BKW: The team is continuing to work with Felt, Shimano, Zipp and CycleOps for the ’09 season. We’ve heard that you’ve been pushing your equipment sponsors to reduce the weight of their products even further. Given that your riders are on 900g frames with full Dura-Ace, aren’t your bikes already at the UCI-mandated weight limit?
JV: Once you get to the weight limit, then you are dealing with the handling and aerodynamics. The Cyclops adds an informational aspect.
I’d say most of our sponsors don’t like us much as a team. We don’t just say, ‘Thanks for the check, see you next year.’ We press, squeeze, complain and suggest. They’ll get real feedback about their product. Fact is, we’re a pain in the ass. The riders know to give honest feedback.
Our sponsors, we hurt their feelings, but at the end of the day the products supplied to this team are going to be empirically better than what other teams are being supplied. I need everyone to believe we are pushing as hard as possible to give our riders and sponsors the belief that we are doing everything ethically possible to win. We are maximizing every opportunity to give these riders the resources to win races while riding clean. We’ve left no stone unturned.
The implicit message and the explicit message have to absolutely match. This is an anti-doping team. We’re going to do X,Y and Z to prepare to win this race. When this race comes we’re going to go out there and and do our best to win. But it’s bike racing, so we can’t ensure a win. We can’t guarantee a perfect race, so we do the next best thing: Perfection in the process. You do what you can to win but you don’t do anything over the line.
BKW: Will each rider have either an F or Z series road bike, an AR aero road bike and a DA time trial bike?
JV: That’s it exactly. Every rider gets a choice of Felt’s F or Z frame. And then every rider gets an AR aero road bike and a DA for the time trials.
BKW: Who decides, and under what conditions do you decide when to ride the aero frame rather than a standard road frame?
JV: It’s up to the rider. I’ll make recommendations. With the AR, it’s a little heavier but not much. It’s got more stiffness vertically than laterally. You’re not going to get the best traction on bumpy corners. It’s ideal for less hilly courses on smoother roads. If I were a racer in the US, that’s all I’d use. You rarely have a course hilly enough or bumpy enough to call for the other frame.
BKW: I noticed from some photos you seem to have a taste for Chateauneuf du Pape and wines of the Southern Rhone. What are some of your other favorite wine regions?
JV: My favorite Chateauneuf du Papes are from Chateau Rayas. They do an excellent vin de pays, Domaine des Tour. It’s the perfect $20 bottle for pizza.
I like Burgundies; I’m less versed in Burgundy, though. My tastes tend to go toward the more feminine, elegant, earth-driven wines. I’m not really into the big blockbusters. I’m not that big on Napa Cabs. There is a vintner is Ventura County of all places, Sine Qua Non, I really love what they do. A very detail-oriented approach to their winemaking. I tend to go for more the traditional, more biodynamic. Rayas is biodynamic.
One of the things I enjoy is how you learn to enjoy the differences between the different wines rather than the qualities of the wines themselves.
I won’t drink wine just to drink it. I want to have something I’ll enjoy. I’ll try anything though. I ordered a bottle of wine one night with the team and it wasn’t very good. The guys were like, ‘See you don’t know anything about wine!’ And I said, ‘Hey, I just ordered it off the menu.’ It’s fun to branch out.
BKW: Given how busy you are with the team, how much do you still get to ride?
JV: I don’t ride if it’s cold. I haven’t done a ride over four hours in eight months. An hour, hour and a half three to four times a week. I’m doing a lot of skiing with my son Charlie. I like Vail, Winterpark, I’ll go anywhere. I really like Telluride and Aspen, but they make a weekend trip a little pricey. I got to ski a bunch in St. Moritz last year. Any time I went to Milan, like when I went over for the presentation of the Giro route, I’d schedule an extra day and take the train up to St. Moritz. It was fantastic skiing.
JV: I mean, for the time being, yes, yes I am. But the symbol that I’ve succeeded will be when that’s no longer true. Hopefully, Christian blows me out of the water as the team figurehead. Once that happens I can say, ‘Now I know I’ve done my job right.’
BKW: Any final thoughts?
JV: You’ve covered everything in my brain.
Images courtesy John Pierce, Photosport International