“What a difference a day makes,” as Esther Phillips once sang. Tuesday afternoon, Charleroi, Belgium and it’s cold, grey, wet and windy. We’re on our way to the Grenoble Six Day 2006.
It has taken us nearly ten hours on the motorway to get to Lyon having been battered by cross-winds and cut-up by manic East European truckers.
It was wearing-on for 1.00 am when we dropped into comas at L’Hotel Tour de Fawlty; but the beds worked just fine.
Wednesday, 11.00 am, wispy clouds and a heat haze around the mountains make for a scene from a Swiss chocolate advert.
Limestone cliffs tower to our left, ahead and to our right are jagged peaks.
The sun is warm on my skin through the windscreen as we get ever-closer to Grenoble. Noon, Palais des Sports Grenoble and we get our photos taken for our passes.
Kris is a soigneur and I’m a “garcon de course”, literally translated that’s “boy of the race” – that’s equivalent to a septic tank cleaner’s assistant.
“Chef de piste” is former Tour de France and Grenoble Six winner, Bernard Thevenet; he looks good, tanned and thinner than last year. He’s an affable man, as is his dapper second in command, former world professional points champion, Laurent Biondi.
“Can we get set-up now, please?” enquires Kris. “Non, non, at two o’clock, now we go for lunch,” well, this is France after all.
We wander off to do some shopping and return at 2.30, Biondi is there but not Thevenet; he’s still “up the Toon” as they say in Edinburgh, telling the boy at the next table how he dropped Merckx that time in ’75.
Immediately the politics of the incestuous world of six-day racing rears its head. Last year we had the big cabin below the stadium, this year we have three wee ones, much less handy. Kris suspects that Franco Marvulli’s partner, Alexander Aeschbach has tipped the organisers that we only have five riders, whilst Robert D’Hondt the soigneur who is looking after Alex this year, has six.
Marvulli and Aeschbach have won here three times and are riding together this year, but top-man on the sixes, Bruno Risi has asked Marvulli to be his regular partner – to the disgust of Aeschbach, who hardly talks to Marvulli now and does not want to work with Kris.
Juvenile? You bet!
It takes the bulk of the afternoon to unload the camper and get the cabins set-up to Kris’s satisfaction. It puts us ahead of the game, though; tomorrow we only have to set-up the track side cabins.
It’s 9.00 pm and we’re in a Premiere Classe motel back at Lyon, the Danish guys fly-in to the airport here in the morning and we have to collect them.
The pros get introduced to the crowd at 20.25 tomorrow night. I’ll talk to you then.