On Wednesday I shall be riding the UCI 2.2 Tour of Hellas which so far as I can tell is basically the Tour of Greece.
There are five stages in all and they are all fairly hilly but not too steep, which is good for me (if I am riding well).
This year I am mainly racing in countries that are fiscally in trouble it seems, Italy, Greece and Serbia – (although I think I might be racing in Slovakia instead of Serbia now).
The main news however is that I will be riding for Davide Rebellin!
He came training with Mariano and I last week for a couple of days and to discuss the possibility of a contract with the management.
We were both staying in the hotel together here on the edge of Polla, we both speak French (he lives in Monaco) so we could communicate well enough.
[pullquote]First of all I think I should say that he is a very quiet and nice guy, very polite too.[/pullquote]
I know readers will have wanted me to talk to him about drugs and things straight away but I am choosing not to, for now at least.
What was clear when I was training with him was that firstly he is very very good still and secondly this guy is extremely professional. He lives a very dedicated lifestyle that is based solely around cycling, he has no distractions, no family, no worries, just the bike.
I doubt he has ever had any distractions, there was an aura of focus about him that I haven’t really seen in anyone before. It’s a situation I am trying to replicate myself here in Italy, the difference for me is that I don’t want to always live like this, in fact I probably perform better when surrounded by my normal Cambridge social life from time to time.
Well, that’s not entirely true what I just said about Davide, what was clear was that he had experienced quite some trouble finding a team to join for the 2012 season, he certainly didn’t come to us first!
I guess this is understandable, whilst he was with us in Polla he hadn’t yet signed anything, during rides he would frequently pull out his phone to have a look for messages, he also stopped at the side of the road and fielded several calls.
I suspect now he is a bit more relaxed and looking forward to racing with us in Hellas, in fact I think any ambition I had of getting a result there myself has probably gone, although we shall see as I may get an opportunity here or there.
From now on I am expecting to ride on the front and fetch bottles though. Whether this is a good thing for finding my next team or not is anyone’s guess, I shall endeavour to do my best as always and prove myself useful.
On another note a national tour is a great way for a country to advertise itself, particularly when it comes to attracting tourists for example. It’s no coincidence that plenty of races are sponsored by the regional governments and communities that the race passes through.
A bit of background
The main sponsor for Hellas is a bank called Hellenic Postbank, given the status of banking in Greece at the moment I doubt they are going to attract any new customers by sponsoring a race. I’m not complaining though. So, all eyes on Greece, here is the lowdown if you fancy a two week holiday there this summer:
Greece has just had a general election, the party that was in power was voted out because they became extremely unpopular. Why? Because in order to get bailed out by Germany and stay in the euro they had to do exactly what Germany said, that’s why. ‘Austerity measures’ were implemented, that means saving money and it turns out there are lots of ways to save money in Greece.
They started by sacking a whole load of public servants, reduced the minimum wage by 22% and more, the rest is here for those interested.
There have been riots and homelessness on the streets rather than bike races and all kinds of other protests. No-one won the recent elections by a clear margin so they will probably have another one whilst I am over there.
More extreme parties got a large part of the vote. Here is the website for one that I believe got around 20%. It’s made all the more extreme by the fact that I have no idea how to read the Greek alphabet. The rest of the parties are trying to form a coalition so they can renegotiate with Germany, their only bargaining chip is the threat to pull out of the euro, a pretty strong card.
As we know all too well in the UK a great way of saving money is to spend less on maintaining roads, I liken it to not buying new socks or pants. What I mean is that no one notices except the locals to that area (or in the case of the pants: ‘the locals’ to that area, one must have polite names for these things..).
[pullquote]Yes, you could walk right past someone with frayed socks and tatty underwear and not realise that there is a pothole outside their house.[/pullquote]
The race book has plenty of warnings of rickety bridges and potholed roads in advance so I am expecting austerity wherever I go.
As a veteran of the 2011 UCI 2.1 Giro di Padania, sponsored by the steady-on-that’s-a-bit-too-right-wing Lega Nord political party, I am more used to dealing with political protests than most during a bike race. You can read about Padania here.
Anyway, the race will be filmed and broadcast every night on Sky in Greece apparently, hopefully there will be a live feed somewhere too, here is the website. If there is internet I hope to write up a short daily report of each stage, if not I will write one afterwards and at the very least be tweeting (@davidmcleancycl), all my tweets will also appear on my Facebook page. Blog updates from Greece, if there are any will be on my personal site: davidmcleancyclist.com.