Interview: Frankie Andreu, super-domestique & bike tester
Dearborn, Michigan native Frankie Andreu was one of America’s finest domestiques, racing for Team 7-Eleven, Motorola, then the US Postal Team, where he helped the team win two Tours de France. Andreu completed nine Tours during his 12-year career, racing alongside fellow Americans Greg LeMond, Andy Hampsten, Ron Kiefel, Bob Roll, Bobby Julich, and Jonathan Vaughters, among others. The 40-year-old now splits his time between directing the new Rock & Republic Racing Team, providing Tour tech commentary for Versus, and recently, becoming a test editor for our friends at Procycling magazine.
BikeRadar: You’ve seen most of the world from your saddle. Who introduced you to cycling?
FA: My father used to ride, just for fun. I was about 10 years old and I started doing rides with him in the neighborhood. Then the club my dad belonged to was going to start a bike racing team and my father asked me if I would like to try racing. I jumped in and then soon enough my sisters were also racing and we traveled all over the place going to bike races and winning prizes. The problem was that back then my sisters were very, very good and I was just okay. Guess who took home the most prizes?
BR: What’s it like being a pro road racer?
It’s a tough sport. There are two sides to it. On one hand you have to realize you are very lucky to be able to make money from racing your bike and doing something that you love. On the other hand the work involved in training, the suffering in racing, the miserable weather conditions, the constant travel, and other aspects can make it tough. I loved racing and when I was racing I just tried to do my best, I knew it was my job but I never thought of it that way.
BR: When were you at your peak fitness? Which team, which bike, which year?
That’s a tough question. There have been numerous times where I’ve been super strong. Sometimes those strong days come as surprises during a race when I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything. Sometimes during the Tour de France after a horrendous stage the day before I would be crazy strong the next day. I could control peaking for certain races but at times I would get surprised how the body would feel.
“I learned a lot from guys like Steve Bauer, Sean Yates, Phil Anderson, and Andy Hampsten.”
BR: What was it like working with Ben Serotta and Eddy Merckx in the early days of your career?
I was so young and just a beginner pro. I never worked or saw them at all during the 7-Eleven days. The older riders and (team director) Jim Ochowicz would have to deal with them, but I just rode what they put in front of me. Later on I could appreciate more who Ben Serotta was, and I also got to know Eddy pretty well because of his son Axel.
BR: If you could only have one bike, which would it be? Include any of your former race bikes.
If I include my former race bikes that would only limit it to about three. Two of the three would be steel bikes which we know would not fly in this day and age. Like all technology I only wonder what it would have been like to have today’s bikes back then. Think of Eddy Merckx on an all-carbon 15-pound bike; he would have been unstoppable! Nowadays there are many good bikes all made by pretty much the same people overseas with different labels. The best bike is like the best sports car – it’s personal.
BR: Who were your closest friends in the pro peloton?
I had some close friends when I was racing but a lot changed once I got out of racing. I learned a lot from guys like Steve Bauer, Sean Yates, Phil Anderson, and Andy Hampsten. I would see them all the time and we got along great. But once you leave the peloton it’s hard to keep the connection. I love running into them on the road. It’s sort of the same when I left racing, I kept in touch but I wouldn’t see everyone as much.
BR: Describe the hardest race you ever experienced.
Paris-Roubaix was always tough. No matter what ,it’s going to beat you up, same with Tour of Flanders. My toughest race that I can’t forget was in 2000 on a stage to Briancon during the Tour. It was a long day, about 230km’s, with three or more mountains. I did my work the first part, pulled up the first climb as long as I could, got dropped before the top completely spent. I barely made the slow group and I still had 120km’s of racing to go with two mountains left. I was spent!
BR: Do you miss racing on the track?
I think track racing is great for development. It teaches a lot of skills you can’t get on the road. I loved racing the track and really enjoyed doing the pts race and other mass start events. Now it’s very specialized so it’s hard to double up. I really don’t know how some of the guys do an entire road season and then go do six days. I never had the energy and that’s one thing I wish I would have attempted at one time. I think it would have been awesome to try a six day track event.
BR: What’s your current riding program?
I try to ride every other day when I’m at home. Sometimes with travel I miss out on weeks at a time. The Tour in July really messes me up. I get fit and then have about five weeks of nothing! When I come back home it’s like starting from square one. Usually if I can get seven days of riding under my legs I start to feel good and do some local races. I love riding and it’s something I plan on doing for a long time.