What's Cool In Road Cycling

Team Sky’s Serge Pauwels Talks Tour

How does it feel to be part of the mighty SKY Pro Tour team, waiting to start your first Tour de France? We thought we’d ask Belgium’s Serge Pauwels – he was packing his suitcases when we rang.

PEZ: How did the Belgian road race champs go, Serge?
It was a tough race, very warm; I just missed the move and tried to bridge up but didn’t make it. But it was good to open up my system with a last hard day before the Tour.

PEZ: How do you find a ‘peak’ for the Tour?
The principle is to work hard for a long period and then, before the Tour, don’t go to deep and allow recovery time.

PEZ: What are the pre-Tour rituals you have to endure?
This is my first Tour so I’m not sure exactly how we’ll spend our time – we meet in the team hotel on Wednesday afternoon and have medicals and presentations leading in to the race but we’ll also be training for three hours each afternoon.

PEZ: How much time have you spent with Bradley?
I roomed with him at the Ruta del Sol and was with him at the training camps, but apart from that I haven’t spent a lot of time with him.

PEZ: Have the Belgian media been making a fuss about your Tour ride?
Of course, when the team was announced it generated a lot of attention, a Belgian rider going to the Tour is a big thing. I think that on the race the team will get a lot of media attention – maybe not as much as Contador and Armstrong but it will be significant.

PEZ: You’ve been a little quiet this season, so far.
I contracted gastroenteritis then bronchitis at Paris-Nice and then I hurt my knee – I was trying to train out of it but was just digging myself into a hole.

With the agreement of management I started again, from scratch – a 12 week build up. I returned to racing at Romandie then did Luxembourg and Suisse – I feel I’ve been improving all the time and hope to be at my best for weeks two and three of the Tour.

PEZ: What’s your role in the team?
We haven’t discussed it fully but more or less it will be supporting Brad in the mountains for as long as I can. Being realistic, I’m not going to be there at the top of the Tourmalet with him but I’ll be doing the same job I did for Carlos Sastre in the Giro, last year.

PEZ: Yourself, Boasson-Hagen and Lofkvist are all quality riders, how do you feel about riding as domestiques?
For me it’s a great opportunity to ride the Tour, personally I’m too young to be thinking about the GC and I’m happy to ride for Bradley – if we ride as a team for him he has the capacity to make the podium. That’s an important part of the Sky philosophy, for us to be riding as a team.

PEZ: Have you had briefings on the key stages?
Not yet, that will happen as the race goes on, but the Pyrenees are going to be very hard – harder than the Alps. I haven’t done reconnaissance rides but I know a lot of the climbs. The cobble stone stage will be a tricky one, too.

PEZ: Alberto or Lance?
On paper there’s no doubt that the Radio Shack team is stronger, they have four guys who could get on the podium – but a team isn’t necessarily about having the most strong riders, it’s about riding together as a team – Astana looked good to me, at the Dauphine. Alberto Contador is the outstanding rider for me – and we must remember that last year he didn’t really have a team in the Tour.

PEZ: What do you like about Grand Tours?
It’s a big challenge for yourself – taking care of yourself, watching what you eat, getting plenty of rest and recovering. In three week Tours at the second rest day, you’ll see guys having an ice cream – they’re getting tired in the head; you have to carry your focus for all of the three weeks.

I don’t think I’m a great one day rider but I can focus well for a three week tour and be strong in the second and third weeks. It’s a big challenge because when I rode the Giro last year there was no expectation on me – but this year’s different, there’s much bigger expectation upon me.

PEZ: And the negatives of a three week Tour?
Everything went well for me in the Giro last year, even the weather was good – but I know that there will be days when maybe I’ll have crashed the day before, I’ll be stiff, open the curtains and it’s pissing with rain – or maybe there will be hard chases after punctures. You have to be ready for these things in bike racing; it all just can’t go smoothly all the time.

PEZ: And your personal goals for the race?
The first one is to finish – I know that sounds obvious but to finish the Tour is challenge for anyone.

The second is to support Bradley in the key stages, maybe I can’t be there when there are only 10 guys left but I want to be there when there are 25 or 30 guys left – doing my job.

Those are my goals and they’re in line with what management expects from me.

A man under no illusions, we wish him well and will make a point of catching up with him somewhere in Darkest France in the next few weeks.

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