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Interview: SFGP Winner Charles Dionne

In between his second victory in three years at the T-Mobile SF Grand Prix and his trip to Verona for the 2004 World Cycling Championships, I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Charles Dionne of the Webcor Cycling Team. We were just outside Sacramento, CA. in the town of Rocklin, where Charles and his team mate Chris Horner have been training for the last couple weeks as they prepare for World’s.

Nice win! Dionne takes it twice at T-Mobile in San Fran.

Pez: Charles, first of all, congratulations on your second T-Mobile victory in three years. Along with Philly and the Tour of Georgia, these three races are regarded as “the” races to win in the US. What is it about the SF race that seems to suit you so well??

CD: Thank you very much. I really love the steep, short hills. It’s the type of roads I train on back in Quebec, so I feel very much in my element in SF. Plus, I just love the city and the crowds on Fillmore and Taylor streets. They are very motivating.

Nothing could distract the Webcor boys in San Fran.

Pez: Tell us how the race went down the last few laps around Taylor Street and what it meant to have Chris (Horner) working for you at that time and knowing the rest of your team worked so hard through out the race.

CD: There was a break of strong riders that I had bridged up to with about 45K to go. It got caught by the Postal boys and Chris saw at that point that I had good form. Knowing that McCartney, who had a 4 minute lead at that point could stay away, Chris came up to me and said he would sacrifice himself for us, knowing that was the best move for Webcor to win the race. Of course it put a lot of pressure on me, but I knew I had the strength, so when the Postal team and Chris shut the McCartney down, I felt incredible and just launched and was able to hold on for the win. It was a complete team effort, every rider on Webcor contributed, which makes the victory even better.

Pez: Webcor has had an incredible year. Is it what you expected and what has it been like to have Horner as a team leader and team mate?

CD: We are such a small team and we had such great results. I feel we really made our mark on US racing. Chris has been a great leader and true team player. He has taught me, as well as everyone else on the team a lot about bike racing.

Charles was selected to “coach” film star Shannon Elizabeth for the media race.

Pez: You had a difficult time during the 2003 season and we didn’t hear much about you on Saturn. What happened?

CD: I was really looking forward to great year with Saturn. I felt very fortunate to be on such a powerful team. The problem was I crashed three times and it pretty much cost me the complete season. The initial crash happened in Malaysia where I required 47 stitches. It was then like the domino affect.

Pez: Let’s go back further – how did you get your start in cycling?? Whom were you cycling heroes growing up??
CD: I actually rode my first bike when I was 2 years old. I then did a lot of BMX races and started on the road at age 15. My hero was Laurent Jalabert and I was fortunate enough race against him in the Zolder world championships, which was his final race.

Pez: You’ve been training hard for the World Championships. What are your expectations and how do you approach a race where big teams can dominate. Canada has only two riders in the race (you and Michael Barry), where teams like Italy and Germany have squads of 12 riders.

CD: I feel very prepared. SF helped my confidence and training here in Rocklin has gone well. It’s difficult when you have such strong teams to ride against. You just have to watch carefully as the race develops and hope you have the legs to go with the final move when it happens.

Serious Company: Charles shares the podium with Fast Freddy and Big George.

Pez: The season will finally be over after Worlds. I know you are looking forward to getting home, taking a little vacation, eating some things you don’t typically eat during the season. What are your plans for next year?

CD: My dream has always been to race in Europe full time. Currently I am talking to a number of possible teams for next year, both there and in the US. I hope to have something finalized in the next couple weeks.

Pez: What are your goals for your career? Do you see yourself excelling as a one-day racer, short stage races or grand tours?

CD: My dream has always been to compete in the Tour de France. Without a doubt, I feel very confident in one day races. If SF is any indications, with its steep hills, I will love races like the Tour of Flanders.

Bruce Hendler is a regular contributor to our ToolBox training column, and he also created AthletiCamps to provide cycling specific coaching and training to athletes and cyclists of all levels. Find out more at www.athleticamps.com

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