The first thing I remember, my old boss, he said to me, "the media is just doing their job. You have to accept it. Like everybody else, they're doing their job for good and bad. Don't get angry, because they are worrying like everyone else. Accept it, whatever they're writing." I think starting with that idea is a good thing. Next to that, I remember when I quit cycling. I did some work with a Danish newspaper. The first time I realized, to work with the media, try to get interviews with the riders, how important it was that someone wants to talk to you. Actually, it was polite. Sometimes they're standing and waiting for two hours for the riders. So, when you're coming in, take two minutes to talk with them.
It's a value for the riders, but the riders don't get it. I like the journalists because the journalists are like we are. Most of the people we work with, sometimes I know them for five years, sometimes for 20 years. The Danish journalists here, I know since the early 80s. I know I can call them and say 'hey, I have a situation, how can I handle it?" So the media I consider them really like friends. The riders can see them kind of like enemies. They're doing their job. You have to accept them and I realized quite fast when they ask you something you can say yes or no on losing a sprint, but you also need to tell them why you lost the sprint. You get bumped, you lose a chain, you lost a spoke the last corner, you were fighting in the last corner ... tell them, so they have something to write. They need a story for the paper. So the smart riders, they tell a story instead of just saying 'yes and no' and then leaving. The media is trying hard. At the end of the day, if you're smart, you can use the press too, to help you get out your own message if you do it smart. It goes both ways, and you have to think about it. If you use the media nice and polite, and respect them, they will treat you nice also.
This one time there was a journalist, a Danish woman, running beside me after a race once. I never had a fight with Bjarne Riis before. I had a big fight with him about a bottle. To get to him, 20km before, it cost me two years of my life to get a cold bottle. I get back to him, and I pass it to him, and he tossed it because it wasn't cold enough. I was so angry toward him. I told him I really hope he'd lose the yellow jersey. He was my roommate, my good friend, but I got so angry with him because he threw that bottle. So on the last climb I lost about 40 minutes after riding the whole day, I was so tired. So getting up, like a typical Danish public on the road, and they're yelling 5 kilometers, 3 kilometers, and you look up and the sign says 10 kilometers. So everybody is yelling and you just go "screw off." So half way up, and I hear "Bjarne won, he won!" and I go "ugh, no." At the top I was so dead, the girl was coming, and she goes "Bjarne won!" and I go "What do you want me to do, to get up on my bike and dance? Screw off." She was so afraid of me after. I actually was a bloody bonehead as a rider. I did not like the press when I was riding. I tried to hide from them. I didn't like to get off the bus. I get older, I get wiser, I can see it was a big mistake. I can say sorry now that I was not wiser. I still see this girl today. I'm in Copenhagen, Copenhagen is very small. I see her once in a while. We have a cup of coffee and I say, "I am so sorry," and she says "I was so afraid of you." I tell her how dead I was, and she was a very famous reporter, very good looking, high heel shoes. That was not the thing I needed at the top of Hautacam in 1996. Big, big mistake. Now with experience I can tell my riders to accept it, be polite, tell the story. The media knows they love some tempers and needs some anger. The best thing they can do when a rider is on their knees is to ask them a question 20 seconds to a minute after the finish line. They'll have some action.
I think at the bottom of my heart, you have big emotions, and I would never ask anyone to take that away. I still believe you never have to lose your qualities. You can be yourself. I could go to the press and pretend I was someone else, but you have to be yourself and tell a story. I don't try to fix a story. If we lose, I will tell them, If you're really screwed, if you lost a bottle that day, don't hide from it. They really like it. Start to tell a story with excuses and they won't like it. Just be yourself and say "hey, today, we blew it. But we were fighting hard." People like it. We are human. We break down. We are almost crying sometimes. People understand it. They like to see we're not robots. We hurt ourselves. We're in a sport where we have more losses than wins. You have to accept that and handle it...