World Road Championships 2007, Press Centre 09.45, I’m meant to have an interview with Hugh Porter at 10.00 and I’m looking forward to that.
It’s a wet day in Stuttgart, there are still nearly three hours until Simon Zahner of Switzerland rolls-down the ramp as first starter in the Elite time trial, let’s hope that the skies have cleared by then, apart from me wanting to keep dry, a lot of the course will be damn dangerous if it’s damp.
Getting to the Killesberg Messe (exhibition centre) was much easier today, the train system is straightforward once you are over the initial anxiety of getting organised. The big thing is the accreditation, without it you can do very little, the security here is very tight, there are stewards everywhere and passes are checked at every point.
The trains are full of ‘salary men’, shop assistants and students, just like in Scotland, early morning smiles are few, but at least you can get a decent coffee.
I’m hoping to follow a rider again today, an early starter then watch the comings and going of the ‘big-hitters.’
Fast forward to 20.15. Didn’t get my Hugh Porter interview, I was “too late”, never mind, try again tomorrow.
I left the Press Centre at around 11.30, in search of a brolley, it was teeming-down by that time and I had a lot of wandering about to do. Eventually, I ‘obtained’ a Stuttgart brolley (don’t ask) and headed-off, in search of a lift. I’d decide to do a piece where I checked-out the Elite course but also looked at the pre-race goings-on.
I had a brain-wave for my lift, Giovanni Lombardi (ex-Cipo lead-out man and Olympic gold medallist with 44 wins on the road, to boot) is now looking after the Argentinean team. I helped look after him at the Copenhagen six a few years ago and a deal was soon done.
I had a good wander round the pits after that, the rider we were following, Matias Medici wasn’t off until 12.42, so I had time to explore.
Ben Day, the Australian was warming-up; more like a ‘death-sesh’ on the turbo. The riders went off in ‘waves’ to avoid a confusing situation with riders on different laps catching each other and chaos developing. The last wave contained all the favourites, but I was surprised they hadn’t put Grabsch in it after his time trial stage win in Spain.
Ben Day was in the first ‘wave’ with Medici and Plowman Craven’s (maybe not for long after the move he pulled in the criterium series, though) Kiwi, Gordon McCauley. He remembered me from Girvan and we had a blether for few minutes, he explained that he hasn’t got absolute top-end speed but has strength and likes it when it’s cold, wet and hard. That’s why he likes Girvan, so much.
The rain never halted, I reported back to the Argentinean pits at the appointed hour, Giovanni pointed at the rear door handle and we were off. Like I usually say, it’s all on Pez.
I didn’t go too overboard on that description but I did want to see what extra work the pros had to do. It wasn’t too sore for them, the dog-leg on the flat and fast dual carriageway was extended and if anything, the course was less technical.
The under 23s had a tricky turn around an interchange on that leg whilst it was a simple fly-over turn for the pros.
After my two laps I decided to lurk around the pits of a few of the favourites, Zabriskie, Cancellara, Millar and Wiggins. Again, it’s all on Pez here, but are we taking things too far with team GB? All those ‘minders’, the Barloworld bus, the riders stashed-away; it’s all very well trying to get every advantage, but we simply weren’t in the same race as Cancellara.
Meanwhile, the Swiss warmed up in the most informal of ways [below], no minders, no bus, you could almost feel the serenity around him.
I was lucky-enough to be right on the spot when Zabriskie had his brush with the technical commissars, it really was touch-and-go whether he rode; ‘no, no, it’s not OK, your bike is not legal!’ was what was said to him.
I think I would have had the bike checked earlier, if it was me.
Anyway, a good race, a great winner and time for bed, now! Road race course preview tomorrow, talk to you after that.