Sometimes, you wonder why you are doing this - OK, it's great being around guys like Franco Marvulli and having an insight into the inner-sanctum, but it's hard work, often boring and stressed guys aren't fun to be around.
Grenoble Six Day 2006. 17.45: Where did the day go? They are playing Puccini over the stadium PA, the folies girls are rehearsing their routine, you would have to be here to appreciate it, but it's awesome.
11.20: Picked-up the Danish guys, Alex Rasmussen and Michael Mørkøv at Lyon airport. It's a hassle because it's hard to park the camper and security is tight. Alex looks slimmer than last season whilst Michael is still skeletal. We have to drive all the way back to Grenoble now. At least the sun is out and the scenery is good.
"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's 3.45 pm CET. I've been doing the tourist thing today. Salzburg is beautiful no-doubt, but it's a tad de-caffeinated, a good place to come with your girl but lacking that real-life' edge of say a Gent or a Lisbon. It's hard to find a proper bar but this one seems OK, complete with busty barmaid. World Road Championships 2006.
It's Sunday now and Paolo Bettini is World Champion. Erik Zabel's last chance of a rainbow jersey is surely gone, Valverde has another Worlds medal and I'd better try to get this diary up to date. I left you yesterday as the women's race was running its course.
I was up before the bells, showered, washing done and on the street. Even at 08. 00 it's buzzing.The first rider I saw was from Brazil, then the Russian team - looking good in their Itera kit on white carbon Looks. 177 riders from all over the globe; 47 nations. I just saw the Mexicans sign-on, but Gerald Ciolek is the favourite...
Not much exciting so far at the World Road Championships 2006 and its gone 2.00 pm. I awoke to the bells at about 7.30 and was first in the shower room. Breakfast was fine, but there's still no small-talk in there; it's not a bad thing I guess-you are out the door pronto. I was sat in the press centre immediately it opened at 9.00 and I've been writing ever since. I did my piece about Vino, Zabriskie and Cancellara plus their respective bikes and since then I've been getting the old VeloVeritas dairy up to date.
The alarm went at 08.00 and I hobbled out of bed. The shower room was occupied so it was the full wash in the sink routine-hope nobody filmed it. It has to be the most unfriendly breakfast room in the world - nobody speaks so it was quick bowl of muesli and out the door. World Road Championships 2006...
Off to the World Road Championships 2006. It was a 04.00 alarm job to get ready to leave at 06.00 and I hadn't had time to pack the night before. It's always the same driving to Prestwick-you think you are making great time until you get to Stepps and the vast car park that is the M8 during the rush-hour. Check-in at Prestwick wasn't too bad but the Colgate had to go-I wouldn't mind but it drives me crazy not knowing how to convert it into an explosive device.
We caught-up with Evan Oliphant at Stanstead Airport on Sunday night, en route to Edinburgh. A lift to the airport from the GB squad bound for Italia and a cheapo Easyjet flight meant he would be home just hours after racing in central London. Tom Boonen went from villain to hero in 24 hours, winning the final stage to take his total of wins to 20 for the season so far.
"What are you doing, you red fu**er?" The words of world champion, Tom Boonen (Belgium & Quick Step) to Danish rider, Michael Mørkøv when the youngster attacked, on team orders, in contravention of a Boonen-imposed ban on racing in yesterday's stage of the Tour of Britain. As well as following Evan's progress around Britain, I've been talking to Michael Mørkøv. Before we hear what Evan has to say I thought you should hear Michael's story from yesterday.
In the next day's stage four, Manning did indeed go up the road. Third place on the stage was the reward for his efforts, behind Mark Cavendish (GB and T-Mobile) and the winner, crafty Frederik Willems (Belgium & Chocolade Jacques). Tour of Britain 2006.
We caught-up with Evan after a wet and wild stage three, won by the immaculately coiffed 2006 Milan-San Remo winner, Filippo Pozzato (Italy & Quick Step); our man had just finished dinner.
Evan was out of the team car and just off the massage table when we caught-up with him after the second stage of the Tour of Britain 2006, into Liverpool, won by GB man Roger Hammond.
The Tour of Britain 2006 kicked-off in Glasgow on Tuesday morning with a 101.1 mile haul from Glasgow to Castle Douglas. Last year Evan Oliphant (Recycling) grabbed an excellent second place on a stage behind Russian champion Sergei Ivanov (T-Mobile). This year he'll be talking to VeloVeritas every day after the stage, we caught-up with him before the stage whilst he was stocking-up on victuals for the stage and receiving a light massage.
Bonjour! Sorry I haven't drawn a line under my sojourn in France sooner, but the last few days have been a tad hectic getting back into the groove. Here are a few pictures taken on my last day...
Heading to Lorient today... There's a great old 70's film called, 'The Omega Man'. To cut a long story short, Charlton Heston is the last man left alive (by day anyway) in a post-viral world. He roams this completely deserted US city with not another living thing in sight.
How could I ignore my hero Serhiy here in Saint-Grégoire? If I’d had a proper thinking-head on when I did the revue of the course yesterday I would have mentioned him; ‘a strong man’s course’ I said and who’s stronger than the man who rides 56 x 11? Isn’t it a joy to see him forcing that ‘death gear’ along the road, none of that embarrassing high-revving nonsense; face a mask of pain, giving his all — awesome.
Much of the cynicism I have built-up about the commercialism and rampant ‘janitor-mentality’ of many of the officials on Le Tour de France 2006 evaporated on Friday as we drove the full race route from Lisieux to Vitré.
I said this morning that I would talk to you from Caen; well it’s actually Lisieux, around 50 kilometres east of Caen, here on Le Tour de France 2006. It took the usual hour to get to the start this morning. Beauvais was ‘en fete’ for le Tour - not the grotty part of Beauvais you encounter en route to Ryanair’s tent at the airport but the nice, old part complete with Gothic cathedral.
We were spoiled at Strasbourg those first two days of Le Tour de France 2006 with the hotel just a couple of minutes from the press room and the action all within easy reach until the start on Monday. The driving is a killer now en route Saint-Quentin, not just because it’s boring and tiring but because of the time you waste. If I do a Grand Tour again, I’ll definitely organise a driver so as I can write as I travel.
I'm on Le Tour de France 2006 heading to Valkenburg. You know you’re in Luxembourg when the sanitary ware in the public toilets is by up-market ceramics company Villeroy & Boch.
At Le Tour de France 2006 I was involved with TV - no, no, not like that, cycling dot TV - the Internet TV guys. I met their guy, Steve Masters in the press room yesterday and he scrounged a lift off me to the start at Obernai with his camera man, James.
Sunday in Strasbourg, stage one-a day for the sprinters. It was quite late when I got to sleep, I had a coffee in the hotel after I came in from my pizza place, it was too strong for a wimp like me late at night and my efforts to nod-off were also seriously hampered by demented French men driving around Strasbourg blowing their car horns all night.
Another good sleep, alarm at 06:00 and straight into the shower, shave, jump into shorts and a T-shirt then down to the car and haul the bike out, stick the wheels in, blow the tyres up, run over it with a baby wipe [they work great] and we’re off to the Strasbourg Prologue.
I walked in to the press room this morning and one of the guys from French radio told me that Ulrich and Sevilla were gone - sent home by T-Mobile due to their involvement in Operacion Puerto, the Spanish drugs bust. Le Tour de France 2006.
The Operation Puerto bombshell has gone off - we just received a communiqué -Tour organisers defy Court of Arbitration in Sport and Astana Wurth DO NOT start 2006 Tour de France! If you are ever asked at a pub quiz how far it is from Kirkcaldy to Strasbourg, the answer is 915 miles -- if you go via Calais, Reims and Metz that is.I left Kirkcaldy at 7.30 pm last night and was waiting to board my ferry out of Dover exactly eight hours and 527 miles later.