29 March 2006

The Coppa dei Laghi, Italy

Before we left for the race in Italy, we headed into Belgium to help one of the girls with a TT she was racing. It was the University World Champs, with about thirty countries present, all of the other creeds of cycling were been contested as well, it was a big week for the students. Loes was contesting the TT at tenth seed, so we would not be around for the whole day, as Italy was beckoning.
Most of the students were watching as we arrived, as it was a pretty small event, and to have your own personal mechanic, team car and Director helping caused a stir with the kids. I got her bike sussed, one bike so it was pretty easy. We waited for the start, and watched some of the first seeds, and what bad positions most of them had. Some of them were so bad, I had to avert my eyes as the girls could not be comfortable, let alone be in a winning postion. Loes was off, and looking good right from the start. Two laps of 7km, and it was over almost before we started. Her ride was good, and she cleaned up with about a minute to spare. Another great win by one of the girls, some more world stripes, and a great day for the team.

Loes and Jean-Paul getting interviewed after the win.

We headed back to base, pretty happy for the few hours work, and I preceded to pack six bikes, 12 sets of wheels, tools, pumps, food and whatever else we needed for the race into the car. For a single days race it wasn’t worth taking the truck, and the car is pretty quick so it will save time. Driving through Germany is always a blast, at speeds up to 200km/hr cars still pass you like you are standing still. Traffic was not so bad so we arrived in Switzerland earlier than planned at about 1am. A short sleep, and away again in the morning, under grey skies and rain. It was not what I was looking forward too. But the drive through Switzerland was awesome, with steep mountains with precariously sitting houses. Some of the lakes we passed were kind of places you see on biscuit tin lids.

Love the food at the gas station, mmm sure beats potato chips.

Passing the border into Italy we stopped at a gas station, they always have the best coffee here, even in the gas stations. They put most of the worlds cafes to shame with the quality of food and coffee you can get, as well as a full tank of diesel. We drove into Italy a couple of hours, picked the girls up, and headed to the race start, a little town called Salo, on the lake front of Lake Garda. As we drove down the very steep and windy access road we sighted the lake, what a view, with the mountains in the background, and picturesque towns just about falling onto the lake. Racing starts at 9:30am so we worked till late to get everything done on time. But still had time for a quick drink when we finished, but there was a wine tasting on in the same hotel. The bartender was just dishing out the champagne, we couldn’t refuse, few hours later we decided we had to go, there was just too much wine left over, we could never finish it (not that we didn’t give it a try).

The beautiful lake, wished there was sun though.

The day started fine, not what I would have guessed, but who the hell knows what to expect when I wake up in a different country two or three times a week. I can’t even guess where the sun will rise or where north is, (and what day it is most of the time) let alone predict the weather.

Waiting for my master, do you like my new wheels?

The race start.

Racing started well, no probs, but doing everything was time consuming, filling bottles, organising the food for the bike, massaging the legs of the riders, my work is never done. The first 40 km were sweet, with little roads, twisting their way through little towns, we tried to attack though most of these, but were unsuccessful. A few larger roads where nothing happened, then the mountains started growing around us. Klass had left a little earlier to scout the course, check out the hills and feed the girls. He gave us a report of the big hill 85km into the race, and 10km long, ‘not that steep, easy’ was his report. We told the girls this and they thought sweet, but as we approached, the mountain was almost the opposite of what we told the girls. The climb split the field real quick, race radio was shit, so we could hear nothing, but managed to hear 4 riders out front. Soon we found out it was Mirjam and Suzanne L out the front with a couple of Italian climbers. Hearing nothing we could only hope they were alright as we were way back trying to get through the main part of the peloton. I spotted the girls at the top and did some time keeping, 40 secs to the second bunch, with 10 kms to go. The decent was wild, always a treat after a slow climb up, but with girls catching every corner you really have to watch it driving. Though old streets in towns with most of the locals out watching, it’s pretty cool, but all I can think of is the front of the race now. We got to with in 5k from the finish and we manage to pick up there was three left in the break, Mirjam had punctured on the way down, damn it. Neutral service fixed it for us as we were stuck in the middle of the race, Suzanne couldn’t keep the pressure up with out her teammate and the bunch caught her with 3km to go. A couple of corners and the race was done. 6th, 12th, 23rd , and a few other places. Not bad but could have been a great result for us.

Hey nice old church, Italian style

For most of the team it was the first real race, it was an exercise to see how their legs all were, and they were surprised at the result. Looking good as always, and feeling strong, the season was starting well. We left the girls at the hotel and packed up and hit the road. Leaving at 3pm we wanted to be home at midnight. And I just made it, 23:55 on the clock. Average speed was good, I love German autobahns, time just seems to pass you by.

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