24 August 2005

Finally some action..

Don’t worry, you don’t have to censor this for the children, it’s not the type of action that I was thinking of.

Finally after sitting and waiting for the inevitable, it finally happened, not just once but many times.. I must have been in the car waiting for at least twenty days so far. Hey, it’s not such a bad thing, if I stay in the car it means there are no problems, just watching and waiting, waiting for problems. Well the wait is over, got the best training all in one day, that is it for the season I hope.

The race was the Holland Hills Classic, a few days before the National TT listed below, got a little carried away on that story forgot to put this one first. It was in the Maastrict area, you know, the area with the hills. The race was a four-lap circuit of 35km, with a great little change on the last lap to feature a 24% hill for 800m (Parnell rise from Stanley St is 18% at its steepest if ya wanna know) with a distance of 135km in total.

Our star Miriam was the winner last year and the year before I think, so she was the hot favourite. We had a good team organised for the day, some of our best hill climbers (Lada, Luise, Sandra) sprinters (Tanya) and the power house (Linda) so we were looking to a great race. We had the car full with four spare bikes and enough wheels for any problems we may encounter. The girls were feeling good, the day was looking great, I was feeling fantastic even though I worked two days solid on the bikes and wheels for the race. Think I glued 24 tubulars, trued 36 wheels and rebuilt three bikes, including one at 22:00 the night before.

The team is scattered throughout Europe, so the girls just turn up for a race either the day of, or night before. Their bike might not have been looked at for a month or be cleaned for a week or two so it fells just like home back in the workshop, nothing has changed except the bike is new 10sp Dura-ace and the girls have been thrashing them. I have meet most of the girls so far and you can tell who rides the most by the state of the bike, who cleans, who doesn’t, who has a boy at home that rides, who doesn’t. I could probably guess soon how they race and their job in the team from the state of their bike. It’s pretty cool that they are so into riding so I don’t give them too much grief at this stage (to all my customers, just in case you think I’m getting soft here, there will be a full inspection of your bike the week that I get back so start cleaning now… or there will be trouble).

Back to the racing, where was I. The day was starting to look good, it had stopped raining, the sun was starting to shine, things were looking good. We had car No.2, which is great, as we were near the front of the race, otherwise you don’t get to see jack. Italy, Germany, France, Belgium and a few other small countries that sound like Luxemburg and stuff. There were about 160 on the start, looking good for the day.
How wrong I was. The race started, the sun was shinning, for about a ten minute period, then all hell broke loose. Rain like it was time for me to ride home after a beautiful day at work, so hard that the peloton disappeared into the mist and the road ran like rivers. The radio was silent from the girls, nothing to say, they were just dealing with it. The first climb was looming 10k into the start, half way up all the road debris was starting to appear all over the surface and I was starting to sweat, the humidity was killing me.

Then it came, “PUNCTURE” loud and clear from the radio, it was Mir, the leader, half way up the hill with the race spread all the way up the hill. Such tiny roads, I thought we would never get to her in time, but the director managed to weasel his way through the field. One of the girls had stopped and gave up her wheel, I changed hers, pushed on her way and we got back in the race. Things were sweet, as we watched all the other teams having the same problems I didn’t feel too bad, kind of pleased, hey it’s a race after all.

The rain was hard, the road was covered, I recovered, then not 15 mins later I hear the cry again, same voice, same word, “PUNCTURE”, (it was really in Dutch but I translated for the good of the story). There was none of the team near so she had to hang on while I sorted it, off again with two of the team up the road waiting to pull her back into the bunch. No problems all season then two in one day, my luck.

Not ten minutes later, you guessed it that Dutch word for puncture (I’ll remember it soon), this was getting bad, all three on the same bike, same girl, someone didn’t want her to win today, and they wanted to keep me awake in the back of the car as well.

To cut a long story short, it happened two more times, that’s five in total. I was starting to get worried as I was running out of wheels in a hurry, even sneaked one off the spare bike as they were all rear wheels, who would have thought. To make things worse, we had the two biggest sponsors in the car, things were tight with two of us, but another two. Think I got one of them in the head twice with a wheel in the end.

In the end the usual rules apply, when you think that you have it completely sussed, you are asking for it to happen.
When allowing sponsors in the car, you will be giving them a good show, and justifying your wages to them, they will get in the way. When the day looks good in Holland, it will be for a few minutes, then it won’t be and then it will be all within an hour.
Carry more wheels than you can imagine, more is good.
When the TV cameras are there, expect to be on film with the only wheel that won’t fit and get it caught in the derailier, and for the ten minutes they show the race, that’s better footage than the finish.
When it rains the girls get wet, and their clothes change shape and colour, in the team car it is dry but you sweat.
Yes you can have the total punctures for the season in one day.

We did have a second place in the end, all the team finished, mostly all. The sun did shine again after an hour of racing, no more problems after that, thank god.

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