Posted by Editor on 02/17/03
Gord Fraser started the season with no team, after Mercury ended its sponsorship of his former squad, and the new Hot Wheels program could not be completed. That has now changed, along with other big changes in Gord's life. He spoke with us from his home over the weekend.
CC - At the end of the Tour de Langkawi you still didn't have a team for this year, although a number of teams were interested. That has now changed, we understand.
GF - I signed for Health Net a couple of days ago, and they will be announcing it on Monday. They were really pushing and came up with a good offer.
CC - You also had the chance to go back to Europe?
GF - Absolutely, Marlux - Ville de Charleroi was talking to me as well. I wasn't opposed to going to Europe - I was actually sort of excited about the opportunities with Marlux, but there are obvious advantages to staying here (North America), especially since we just found out my wife is expecting!
CC - Congratulations!
GF - Yeah, it's going to change things a bit...
CC - What is the program for Health Net, and what is your role?
GF - It is a new team at this level, and I am brand new with them, so it is a little early to have the full program mapped out, but the main target is going to be the NRC series and the big domestic races like Philly, San Francisco, etc. It's a really young team - a far cry from Mercury for me - but they are certainly very enthusiastic and motivated. There is a a lot of positive energy.
I think they have in mind for me as a mentor. I think that I can be adept at teaching young riders how to be a good pro by example. I'll start with them at Pomona, then back to Arizona for the Tucson Bicycle Classic, which is sort of my local race.
My deal is a one year thing right now, but it has the potential to go long term. Hopefully we can prove to Health Net that it (the team/bike racing) is a good medium for exposure. They are an insurance provider, and I know them well. I actually have had Health Net as a provider here in Arizona for 4 years, and they've looked after me.
CC - What about the end of Mercury? The disappearance of the team leaves a big hole.
GF - Mercury was bound to end sooner or later, and we did know last year that they were in their final year. We would have liked to stay together, because it was excellent chemistry - it was quite the ride for 5 years. Luckily with Health Net I am still with one of my best friends - Mike Sayers.
Hopefully, this new team will figure out how to do the lead outs. We (Mercury) showed North America how to do lead outs, and now other teams have learned. We will have to work at it, and I may have to fight for other wheels for a while, but I know that I will be back on the podium.
Final Note: Gord asked us to mention the list of companies and individuals that helped him out before he had a new team. You may have noticed from Langkawi photos that he was using equipment that we had not seen him on before.
"I'm really grateful to the sponsors who helped me out when I was out of contract: Specialized, Reynolds, Speedplay, Powertap, Athlete Octane, Rudy Project, Clif Bar, Andy Gilmour (local frame builder).
Specialized was trying to get me on Mario Cipollini's (Domina Vacanze Elitron) team for a while - I know that they contacted them and there were some talks. For a while I though I was going to have to learn Italian, but it didn't work out."
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