Ooh That'll Hurt. Stage 2 of the Eneco Tour, and we shot southwards from northern Old Zeeland (I can't help it) which is an amazing place-we were 6m below sea level and 100km inland on a bit of land that was ocean only 30yrs earlier! Incredible. The stage was another flat one, so the boys knew that once again they would be doing most of the grunt work making sure that the stage's breakaway riders didn't get so far up the road that they took the lead from Svein.
Getting It Done. Yesterday was an interesting day for the team: we had Svein in the leader's jersey, and so were obliged to control the race. It's a different vibe controlling the race to get close to the finish and then letting the sprinter teams take over: normally we're in the situation of wanting to control things late, especially when Tyler's in the show. Watching the race unfold, it was great seeing the whole team rolling along on the front, particularly from a physiotherapy perspective as that is the place where they are least likely to get into trouble with crashes and the like.
The Wait and Hope. Yesterday was the start of the Eneco Tour, a race through the Netherlands, Belgium and (I think) Luxembourg. It's a week-long race on the Pro Tour circuit, meaning it is one of the handful of races through the year from which teams can accumulate Pro Tour points and enhance their ranking. The rankings determine key factors such as automatic entry into the biggest races of the following year, and so there is a great deal at stake in races such as this for all of Pro teams riding next year.
Stats Catch Up. Possibly the most boring blog post ever coming up. Since the Tour, I've been having a relatively quiet time, reboosting the energy reserves, and catching up with the boys who need treatment in Girona as and if they need. And now, on the eve of heading off to the Eneco Tour, I finally get myself into gear to post another blog entry. Quality.
A week after the Tour, and Mands and I got ourselves over to San Sebastian for a bit of vacation relaxery after the saga that is the nose to the grindstone month of the Tour. We needed to drop off some key stuff for the team that was working the race (as an excuse to get over to one of the coolest towns in Europe-not bad!) Two birds, one stone, all of that! We rocked up at the team hotel the morning before all of the riders arrived, dropped off what was needed and skedaddled.
The strangest stage of the whole race from the point of view of the staff is the finale into Paris. Our team base is in northern Spain, and so all non-essential equipment went from Bordeaux back to Spain (rather than go to Spain from Bordeaux via Paris-a 1200km detour). Thus we were truckless (or untrucked?) for the only time in the race.
Time trials are always difficult days at races. Firstly, the riders line up knowing their final position in the race depends on their forthcoming hour of solo work, and secondly, the logistics for the staff are super complex...
The Final Efforts. We’re on the downhill slope for this race now, and the fatigue is starting to show. It’s getting tougher and tougher to chisel our heads off the pillow each morning, and the coffees are having smaller and smaller effects. Sunglasses stay on when inside as they’re keeping our eyeballs from falling out. I guess the riders are tired too.
The Next Level. Today was the showdown. As all who watch cycling know, any stage with a mountaintop finish is where many of the overall selections happen, and when the mountain is the Tourmalet, which is enormous both in terms of the difficulty of the climb, as well as its history, it's all the more definitive. Thus we all held the hope that Ryder would be able to continue his brilliant run of form, but knew that as it was such a hard climb, anything could happen.
How far to go. Stage 16 was the biggest climbing stage of the Tour, but the last climb was some 60km from the finish, which made for a weird looking profile for the day. The boys scaled four enormous mountains, the first beginning from km 0. Tough gig. After fireworks from big name riders lit the early miles up the climb, a pseudo break settled down about 25sec ahead of the peloton, and it held some very big names.
R&R For Some. After a single day of respite from the searing heat of the majority of this race, we were back into a bright sunny day with high temperatures. This meant the support crew were back up the road helping our boys as best we were able on the big climbs. When standing and helping (and watching) on the mountains there are two groups we tend to pay closest attention to: the leaders and the grupetto.
Curtain Raiser. The big question of the day: will it be a sprint or a break? The Tour has now fallen deep into the second half of the race and the real show to sort out who will finish where in the general classification starts today as we hit the high mountains of the Pyrenees. Thus yesterday was the end of the "pre-race" part of the Tour for some. Considering how tough it's been, that's a facetious line to say the least.
Bad Morning Good Day. Sadly, Tyler abandoned yesterday as his body finally said "enough". We were all disappointed for him. It was very saddening to see his face, which showed the acute disappointment he felt. The race itself did go on, however, and typically, Garmin-Transitions were flying the flag despite the setbacks. Ryder repeatedly attacked the peloton and chased every other cyclists's attack until he finally found himself in the break of the day.
Hump Day & Humdrum. As the physio on team Garmin-Transitions, all I can say is this is a dangerous sport. All things considered, 3rd place for Tyler yesterday was a fantastic effort by the whole team, with Dave Zabriskie helping to control the break for most of the day, Johan Van Summeren bringing our boys to the front of the peloton with 4km to go, Martijn taking a big turn to maintain our position at the front, Julian doing the perfect job to put Ty where he needed to be to contest the sprint and then Tyler eking the absolute maximum possible out of his body to gain third place. It was a brilliant team performance.
A Hard "Easy" Day. Yesterday was always going to be the day that the breakaway succeeded. The profile of the course and the stages on the days either side of it meant that neither the GC nor the sprinter teams would be interested. It wasn't hard enough to separate the GC lads, but wasn't easy enough for the sprinters to make it to the finish with the main bunch. That meant that the first race of the day was to get into the break, and so the first hour of racing was extremely fast as small groups tried to get away and were hauled back by teams who didn't have someone in the break and so on and so forth.
Another Day, Another Epic. Yesterday's stage was a 204km monster through hot weather over a series of significant climbs, totalling about 4.5km (vertical) of climbing all up. The climbs were spread at the start and end of the race, with a relatively flat section through the middle of the day. Enormous by any standards. The pre-start ritual of sunscreen, strapping tape, DZ Nuts application, etc was added to by a Dave Zabriskie play list from great movies of the 1980s, particularly Top Gun, Karate Kid and Beverly Hills Cop. To hear "You're the best around" for the first time in decades was golden!
I can remember watching the Tour in the years before being a part of the race. I was always completely gutted that just when things got interesting and they'd had a few mountain stages, there would be a rest day. Allergic to Stairs. Now, the rest day is like a shining light off in the distance that you can see, and know everything will be better for it.
Double Challenge. Mountain stages in bike races are inevitably decisive in sorting where riders finish in the race overall. They pose a number of challenges to a team atop the obvious physical barrier of the terrain itself. The main non-terrain issue on these stages is the weather. When going uphill, the speed drops, and so there is less cooling thanks to the wind, whilst the reverse happens on the descent, which is compounded by the boys having sweated more than normal on the way up. So on hot days, there are issues of overheating on the ascents, and when it's cold, we worry about them getting too cold on the descents.
Weight of a Nation. Today was the first mountain stage of the race, and the second chance for the big hitters to test each others' legs and see who was looking dangerous and who not. I just love the mountaintop stages in these races! Sitting in the bus heading up the hill, you get such a good look at what the boys are going to need to deal with, see all of the people in various states of excitement, and just build yourself up into a crescendo of anticipation for what is about to come.
Book out the window. There was a quote one of our boys gave on a day he crashed twice in 200m: "I thought I was pretty good at riding my bike." Upon watching the final sprints and the way our boys have set up the lead-out train in the past two days, I think I could be forgiven for thinking something similar about what I do for a job. How many times can I be surprised at how tough and courageous our boys are? This is something I'm happy being wrong about!
Relativity of Time. I have a great mate who has a theory on the relative speed of time passing. He believes that time should be measured experientially, rather than chronologically (similar to Dunbar in Catch-22, who believes if he does nothing for long enough, time will drag out to the point that he will effectively live forever). I think there's something to this from the point of view of the brain. It feels like a couple of months ago that we had the prologue up in Rotterdam, and weeks ago that the Roubaix cobbles stage took place, and yet today is only Stage 6.
Two Day Theory. It is a very fortunate thing that the situation that Garmin-Transitions is in during this Tour is a first time for all of us involved. The fortune I speak of is partly that we've never had to deal with nigh on half of our team all being pretty badly wounded on the one descent, and partly that the fretting resulting from this would leave us, the staff, nervous wrecks. I have made up a totally anecdotal "two day" theory regarding peoples' responses to injury and trauma. It's completely without scientific evidence or backing, but does explain a pattern of behaviour that I have regularly seen over the years.
The Bounce. We came to this Tour with nine guys ready to race. We're down our leader and facing some injuries, but if yesterday proved anything it's that we're still up for it. The day started out with a little stress, considering the injuries some of the guys were going to go over cobbles with. However, the show must go on, and despite the misgivings, we were still pretty psyched yesterday morning-we have a very talented bunch of blokes in this team, and so we were still hoping to do a bit of damage today, and the plan went ahead as normal.
Perfect Storm of Crap. All talk of the Mock aside, holy crap. What a day. Yesterday's stage was dubbed a mini Liege-Bastogne-Liege as it covered a segment of the same course as that particular race. For those not in the know, LBL is one of the major Spring Classics on the calendar. It's a tough race with lots of short, sharp hills on very small old roads. The weather was also particularly Belgian Spring Classic-esque: overcast with sporadic bursts of rain.
Always Fear The Mock. Some would say that this is the most powerful force in the universe, and yet it has never been quantified. I for one am a firm believer in the Mock, and think that CERN should be turning their attention to investigating the power of the Mock, rather than the trivialities of the God particle, Higgs boson and what-all else you want to talk about.
Solid Kick-off. Finally we're underway! And what a start it's been. Time trial days are always long periods of surprising quietness (and the quiet is always a surprise) punctuated by flurries of furious activity. As team mechanic-cum-philosopher Kris Withington (NZ's finest mechanic) says, "it's either full gas work or full gas wait."
One More Sleep! We are at the end of Day -1, which is the point where the whole team just want things to start already. Admittedly I've been in that mood since Tuesday afternoon when I headed out from the team Service Course in Girona. Now everyone else has joined me in night-before-Christmas-as-a-seven-year-old land.
Are we ready yet. Two days out from the start of the Tour. The whole team has arrived at the hotel, and the Show is about to begin! It's very exciting, but not much is really going on. It's sort of like when the starter calls "set" in a track & field sprint: heaps of stuff about to happen, but nothing doing just yet. Yes I once sprinted. Yes, in this instance "sprinted" is a very loosely applied verb. This is the first full day of the road show. We have a good whack of people here: 19 staff will be on the road for the full three weeks.
The Pizza Matrix Thwarted. We have all been faced with, and stumped by, the eternal question when hosting a gathering: how many pizzas to order? Until last night, I had thought the complex equation drafted by my good mate (and mathematical genius) BA in the mid 90s that he dubbed "The Pizza Matrix" covered all situations. For those unfortunates who don't know the details, I shall go through the equation now. Concentrate...
Big Race: Small Race. Mid June has been and gone, and I find myself up in the northeast of Italy once again (Arona to be precise), this time at a couple of tiny one day races. We came through the same area for the finale of the Giro, where Ivan Basso turned the screws over the final few days to win the overall. A significantly smaller proposition awaits us tomorrow!
Boombah! Or, as we like to pretend that the Italians say, Opahhh! So the last post I put through (earlier today) was 16km from the finish, and included a series of "hopefullys" all of which came to pass, meaning we won today! A great result for the team, and a super performance by the team. United Nations of Awesome. We knew that the finish was a little tricky, so got as much info back to the big bosses on the road as we could, meaning that the boys could plan their attack well.
Double Figures. We're now deep into the Giro, Day 10 in fact, and the cracks are starting to show! Firstly, there was a horrific incident of five of the team's staff getting on the wrong side of some VERY raw, yet delicious steak, which fortunately didn't lead to a team-wide outbreak of GIT problems. Thank goodness for Universal Precautions! Secondly (and as ever, less importantly) the riders are now in the hurt basket pretty much permanently.
4hr Race. Yesterday was the Teams Time Trial (TTT) a 33km shot through northern Italy where teams departed five minutes apart and raced the clock up the road. The order of starting was based on the overall standing of the best three riders from each team, with the slowest team going first, and the team of the race leader going last (regardless of how their team was faring). My job for the day was to check the time splits of our boys relative to the teams who had ridden before them. There was only one official time split provided by the race, and we wanted to make sure our boys got as much info as possible. I thus had to drive up the road behind one of the earlier teams and then start the clock.
The Giro d’Italia version 2010 has begun. We started racing up in Amsterdam (which, while not technically* part of Italy, was a cool place to start racing from) with a time trial, followed by two road stages. The start of a Grand Tour is always cool — the whole team starts to find extra gears, and the organisation is singing by start time. Despite (or because of) this, the riders get edgier and edgier, and so “transgressions” that wouldn’t have even resulted in a batted eyelid days earlier suddenly become monumentally important. Fun.
Back! Just a quickie before the Giro starts (well, only three days after the Giro started, but near enough). March and April saw a nice turnaround in the fortunes of the team: only two fractured collarbones and two major concussions! MUCH less hectic! We also put in some very good results, popping up with wins in both individual stages and overall races (on one memorable day we won three times: two stages and an overall race. Very nice!). We also had some very strong showings in some of the biggest one day races on the calendar. Very nice indeed! March also saw a grand turnaround in the life of Tobias, with the arrival of Mands to sunny Girona. Good times!
I was sitting in a little plaza in Girona the other day, tucking into a gelato and enjoying the dream, when a dude on a unicycle with arms outstretched furiously pedalled his way past me. It got me to thinking: Has there ever been a worse invention in the history of mankind? Think of any other mode of transport with no brakes, no gears and no steering. It is less efficient and more dangerous than walking, and also looks awkward. At least cigarettes give you a buzz.
Paris-Roubaix. Hell of the north. The Queen of the Classics"¦ There is a great deal of hype out there about the latest and greatest event taking place. When it comes to Roubaix, the expectation and the event itself meet. This is a brilliant bike race!
So January was all sunshine and roses. And then"¦ KERTHUMP! Along came Europe in winter in all of her furious unpredictability! My first night in Girona was one of the very rare times that it snows in town. We're very close to the Pyrenees, so on clear days you can see snow on the mountaintops deep into May, but snow in town is rare. I'd love to have photos to show, but I was too freakin cold to be worrying about such!
Allrighty. So I have been meaning to keep people in touch with what's been going on, and have heard about this "blogging" thing ever since about 2004. I'm now getting it together. I'll start with some stuff that I wrote, but never sent. Things will catch up to the now quickly enough. But I feel for posterity's sake (like posterity is an entity in and of itself, and if it were, would give a hoot as to what I did or didn't do. Hubris. Pure hubris!) I should send the stuff from the earlier part of the year.
Kris heads straight for breakfast from the camper but I’m not man enough for that, I need the shower to bring me to life before I can face Rotterdam Six Day 2019, Day Four...
Dutch 15 times former motor paced world champion Bruno Walrave is the man with the plan - and the keys; but he's, 'in a meeting... Bruno is pushing 80 years-of-age but let’s just say that; “age hasn’t mellowed him.” Eventually the door opens and we're in business – handshakes, the key, creds and unload the mobile home.
We caught up with Joe after his Boxing Day training ride (I can just about remember those, up into North Fife with Dave Chapman for a couple of hours then home for steak pie at Mum’s)... Here’s what he had to say:
One of the things that’s good about FaceBook is seeing those old pictures from the 70’s when cars, music and especially bike racing were all cooler than they are today. Recently, there have been some nice pictures of those Regent boys and that got me to thinking about the omnipresent Clan McGinty. A quick message to Steven of that ilk followed and we hope you like what he had to say as much as we did...