Former Postie Frankie Andreu looks back to 1999, when he helped Lance Armstrong to his first Tour ti
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Frankie Andreu will be best remembered by most cycling fans for his days with Motorola and US Postal. This year, the 38 year old, whose nickname as a rider – maybe a little unfairly – was ‘crankie Frankie’ is working with American TV station OLN. But the former professional is the latest ex-associate of defending Tour champion Lance Armstrong to recall his strongest memories of his time working with the Texan.
“My most special memory of my time with Lance was during the 1999 Tour de France. Everybody said that it was impossible for us to win and that we would buckle in the mountains,” Andreu recalled. “And we believed them! We were really entering into the unknown.
“Me, for example – I was hardly a climber. But Johan Bruyneel asked me to lead to the bottom of the cols and to climb as far as possible to help Lance. I had to work in the mountains and then hang on to finish in the gruppetto.
“The pressure on the team soon increased,” Andreu remembered. “It was hard to cope with. Lance took the yellow jersey at the prologue, then he lost it but took it back again in the time trial in Metz, where he ‘killed’ everybody. But we still hadn’t proved anything in the mountains.
“The deal was simple: either Lance won at Sestrires and reassured us, or he faltered and we’d go back to being a ‘normal team.’ Until then, we weren’t sure of anything – but he won and it was the first real sign that he could win the Tour. It was a great day. I’d worked like a dog for the first part of the stage and then sat up. So I finished 45 minutes down, but what a reward! That night at the hotel, the champagne flowed. It was the key moment of the Tour.
“Every day after that, we rode at the front, like real domestiques. And we held on to Paris – when I remember it like this, it seems incredible. We were so young and inexperienced. And the victory parade on the Champs Elyses remains the greatest day of my career.”