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Brian Vandborg Interview: New direction with Team SpiderTech

by Ed Hood at 11:57 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews
Dane to miss Tour this year, twelve months after riding for Contador in the race

Brian VandborgIt’s late June and ‘all roads lead to Liege’ and le Tour – but only if you’re a World Tour team.

A man who has spent the last three years on the ‘big loop’ around France is 30 year-old Dane, Brian Vandborg.

Last year he was a key member of Saxo Bank and Alberto Contador’s unsuccessful bid to carry off the Giro/Tour double. For the two years previous he was part of the Liquigas team’s assault on the world’s biggest bike race.

However, this year ‘July is out’ for the man from Herning and his SpiderTech - C10 Pro Continental team.

VeloNation spoke to him on the eve of the Danish time trial championships where he finished a solid fifth, behind Jakob Fuglsang but ahead of names like Garmin’s Alex Rasmussen.

It was against the watch where Vandborg first came to prominence, winning the Danish U23 time trial championship in 2002 and successfully defending the title the following year.

He turned pro with Bjarne Riis’s CSC squad in 2004 and experienced his first Grand Tour with the Vuelta.

In 2005, still with CSC, he won a stage in the Tour of Georgia, was second in the Danish elite TT champs and sampled the Giro for the first time.

In his final season with CSC he won the Danish elite TT champs, was second in the Chrono Herbiers and fourth in the world TT champs.

Discovery was home for 2007 with a stage win in the Tour de l’Ain and a silver medal in the Danish elite TT champs as the highlights.

With the demise of Discovery at the end of 2007, Vandborg joined Danish Continental squad GLS for 2008.

He took second on GC in the Circuit des Ardennes, a stage in the Loir-et-Cher and was part of the winning team in the Danish TTT champs.

He was back at the very highest level for 2009 with Italian ‘super squadra’ Liquigas –riding the Tour de France twice for the men in green and blue.

Last year he was back with Bjarne Riis for his third consecutive Tour de France participation – but purse string tightening at Saxo meant that Vandborg was let go at the end of the season. A period of uncertainty followed before a lifeline came from ambitious Canadian set up, SpiderTech.

This year, he was a solid 22nd in the Tour of California, seventh in the mountains classification of the Tour de Suisse and also took that aforementioned fifth place in the Danish TT championships.

VeloNation: Is home still in Tuscany, Brian?

Brian Vandborg: Yes but I decided to come straight to Denmark for the Nationals after the Tour de Suisse to save on travelling.

VN: You had a big programme with Saxo, last year – Down Under to Lombardia.

BV: It’s not the first time I’ve ridden a programme like that – and there have been years when I’ve had more race days.

I was sick before the Tour Down Under and then pushed a little too hard in training after that and was sick again.

It wasn’t until I took a break from training for 10 days that I got back to health – Pais Vasco was really the start of my programme proper.

VN: It must have been a disappointment when Saxo let you go?

BV: I was very disappointed and had a hard time understanding their decision. I was good in the Pais Vasco, the Ardennes and California.

My ride in the Dauphine got me a place in the Tour team – on a team like Saxo it’s not easy to be one of the nine who go to the Tour.

But the Tour didn’t go the way I wanted, for me, or for the team. Personally, I think I worked too hard at the Dauphine to make the team - and Alberto wasn’t quite where he wanted to be.

Perhaps it was because of how the Tour went that I didn’t get renewed – I never got a clear answer and it was late when I had to start looking for another team.

With HTC folding that didn’t make it easy to get a ride – but that’s all water under the bridge.

Brian VandborgVN: It must have taken a lot of mental strength to keep training through all of the uncertainty?

BV: It did – but it was ‘lesson learned,’ I’ll never wait that long again when it comes to organising my contract for the following season.

It feels like a victory to have come through all of that and be back racing. Riding the bike was good therapy whilst I was trying to sort things out – it would have been easy to stay home and watch TV but it was much better to be out riding.

I have a lot of good friends in Italy to train with – that made it easier.

VN: There was a story that you’d signed for Christina Watches?

BV: In Denmark, some websites try to be the first with the news – but not all of it is true! The rumours stated in October but I hadn’t even spoken to anyone from the team.

By November the journalists were driving me crazy – and in December I did actually speak a little too Christina.
But I didn’t want to back down to Continental level and wasn’t convinced that it was the right move.

VN: There was no time wasted when you signed with SpiderTech, was there? Contract signed March 15, first race March 21?

BV: No, it all went extremely fast, all of a sudden.

Whilst the final negotiations were going on I was at home with flu, I’d actually fainted and bumped my head as a result of being ill and meanwhile was trying to finalise a contract.

Originally we were planning for me start in the Lombardia stage race, but we settled on Dwars door Vlaanderen – just about the craziest race you can imagine!

I hadn’t felt as pleased and excited since I was a neo-pro – it was a lot of fun to come back in a race like that.

VN: How did you get the ride with SpiderTech?

BV: I’m good friends with Lucas Euser who’s on the team – we used to train together in California. We always wanted to ride in the same team; I tried to get him a ride with Liquigas, that didn’t happen – but he helped me get on to SpiderTech.

VN: What’s your role with the team?

BV: We don’t really have a clear captain; it depends on the type of race. In Suisse, for example, we’d no guy for the GC so we had to get in the breaks and show the jersey – that’s what you have to do if you want to grow the team and eventually get to World Tour.

We have some fast guys for the sprint – Guillaume Boivin has been up there a few times. In California I tried for the GC but my time trial let me down…but my performance overall showed that I have good condition.

VN: Is there a big difference between ProTour and Pro Continental?

BV: There is a difference, yes. There are less staff and you have to improvise more.

But the sponsors are really passionate about what we’re doing – they were there at Suisse and we were discussing little changes that we could make. There’s a good relaxed atmosphere on the team, especially around the dinner table; but at the same time we all went to do well and race hard.

I’m 30 and for the last few years I’ve been used to people looking over my shoulder and maybe suspecting that you’re not giving of your best – it’s not like that on this team.

There’s nothing wrong with having one beer at a training camp – what counts is how passionate you are about what you’re doing.

VN: The team programme has been solid – De Panne, California, Luxembourg, Suisse . . .

BV: That’s all down to Mr. Steve Bauer; he knows an awful lot of people – and he’s a very good salesman!

But the team is building a good reputation; we race hard and go with the breaks.

Brian VandborgVN: How are the Canadian riders finding the European scene?

BV: They’re definitely adapting; racing on the small European roads takes a bit of getting used to - but they’re learning fast.

A couple of them know that they have to watch their diet a little more.

It’s very noticeable when you go to a race like Suisse where everyone is just so lean.

VN: Your ninth season as a full professional – what’s changed in that time?

BV: I was lucky at the start of my career to be with Bjarne Riis and CSC; that was a great experience.

People talk about Sky’s ‘marginal gains’ and teams like HTC’s attention to detail – but Bjarne was the innovator and to be part of that was special.

Training has developed so much, too – it used to be ‘old school’ but the mentality has changed; now it’s not just about going out and killing yourself for five hours at a time.

The UCI points system is something that needs to be looked at, though. If you’re a rider like me who’s worked in the service of team captains all year, there’s no opportunity to win points. But at the end of the year, the team says to you; ‘we can’t keep you because you don’t have points.’

You do a job and then get screwed over – I don’t see the advantages for most riders.

And one of the ideas behind the ProTour was that the teams would see a share of the TV revenues – but that doesn’t appear to have happened . . .

VN: What’s your race programme, now?

BV: That’s one of the down sides of not being World Tour – July is out for us and we don’t have the programme firmed up, yet.

We should be riding one day races in Italy in August, and then there’s Utah and Colorado, hopefully.

The Canadian World Tour races are important to us, of course – and it would be good if we could get into the Franco-Belge and maybe the late season Italian races.

VN: What’s still on the Brian Vandborg ‘to do’ list?

BV: I’d like to win the Danish road race championships before I hang up my bike. I’ve ridden the Giro, Tour and Vuelta, so I’ve ridden all the races I’d like to ride.

My time trialling has gone downhill over the last few years – I feel I’ve developed as a road rider but my time trialling is out of touch.

I’m going to talk to people about that aspect of my riding and see if I can get back to the level I used to be at against the watch.

And one day I’d love to be on the SpiderTech team which rides the Vuelta.


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