Noon, local time, on the Easyjet flight out of Geneva.
The race finished at midnight and we were on the autoroute for around 12:45 am – that’s a record.
The hotel bed in Geneva was blissful, the ‘transporter pod’ in the motor home is all very well, but crisp, clean sheets and a proper mattress – lovely!
The last night passed in a flash; the race programme is a lot lighter for day six, with the madison as the climax, and 11:00 pm seemed to come round in no time.
All the guys were quieter than usual, there was an air of expectation, rollers buzzed as nervous riders loosened off legs.
I love the start of the madisons; the gun cracks, the band plays, the chanteuse gives it Sinatra, the queue at the buffet turns away from the ‘fruits of the sea’ buffet and gorgeous sweets and gazes up at the track, chains rattle, tubs swish, the boards rumble and Daniel Mangeas notches his voice up an octave or two – this is it!
Early on, the French minnows get to take a lap or two, but even at ‘tempo’ some of the French guys have to dangle on the back, unable to even contemplate jumping off the front.
As the race progresses, the pace increases, faces crease, laps take longer to gain, some attacks don’t come off – all that work, wasted – riders dive for the bottom of the track to rest, where it’s easier.
The top three was a fair result, Franco was flying – when’s he on a good day, he’s hard to beat.
Tall, loose, easy, fast – a joy to watch as he flashes through the traffic and still finds time to give me a wink as he takes his spell ‘out,’ on the banking.
Luke wasn’t finding it so easy, he’s not used to the changes and his arm was playing up, making him unable to give Franco strong changes.
Bruno Risi gives the best changes in the business – most riders ease as they make the sling; Risi drives right through it, this makes it harder for the recipient because they too have to drive hard, one handed – but the resulting change catapults the ‘live’ rider forward at a higher speed than normal, making it much easier to stay in the action.
Luke can lay claim to being one of the best team pursuit riders, ever – but all that work is on 100″-plus gears – a long way from the 88″ to 90″ of the sixes. It’ll take him a few more six days ’til that high cadence comes easily.
At the end, Franco was feeling so strong that he was doing double spells to let Luke recover.
Van Bon/Vermeulen is a solid, strong but unspectacular pairing – they were happy with second.
Keisse/Meersman however, are much more flamboyant – Keisse; tall, slim, he looks like he was born to ride a board track
Meersman, smaller, but having that ‘at one’ look with his Lapierre ‘Fast Track,’ when they are on the attack they are dashing, spectacular – crowd pleasers.
In six day protocol, you have to pay your dues – Meersman couldn’t be allowed to win his first six; but it can’t be far away.
The presentation was cool, Thevenet, Biondi, Franco beaming, Luke delighted with his first six win, the Folies girls, spot lights, live music, photogs, TV, coloured paper from the roof.
Then the hard work, all the bikes, clothes, food and paraphernalia has to be sorted and packed into the motors.
. . . and now it’s 10:00 pm on Wednesday, and I have the prospect of my own bed, proper food, no pails of urine to empty and clean, or shoes, helmets and bikes to polish – am I happy to be home . . .
. . . It’ll soon be Gent!
: Hope you enjoyed Grenoble as much as I did.
Au revoir, mes amis.