Brent Bookwalter Interview: Backing Evans to the Tour's Yellow Jersey
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Saturday, August 6, 2011

Brent Bookwalter Interview: Backing Evans to the Tour's Yellow Jersey

by Ed Hood at 5:03 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France
American rider talks Tour de France plus his targets for remainder of this season

Brent BookwalterWhilst Sky and Omega Pharma successfully hedged their bets, giving their baroudeurs and sprinters freedom to go for stage wins early in the Tour, there was no room for distractions on board the BMC bus; no sprints, no breaks, no jerseys - 'all for Cadel.' Just like Johan Bruyneel used to call it for Lance.

One of Cadel's right hand men on his adventure from 'nearly man' to maillot jaune was Albuquerque's Brent Bookwalter.

This was Bookwalter's second Tour de France in his fourth season with the BMC Racing Team. Originally a mountain biker, he rode for US domestic teams Advantage Benefits and Priority Health before signing up for the squad with the radical bikes.

Bookwalter's main claim to fame prior to his excellent job of work for Evans was his second place in the prologue of the 2010 Giro behind Bradley Wiggins.

Other strong results against the watch include a win in the 2009 Tour of Utah prologue, second in the Redlands prologue the same year and two fourth places in the US Pro TT championships.

VeloNation caught up with the 27 year-old at home in the US as he prepared for the late season North American races.

VeloNation: How did it feel when you rode onto the Champs Elysees with Cadel in yellow?

Brent Bookwalter: Incredible! It's been a whirlwind ever since, but to be there, in the biggest race in the world with Cadel in yellow, after all the fighting and suffering - incredible!

It came together late, but that's how we planned it.

VN: What was your worst moment of the Tour?

BB: Every day has its challenges, but I was at rock bottom on stage nine; the day before the rest day when Voeckler took the jersey.

I came down pretty hard in the crash that took out Vandenbroeck, Zabriskie and Vinokourov…a lot of guys left the race after it.

It happened at such high speed that I was pretty shaken up - mentally and emotionally, it took a lot out of me.

That night I had my head in my hands, I didn't know how I was going to go on - but fortunately the next day was the rest day . . .

VN: When were you confirmed for the Tour?

BB: It's been in my programme all year, but there are more than nine capable guys on the team; so you're never really sure until you're on the start line - things can always go wrong.

VN: Was your role clearly defined for the race?

BB: Definitely, we had meetings every day and were allocated specific tasks - but the overlying theme was to protect Cadel.

No breaks, no stage wins, 'all for Cadel' at whatever cost to us.

Week one was like a Classic each day; we had guys like Schaer, Hincapie and Quinziatto on call for pressure situations in the last ten kilometres…part of my role was to protect those guys 'til the end.

And on the Mur de Bretagne stage we rode tempo with Lotto.

VN: In the TTT, BMC did an excellent ride…who were the strong men?

BB: We knew that would be an important stage; it's the first chance for the GC guys to flex their muscles.

We were nervous and excited about it and grateful when it was done and it had gone well. I was on Cadel's wheel - there's a lot of pressure, one touch and you're all down!

Cadel was extra strong but George Hincapie - whilst not a world class individual time trial rider - has such strong skill sets as a pro that he's a great TTT rider.

Brent BookwalterVN: Many riders say that the lack of a prologue isn't a good thing - a TT establishes status quo and calms things down.

BB: Most definitely, the prologue establishes pecking order and it's a pretty decent way to burn off pre-race jitters. It's only a few kilometres but it's a full day production and is definitely good for establishing race order.

VN: Week one was pretty crazy…

BB: Mayhem!

There are a lot of small roads in that part of France, it's very windy and someone told me that it rains 300 days each year; then you have 200 guys with everything to lose - it's a recipe for madness.

From day one there were crashes; we were fortunate that we were on the good end of that - but we spent a lot of energy on maintaining position on those stages.

VN: Continuing on the subject of 'crazy,' have some of the fans taken it too far in the mountains?

BB: That was only my second Tour so I don't have a barometer as to what's 'normal' - it's all new to me and I guess I just accept it as it is.

VN: What was Galibier day like?

BB: My power files show that in terms of numbers, it's the most demanding day I've ever spent on a bike.

It was horrendous, I emptied myself - so did a lot of guys. And there was a head wind up the Galibier, so it didn't matter if you were in a group or on your own, it was very tough.

VN: And what about l'Alpe d'Huez?

BB: That day was madness, we knew it would be crazy because it was short and intense. If you take away the descent at the start, Contador attacked from virtually kilometre zero.

When he went there was a big explosion, a lot of guys were still hurting from the Galibier and from three hard weeks.

The time cut was short with it being such a short stage - it was the last hurdle before Paris and there was a sense of desperation in the autobus. We knew we had to stick together but we were still nervous about the cut.

If you were to miss the cut but still had something left in the tank then it would be hard to live with yourself.

VN: The Alpine autobuses were huge this year…

BB: For sure, it's indicative of how hard the first two weeks were - folks say that riders are in there to save their legs; but I can tell you that the majority are not in there by choice.

The stages got progressively harder as the race went on - there's a rule that says that if more than 25% of the field is outside the cut then they'd be reinstated.

Guys like Cancellara, Hushovd and Petacchi are well aware of the head count - it's in everyone’s interest to stick together.

VN: Did you do a course 'try out' for Cadel at Grenoble?

BB: No, the traffic coming from l'Alpe d'Huez to Grenoble was crazy - I had no time to do that.

Cadel was the only guy from our team who was riding full gas - and remember that he'd already ridden that course in the Dauphine.

He had all of his own and Tony Martin's split times from that day - and he's an expert time trial rider.

VN: Cadel seemed more at ease with himself this year?

BB: I've ridden two Tours with him and yes, this year especially he was relaxed and in a good mood. I think that was a product of things going well. We weren't thinking about the third week, just planning one day at a time - and it all came together.

VN: The Giro and Tour…can you be 'super' in both in the same year?

BB: I don't know if I have enough experience to comment but I rode them both last year - and whilst I'm a different, more experienced rider this year, I can tell you that I was a stronger, more productive rider in the Tour for not having ridden the Giro.

And if you look at Cadel this year, his performance is a pretty strong argument for not riding the Giro.

VN: How do you recover from the Tour?

Brent BookwalterBB: You need physical but also mental and emotional rest - there's all the 'hoop-lah,' it's such a circus and you have to decompress.

I need to be around people I'm comfortable with for a while after the Tour.

VN: Are you still living in Girona?

BB: Yes, but I'm not Spanish - it's that little bit harder to get things done, you have to resettle, reshuffle every time you go back.

I'll be here in Georgia for a week then we have Utah, Colorado and the Canadian races. It's exciting to have these 'up and coming' UCI races in North America.

VN: You obviously have a lot of chrono potential…is that something you'll seek to develop?

BB: Without a doubt, I'm still working on it, there's still room to improve; I've not really 'hunkered down' to it yet - but I intend to.

I want to spend more time on the TT bike and work on my position - I don't have a track or TT background, I came from mountain biking, so I still have a ways to go.

VN: And have you been out in Cadel's '66 Mustang?

BB: No, but I stayed with him for a few days in Switzerland and he had me out in the Lotus - he likes his cars!

Cadel's the kinda guy who if he put his mind to it could be a pro race driver - if it's got wheels, he's good with it!


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