What's Cool In Road Cycling

Meet Veronica Andrйasson

Our newest – and best looking – Pez diarist was pretty excited about her first entry – if the number of exclamation marks in her draft copy was any indication. But after meeting Veronica Andrйasson at Fleche Wallone, and again at the Giro, I can assure you she is true to her words – excited about racing her bike as a pro, and thrilled to share her stories with PEZ-Fans.

Just 26 years old and already a pro for 3 years, she’s got a cool head on her shoulders and seems to have open eyes for the world around her. She’s a Swede who now lives with her pro-cyclist boyfriend- Gustav Larson of UniBet, in northern Italy near Switzerland, and who speaks pretty fluent English.

Minutes after completing Fleche-Wallone – even the grunt up the Mur de Huy wasn’t enough to keep a smile from her face.

Veronica and I first met at Fleche Wallone this Spring and then again at the Giro d’Italia where she was my co-pilot driving the TT course from Bardolino to Verona. Veronica cuts a striking form both on the bike and off. She arrived in Bardolino looking more fashion-ista than bike racer – tall, long blonde hair, big shades, short skirt and boots… and the kind of manicured nails that would make Mrs. Pez jealous. You should have seen the Italians stumbling into each other as she walked by.

Talking with her as we followed one of the Panaria riders slog through the downpour to Verona, it’s immediately clear she’s no dumb blonde. She’s confident, interested and engaging – and is never short of an answer or opinion – I fact she did most of the talking as I just asked a few questions along the way.

Her biggest concern is that her writing is not as good as she’d like – but when you speak a bunch of languages – Swedish, Italian, English, German – you can hardly blame her.

Veronica started her athletic career riding horses.

So without further delay – let’s get it straight from the girl herself –

~~ Hi everyone!! I have the big opportunity to write on PezCycling about my life as woman pro. Right now I’m sitting at my home here in Italy with the rain pouring outside so a perfect day to be at the computer!

I have been here in Italy now a little bit more then two years, and I just love it. Maybe not always the Italian system, but I can live with that. I live here with my boyfriend and he is also a rider, Gustav Larsson (unibet.com).

I started cycling when I was junior. Before I was a crazy horse-girl, I got my first pony when I was six. When I do something I want to do it with 110%, so after a while I realized that my parents never would afford the horses I need to get better. So I sold my last pony and bought a motocross bike. I wanted to be a motocross star. Maybe not the brightest thing to do when you are sixteen, a girl and never ridden one before – but I did it. And I realized pretty soon, how difficult it really was. But it was dame fun :o)!!!

Ok, what will I do next? Hey, mtb is pretty similar to motocross I thought. That I will try. And here I am, after switching on to the road. But I really enjoy it. And now with my long pink coloured nails and high heels, no one believes when I talk about my past…

Like I wrote before, I can’t just do it for fun. So now I’m doing my third year in a pro women’s team. I first tried 2002 on a Dutch team, but went home to Sweden more and less directly. Holland was nothing for me! It was just windy, rainy, grey and I didn’t feel comfortable in the team.

But in 2005 my dreams came true, as I got to ride in the small Italian Team Bianchi-Aliverti. The team budget was more and less zero and here in Italy the races are so much harder than in Sweden. I have to admit, I cried many times over the stupid Italians who don’t speak English and always make everything complicated. But in the end of the year I loved it here. I always had thought that you learn more if you go the hard way. So I got a lot of good experience from that year.

In 2006 I was able to race with one of the better Italian teams and I even got a salary. Not that much, but at least something. You would be all terrified if you know what the most of the girls earn in the bunch!! That’s a little bit sad that it is still so, because the level of the women racing is much much higher now than some years ago. But with no broadcasting of the races, no big sponsor money, that’s how it is.

Last year was my best season ever, with just the worlds in Salzburg that I’m not satisfied with. But it had been a long season with many races so my body was just really tired. For me the world championship is ”the big” race of the year and in second place I think it is the Vlaanderen. I don’t know how the races are in the North America, but I hope I’ll be able to come over for some.

Here is just a small preview of this year –
After 5 days of Christmas in Sweden and a lot of Swedish food we went down to Italy again to return to a normal life with training. Besides all training on the bike I also have been cross-country skiing. The Italians think that Swedes can ski before they walk. But I disappointed them with my lack of talent. I have always thought that skiing can’t be that difficult, that it looks so easy on the TV. But at least I looked fast in all the nice clothes Craft had given me! And that is the most important right!?!

Not all Swedes are great at cross-country skiing.

In the end of January, I went on training camp with my new team (BIGLA). We spent 3 weeks in Mallorca on the German resort club Robinson. As everyone knows Germans loves Mallorca, I guess there are more German people than Spanish on that island. We had a great time with a lot of really good training. And the food was awesome. You can’t even imagine how big the dessert table was. But eating is cheating – like my friend Maggy (Backstedt) said. So I stayed with the pineapple…

My first race for this season was 11/3 Brissago in Switzerland not far from my home. Like always the first races are always hard for me before I get the speed in my legs! It’s too bad that two of the nicest races Vlaanderen and Flecha Wallone are both in the beginning of the season – I really like these races, but always suffer a lot during them. I hope for next year now when Maggy is helping me out with the training that I can be strong even on the spring!

Veronica counts Maggy Backstedt as a training partner and advisor.

For the first time I saw the Paris/Roubaix live, that was really cool! I was helping Martin McCrossan doing a documentary for cycling.tv. So with the media pass we could go everywhere. I couldn’t image so many people out there to see the race. It was a great feeling in the middle of the velodrome when the riders entered. But afterwards I was completely dead. It is hard to watch a cycling race, that’s for sure -.

On the cobbles at the Roubaix start in Compiegne.

The beginning of the season is always hard for me. But this year, it just felt worse and worse. I couldn’t understand, what is wrong? I tried training harder, with more intervals. But I never had the right feeling, I was just struggling. And everyone, I really mean everyone – was faster then me! That’s not the feeling you want when you have training good the whole winter without sickness and you are in a great team!

Finally I got the answer. I have done the whole early part of the season with the mononucleosis virus. The only thing I can do for recovering as quickly as possible now is resting. So no races for me at least now in May and then I will try to start easy again.

So instead of doing 5-6 hours on the bike I let my Ducati monster do the work for me! It is a pretty nice feeling just cruising around in the mountains and looking at the beautiful view!!

A little modeling on the side? Not a bad way to supplement the income.

What are your strengths on the bike – and what areas do you want/ need to work on?
VA – I’m like an old diesel car, I always going best after some hours :o)!! Long breakaways suit me perfectly. The problem is in the women’s bunch they are usually not long breakaways. That’s because we don’t have the strong teams who can bring down a breakaway of 15 min like you see in the protour races. The women’s bunch is more nervous, so a one min gap is a lot. I should be a much better timetrialist, there I have something to work on. I have the legs, but not yet the mind.

Aspirations as a pro – where do you want to go with this?- what are your goals as a racer and after you retire?
VA – I want to know were my own limit is. How high can I reach. Maybe I never will win the world championship, but for sure I’ll try. The biggest event you can win is the Olympics if you are a Swedish athlete – It doesn’t matter which sport you do, you will write history with that. So an Olympic medal would be optimal. To wear the Swedish champion’s jersey for a year, has always been one of my dreams too. That dream I hope will became true before I retire. I always said I wanted to be a pilot. But the last years I haven’t thought that much about it! Right now it feels pretty far away! Maybe the contacts I get throw cycling as a rider will change the ideas the day when it’s time to retire from the bike!

Current Situation: You discovered the virus (mono) – so now you are recovering. How was your 2006 season, and what did you expect to do in 2007?
VA – 2006 was my best season ever, with a victory in a 2.1 race in Germany and 2nd in the Swedish nationals TT. My levels overall that year were much higher than ever before. For 2007 I still want to improve, of course. I’m not even close to my limits yet. I also want to keep a good level for the worlds. My team big goal is Giro d’Italia, so for me it’s important to be in shape there. Maybe not for doing own results but for helping my team mates bring the victory to the team.

Signor Bцsch is the Swiss owner of Team Bigla – and judging by his kit, the sport is close to his heart.

Team Bigla – tell us a little about Bigla – the sponsor, how is life on the team, what is your role?
VA – Like said before, it’s my first year in this team. But I know most of the girls from before. It’s a Swiss team but with a lot of different nationalities. It’s pretty funny when listening in the radio during races. First the sportdir speaks in Italian, Swiss, German and then English.

Bigla is a company who makes beds for hospitals and office furniture and owned by Mr. Bцsch – a man with a big passion for women’s cycling. In many (at least the Italian) teams you have a team house were most of the riders stay during the season, because you don’t have that much salary to pay your own living and the team can control your lifestyle! But in Bigla there isn’t a team houses and I’m really happy about that. I really need my own space.

And you can just imagine the discussion in a house full of girls!!!

I guess our life in team Bigla is like for most of the men pro’s. I get a mail with the flight info and then I meet my teammates and the staff at the races. In the teams I have been in before we always have got like the second best frame, parts etc. But this year I have a full Campy Record BMC bike, even the training bike is like that. So this year I can’t complain about the material, when people are going faster then me in the climbs. There I have a problem, what should I complain about now? ;o)

My role in the team is a worker during the big stage races. Of course I also will get the chance to make my own good results during smaller stage races.

How do you spend off-bike time?
VA – Spending a lot of time on the computer. Just looking around on the Internet. Reading the latest news on PezCycling etc! Or I go for a ride on my moto. I also love to make cakes. I rarely eat them, but that’s something Gustav not is sorry for. Just more for him!!

Most admired pros?
VA – Zulfia Zabirova, Paolo Bettini and Oscar Freire – because they are all down to earth even if they have won mostly everything that’s is important in cycling! For me they are all big champions!

Favorite race- to ride and to watch?
VA – Riding is Vlaanderen and watching Paris/Roubaix.

Music choices?
VA – I like all kind of music, it’s more what I’m doing or in which mood I’m. Like now when writing I listening to Tracy Chapman, Ayo and U2. Hard intervals on the bike I prefer music like Ozzy, Creed or Metallica. During distance training is normally the latest pop music and Italian music on my ipod.

Foods – what do you love to eat?
VA – This is my passion in life. I love all kinds of food. Not like fast food that is just crap! That is maybe also one reason that I live in Italy, you all know the Italian food is so good! In the summer I’m eating tons of watermelon. I just can’t get enough. If I compare to Sweden the melons down here or all kind of fruit and vegetables tastes so much better! And the Italian ice cream, Mmmmm!!!

Of course you need a good bottle of wine with a nice dish. My motto here in life has always been ”Life’s Too Short to Drink Bad Wine”

Buona Giornata, a presto
– Veronica

• See her online: www.Cyklist.com
• See the team website: BiglaCyclingTeam.ch

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