12 April 2006

Ronde van Drenthe (Tour of Drenthe)

Before leaving I was talking to a few of the team as to what expect from the area or the race itself. ‘Hey, there is nothing up there, nothing’ seemed to be the average response. Nothing up there, well soon I would see for myself, a small drive of 250km and then right into the first stage. I had a few bikes to pick up on the way, and had an idea of where I was going for a change, north. So I packed a few extra clothes, starting to get the northern hemisphere sussed a little bit better now. Heading north means colder, and heading south means colder as well, well at least for the next month or so, then we will see some warm stuff. Tour of Drenthe was a race with some pretty bad roads, and some pretty bad conditions, this time I was ready for it. We had a full team of eight racing, and one mechanic, things would be a little bit busy, so I got as organised as I could, because there would be no spare time at all, unfortunately.

The weather for the day was looking good, sunny and warm 12’C was reading on the trucks dash, my trusty gauge to the outside world. The drive was sweet, no traffic, and the girls were right, the further we got north, the less there was, less traffic, less houses, less to look at, but the sun was the same, thank god. I arrived at the start, even though I broke my rules on navigation, and decided not to listen to my GPS and thought I found a faster way. 50km into my plan, I turned off the highway expecting to find my shortcut, but there was a load of roadwork’s, the road was closed, my secret plan foiled, I should have listened to her beautifely montoneus voice today. Back to where I started to go wrong, and quickly to the start, I just managed to make it there before the bus, so they didn’t know any better.

Another team shot for a change, Noboli, from Italy, Japanese champ on the right.

Some of our gang getting ready at the start.

Today’s leg was a small 80km, through the countryside of Drenthe, a couple of times through the small city and then home. We had a good break with Linda for most of the race, getting a lead of up to 2 mins at one stage (which is a lot for an 80km race) but the bunch tracked her down with a few km’s to go. All the team finished well. Linda managed to get two jerseys for her troubles, the cobblestone jersey (still made from lycra) and the king of the mountains. The mountain I almost missed, as it was as flat as a pancake, I think the line painted on the ground was the actual mountain. But no real action coming from any of the teams today, except us, as usual, everyone was waiting for us to make a move. We finished late, by the time we got to the hotel it was already getting dark, I hooked the trucks essentials up, power and water and started work. Late races suck, as by the time I have cleaned all the bikes and checked them all for the next day, it’s almost midnight, no food left, bar closed, so just time for a little sit down before bed. I was one of the first to arrive in the car park, and the last one to leave at night, damn it (most teams having less riders, or two mechanics, not the fact that I am slow).

A beautiful sunset, against the team bus, might be a nice day tomorrow

Another long night for the mechanic, ahh the peace out in the country.

Next day dawns nice, but by the time that we get to the race start, clouds are looming. Weather is hard to read around here, and all of the reports are crazy, 45% rain, 25% sun, 30% cloud, take your pick in the day when this might happen. Think the weather guys just don’t want to commit to anything, it may rain in the morning, or any other time during the day. But I will say they are pretty accurate, at the end of the day when you tally it all up they are right on the money, now if they could only tell us where the stuff will be, would be great. Today’s race was 128km long, with a couple of the worst cobbled sections of the race in it, a nice little climb done twice. This climb is a man made mountain, from most of the Netherlands rubbish, but nice to see a hill that breaks through the otherwise boringly flat landscape.

A beautiful day to be racing.

The minute we headed underway, the rain came down, and the temperature just fell through the floor. I was watching it fall from 15’c to 6.5 in a mater of ten minutes, and the rain just started getting heavier. What more can we do but laugh to ourselves, really, I was crying inside with all the extra cleaning I had coming in for the night. The race started hard, with huge speed, strong headwinds and rain almost coming at them horizontally. We sent Linda out at about 30km into it, she had another rider with her so at least she was not alone. The pack chased all day, through some pretty crazy cobbles, so old, bumpy and covered in mud. It was a nice little break from the monotony of the terrain, but it was also the scene of our first problems for the day. Crash, Tanja goes down with a few other riders, one flew over her and upon landing on her nice new Giant, it was in pieces. What a surprise, as we have seen many crashes, and always it’s the giant smashing, all the mechanics saw it, what a mess. We changed Tanja’s bike, raced through the rest of the cobbles, man what a war zone, bikes, riders, team cars mechanics running everywhere, seem like we were not the only ones with problems today.

We chased to the back of the bunch, and crash, we hear another of our riders are down, Loess, gets taken out in a corner. Getting to the scene, we see a couple of girls down, not ours though, but there was one of our bottles on the ground, she was not around though. Another crash in the bunch, Madeline goes down as well, putting a nice hole in her ankle with someone else’s chainring, man what a messy day. The rain is still falling, so are the riders, more crashes come almost round every corner, lucky none of our girls though. Always scares me when I hear crash on the race radio, but they follow it up with the team names, so we can get our car there to sort it out. Waiting, waiting every time hoping it’s not us called out again. Seven more riders catch Linda and the other girl, then a few more, the bunch becomes 17 for the last hour. To cut a long race short, the group had three of us in, it dropped Vera a few km’s from the end, then Linda dropped off, so it was up to Loes, to save the day. The finish was in a small circuit, with 3 km’s to go we left them to it, and rushed to see the finish, this we never see, we hear it heaps, but never get to see it. We got fourth, but not a bad day.

Nice shot of the countryside, nothing out there really.

What a mess to clean, I started at about 3pm and finally crawled to bed about 11pm, all clean and almost ready to go. A few hours work before the start, and I’m ready. One broken bike, two smashed wheels, three smacked up riders, a nice gash, two scratched up bikes, and a mechanic with 13 extra hits of adrenaline for the day. Five nice strong whiskeys later (was for my flu, medicinal purposes of course), I slept well. Roll on the last day. But we had three jerseys for the day, Cobbles (still made from lycra), the KOM (this time there was a hill or two) and the most aggressive rider (not one who picks the most fights, but who attacks the bunch the most), and a 4th place, so was not too bad. We were the only team with all 8 riders still. 172 starters, by the end of today only 92 left, what a toll, hey all the mechanics were still in the race as well. But if there was jersey for the mechanic who looks like shit, I would have won easy.

Nice gash!

All lined up and ready to race.

Day three wakes, to a great sunrise once again (I am the only one who sees it of course). The bikes were ready, the girls a little bit worn, but otherwise almost smiling. We were underway, with the same hill of rubbish three times, two sections of old, nasty cobbles, and a race to win. Can’t remember much. A break got away for most of the day, three of our girls were in, Loes was sitting in 8th in the GC (general classification) so we could almost take a win here. But it was not to be, Lose ended up pulling out with knee issues from yesterday. A Kiwi (Joanne Kiesanowski) takes the win (there was two kiwi’s, not one as mentioned last week), we keep the three jerseys, all the riders were spent, the mechanic was done. Time for a quick pack, and to get the hell outta there. Time for a day off and to decommission the gear, and get ready for the next race.

The cobblestone jersey (L) on Tanja, and the KOM on Linda (R). A couple of happy little monkeys.

A few more photo's here, password;benny

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