23 August 2005

you can't win em all

Quite a serious day today for the team. We had the Dutch National Time Trails on for the day, so time to defend the title for our star of the team Miriam. The reigning National champ has so much more pressure on them than the defenders, believe me the whole team was feeling that pressure today.

We had three of the team racing in the TT and most of the other girls there for support. I think I had as much of a tough day as the riders because I felt the pressure bearing down like never before. I always take on too much responsibility when I work on others bikes, I always feel responsible when things go wrong even when I know that it was not anything to do with me. So why can’t I do the same for my own bikes you say, well it’s the same as a builders house or a mechanics car theory, maybe I should get others to work on my bike then I might not crash through mechanical failure, just rider error.

I think this was most serious racing to date for me for this trip, not only was I working on the defending champs bike, fourth seed, best junior of last year (new girl that the team is getting ready for when she is old enough to race elite). I also had the Team Directors two kids racing, both of them out for first in their consecutive classes, both defending champs as well. Plus on top of that the sun was shining like never before, it was hot, up to 30’c at one stage throughout the day. I was sweating, from the heat of course, what else did you think.(shame I could not go to the beach as this was the nicest day here so far). Nah, I was stressed as well, hey it feels like I am racing every time a bike leaves my hands. If there is a problem with the bike, who else do they look at, not the cook or the bus driver.

I started early, after having spent two days solid on seven bikes, one of them I spent almost a day checking everything out three times. Polishing and cleaning every part on the thing, thinking of all the possibilities that might happen, making sure, then checking again. Hey, I trust my own work but you never know, shit does happen..

The day before I decided to call it quits about midday, there’s only so much you can sort on a perfect machine. It takes a good mechanic to walk away from a bike at this stage, but rather than over tighten and strip that important part, walk away. So I headed up to Amsterdam with one of the girls not racing, for the afternoon for a ride and a bit of shopping. The ride was great, hooked up with a couple of kiwis, for a sweet ride out to the coast all on bike paths and some cool cobbled hills. Got to love the riding here, no cars hassling you, dedicated riding paths, sunshine till 9pm. It was a late night, just what I needed, no time to worry when I should be sleeping.

So back to the day, the daughter left, no problems, fifth place, not so good but ok. The son left, no problems, third place, not to bad. The junior had an hour to kill so I decided to chop her TT bars down a little, reroute some cables (I needed to get busy as I was starting to sweat it just a little). Her father was on my ass, looking at what I had on, looking at the watch, looking at me. Thank god he could’nt speak English as he was trying to talk, in the end I just moved him away about 50m, put a chair under his ass and gestured I would cut his balls off with the cable cutters if he came near me for the next 30 mins. He got the idea. The bike was sweet, the position rocked, she beat many that she hadn’t beat before and was raving about the bike. The old man kept looking at me strange as I was talking with his daughter afterwards, he wanted to come closer and listen, but I had the cutters in my hand unknowingly clipping them nervously as our two best were up next, he stayed well clear..

Next up the fourth seed, Sandra, she was pretty relaxed, her bike was sweet, she has done this before and wasn’t expected to win. Her boyfriend was tailing her in the car, just in case of punctures or mechanicals. We wouldn’t get back in time for our champ if we tailed her.

Next up, the last pro Woman to start, our star rider, team captain, Miriam. She had spent the last hour or so on the trainer warming up. That’s after a couple of warm up laps and a ride earlier in the day. Two TV crews were filming avidly as she came up to the start. I get my last check here, brakes, gears, cleaning the tires as she steps up on the start podium. Passing the bike to her the cameras go off, I get the last word, ‘Success’ (translation: good luck) she is in total control, a trance like stare down the start ramp, 3-2-1 she’s off. I dive into the car and were off.

A nice tail wind to start, across the top of a dyke for 10km, winding trough little villages perched on the side of it. We hit 63kph, nice straight lines, the cameras in close proximity, a little too close to concentrate from what I can see. Past many people lining the streets clapping, calling her name, they know she is the defending champ, they want her to win. The director doesn’t stop on the radio, don’t know much Dutch but I can pick up the odd bit here and there. ‘Like a coffee grinder’, ‘nice straight lines’, ‘change gear’. I’m sure there was a few expletives used as I have heard them been used before.

The woman race only 25km, which is short for the work involved for me, the stress from the director and the preparation from the riders. Into the wind on the way back Miriam starts to slow down a bit, more radio action from the director (who is also married to her), things are starting to get heated on the race radio as we start hearing the times from the riders coming into the finish. A few quick calculations and we work out that at her current speed she will be about 5 seconds down. Things started to get serious as we got closer, quick calculations every kilometre were done in our heads. From 5km out we new that it was over, three seconds to get back in the last few minutes, seemed impossible, but we still tried. Race radio was updating the last three riders, a new fastest time posted, things were looking bad.
The last km she was sprinting out of the saddle, trying to grasp those precious seconds, bang, bang, bang on the pedals… It was not enough, third place, it may as well been last for the director, he seemed pissed. We tracked her down past the finish line, she was drained of every bit of energy that she had. She was upset and trying to gain composure for the podium at the same time. She looked gutted, we were gutted, but that’s racing for ya. The sun was still shining, that was good, the bike was perfect, best it had been for a while I was told, that’s always nice to know after a few stressful days.
As I was packing up the bikes the professional men were starting. All the big Dutch names were there, both the Dekkers, Bogard and a load of others whose names I won’t even try to spell. Man those guys are fast, puts our locals to shame, actually most of the woman would as well. They were flying past the truck with such speed, I defiantly thought they were going to bin on the corners, but no.

Right, next race to think about, another World Cup, this time in the UK, Newport in Wales. Should be nice weather I hear, plus I have never been there so should be great.

Righto more later benny

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