Henk Vogels: "Nice to get back in the winners circle"

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12.04.2007/ Henk Vogels left the Belgian Davitamon-Lotto team to join Toyota-United this season. Cyclingheroes spoke with Robbie McEwen's former lieutnant about racing in the USA and his first victory for Toyota-United. During the Tour de Georgia Cyclingheroes will publish a riders diary of Henk Vogels.

Henk Vogels: "I have been waiting several years for that moment" (picture: Toyota-United)

CyclingheroesWhen did you start racing ?
Henk Vogels: I started racing when I was 13. My father had raced in the 1964 Olympic Games on the track in Tokyo. He was also a professional cyclist, so I was always around cycling.
Cyclingheroes: When did you get the chance to become a pro?

Henk Vogels: In 1994, I won the Tour of Holland, one of many races I won. Right after that, I was approached by Jan Raas of the WordPerfect team. He offered me a two-year contract as a 20-year-old.

Cyclingheroes: You have had a very nasty crash in 2003 and recovered pretty fast. Did Life change for you after the crash?

Henk Vogels: Life really didn’t change too much for me after that crash. But I probably savor every day that I’m alive but I don’t think about the crash as a career-changing moment. However, it was definitely an eye-opener. I probably might have even died in that crash.

Henk Vogels is feeling well in the USA (picture: Toyota-United)

CyclingheroesAre there big differences between racing in Europe, the US and Australia?

Henk Vogels: There is a lot more depth in the peloton in Europe as far as the talent. But as far as the racing, it’s just as fast. In the United States, there might be four or five guys who can win a particular race. In Europe, it’s more like 40 or 50.

Cyclingheroes: You raced in the US before, did things changed in the past couple of years?

Henk Vogels: I think there are better races now. There are more professional teams. And also there are a lot more international riders racing in America than seven years ago.

Cyclingheroes: Was it a big step to leave Davitamon and join Toyota-United?

Henk Vogels: Not at all. I really looked forward to it. I love racing in the United States so it was an easy decision. The only thing I’ll miss are riding in the Classics.

Cyclingheroes: You won the third stage of this year’s Central Valley Classic, how was it to have your first win for Toyota-United?

Henk Vogels: I have been waiting several years for that moment – to be able to throw my hands in the air and finally get that monkey off my back. I’ve been pretty much working for other sprinters the past couple years so it was nice to get back in the winner’s circle.

Cyclingheroes:  Will you start the Tour of Georgia and do you know what role you will play in the team?

Henk Vogels: Yes, I will be racing in Georgia. My role will be to help our designated sprinter, Ivan Dominguez, stay out of trouble and be in position at the end of the race. If, for some reason, he is not able to go for the win then I’ll give it a go myself. That happened on one stage at the Tour of California. Ivan got a flat so I got the green light to sprint myself.

Henk Vogels was approached by Jan Raas to become a pro (picture: Toyota-United)

CyclingheroesYour father founded the Henk Vogels Cycling Foundation, can you tell us something about the project?

Henk Vogels: It’s a project we started four or five years ago for young Australian cyclists to compete on a national or international level. It’s also a charitable fund to help homeless people. We do a couple events each year which raise $20,000 to $30,000. We give some of the money to the homeless and the rest to the cyclists to race when they otherwise would not have the money to do so.

Cyclingheroes: What was your personal highlight... of your career until now ?

Henk Vogels: I suppose one of the best moments was winning USPRO championships in 2000. Getting third place on the Champs-Elysees was also pretty special. Riding down the most famous road in the world in my debut tour was pretty special.

Cyclingheroes: How long will you continue as an active pro-rider?

Henk Vogels: I plan to ride another three or four seasons. As long as my legs are good and I’m enjoying it.

More information about the Henk Vogels Cycling Foundation :

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Toyota-United set a fast pace to become a dominant force in U.S. Cycling in its first season

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