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This is the year I made my debut into the European-based world of professional cycling. Although I wouldn't get a professional license for another 6 months, I was already wearing Motorola colors in January and becoming acquainted with my future teammates, Phil Anderson, Andy Hampsten, and Steve Bauer at the team's preseason training camp in northern California. The camp was fun. We mixed long, steady group rides with media training and even some wine tasting around the hills of Sonoma. I was really impressed with Anderson and Bauertwo men who had both worn the Yellow Jersey of the Tour de France and who were amongst the top one-day classics riders of that era. It was these two and, of course, Sean Yates, who guided me toward my first professional races after the Barcelona Olympics that August.
I'd raced in Europe before as a member of amateur national U.S. squads and was really excited about the prospects of racing against the big boys now. Of course, I wanted to start my pro career as the newly crowned Olympic road champion and had, therefore, made that race in Barcelona the major target of my season. As it turned out, the race was disappointing because I'd gone there thinking I could win and would win. But even though I attacked and tried to start or join in the right moves, in the end I missed the three-man escape that decided the race. A few years later, Fabio Casartelli, the Olympic winner from Italy, would join the Motorola Team and leave an indelible mark on my life that I could never have imagined possible.
I was surrounded by good people with good advice at Motorola, but none of it helped very much when I came in last at the Clasica San Sebastian in Spain. Pro cyclists race differently than amateurs, so I became a victim of their sudden accelerations that started about 60 kilometers before the end of this 240-kilometer classic. Dropped well before the last climbs, I wanted to stop the race and go home, but Hennie Kuiper, Motorola's assistant directeur sportif, talked me out of it, telling me how important it was to finish this first big race. I reluctantly continued all the way into San Sebastian, embarrassed and demoralized to be crossing the line so very long after the winner, Raul Alcala.
But Kuiper's advice had been good for me, and I vowed to myself that things would be different. I won a stage of the Vuelta a Galicia a few days later and then went to Zurich for the next big World Cup race and came in second. The difference between last place in San Sebastian and second in Zurich was purely a state of mind. I'd gone into the Swiss race believing the course wasn't as hard as people said, that the entire opposition was no better than me, and that therefore I had a chance to win. As it turned out, a great Russian cyclist was more clever than meViatcheslav Ekimov. Still, second place gave me some satisfaction and I looked forward to the remainder of the season, safe in the knowledge that I'd soon learn how to handle myself in big races and that I'd made at least some small impression on my peers.