The night before the Pro Men’s race and things were starting to settle down a little. Most of the pressure of the last few months seem to be coming to a slow grinding halt. This was the last race of my tour in Europe, with three riders to go, the most important race of the year for them and for me. The sweetest bikes to work on, the sweetest wheels to tune in, the nicest gear to work with, and the most unassuming riders, thank god. What a great way to finish.
The frame swap went well, not a single problem, and also a comment that it was working better than when the team had worked on it put a smile to my face. We had three riders for Sweden, six sweet bikes, and a pile of wheels that would keep Steve Parker off the streets for weeks. After working until midnight I was happy with the state of the bikes, believe me as much love and attention goes into the pros bikes as yours. The difference was all these guys were a lot bigger than me, and a good bashing was going to hurt. We packed the car, which looked pale in comparison, the booty that we were carrying on the roof. We left an hour earlier than the riders as we had to take our team truck to the race, as we had to leave directly after the race, even early on a Sunday morning there is a shit load of traffic to deal with. The riders arrived an hour later, looking ready for six hours in the sunshine. We had also found out that we had to share a team car with Denmark, and Norway, servicing nine riders during the race. There was no shortage of mechanics keen for a 260 km jaunt round and round Madrid, so I was off the hook again. Time to relax, get some photos, give some people some grief, say some goodbyes to some of the others I had meet over the last few weeks, and buy some cheesy souvenirs.
There was so much bullshit required to get accredited for the race for all the staff and riders, I was wondering what it was all for. We had hundreds of punters off the street wandering through the pits, which was hard as I was trying to make sure all our bikes and wheels were safe as crime here was really bad. All the riders were getting hassled for autographs and photo’s, it was a real zoo when they were trying to get themselves sorted. When the race come through from the start, there was three or four hundred deep in the pits, I thought there was going to be a pile up for sure, that’s all we need after all our work. It was good to see them off, finally, now for some racing.
Rubbing shoulders with all the pros was pretty sweet, some of them are a lot smaller than I thought, joking as much as we do on the starting line, some things never change in this sport I thought. Every country had the same size tent with a TV playing the race live, it was pretty cool seeing them come past the first few times. Feeding was a great sight as the group of 150 or so came through the pits, I was sure there was going to be some carnage, but no, damn it. It was good to see the boys in black though, at least we had a team, bad colour to be wearing with 30’c in the shade though.
They raced round and round the circuit (for more gripping reports look at cyclingnews.com) late in to the afternoon. About two laps to go, half the TV’s decided to blow out, which was great as three or four nations were crowded into the various boxes still going. You could see some tension as complete enemies were sharing the same screen, the organization was sweating to get the problem solved. I roamed around hoping there was going to be a fight, but no, damn it. One thing for sure, cycling is one of those sports where complete strangers from warring countries can sit shoulder to shoulder together all for the love of the sport, with smiles on their faces. When the TV’s were sorted the last lap was on, the bunch was almost together after breaks all day. Watching the kiwi sprinting up the last hill was pretty exciting, I didn’t quite know whom to support at this stage. They came all together, just past the back of the pits doing about 80k, the sprint was on. The boxes were full of excitement as every nation was out to win. One of our Swedish guys were looking good in the last few hundred meters, but with a few meters of the line he blew, but we did get a fourth, by a bike length to third, that was pretty cool. I almost got a medal for one of the bikes I worked on, fourth will do this year, but give me gold next year for sure..
Righto, only a 2100km drive home to go, and then I’m almost done. A few hundred km’s into the trip, we decided to drive through the night because traffic was pretty thick through France on a Monday we heard. As usual, the storm we encountered on the way to Madrid followed us through to Spain. Through the back of the Pyrenes the lightening was like nothing that I have ever seen before. Huge forks of lightening spread across the sky in the most amazing patterns, my co driver kept on waking as he thought that I was taking pictures of him sleeping with the flash in his eyes. The storm followed us all the way into France, at least it kept me awake into the early morning. We arrived in Holland the next day about lunchtime, not bad for the distance we had travelled, and a long sleep was waiting for me. The bikes and the mess in the truck can wait.