10 May 2006

Tour of Gracia, part two.

I don’t know how long this computer is going to work for today, but at the moment it seems to be having a good day. I have just been looking at the Apple shop for a new laptop, maybe it caught wind that it was about to get replaced. But, at this stage it’s safe, the new model I have been waiting for is about a week away from arrival, so hope this POS can hang out till then. It’s got a mind of it’s own, think that it’s been dropped once too many times.

Oh well where were we. The Tour of Gracia, a five stage tour, in the spectacular Czech Republic. Orlova a town famous for nothing, was our home base for the next few days. I just found a small book they gave us after the tour finished, kind of a travel brochure, with a little bit of history of the city and surrounds. This town been famous in the mid 1800’s for coal, unfortunately they were a little too greedy as most of the town got condemned in the early 1920’s because of all the mining under the town. Lucky they rebuilt the town in the early 1950’s, in the style of British housing estate slums. Six storeys of tiny shoebox houses, but they have not just one of these in the town, seems from the look of the place that’s all there is. About thirty of these beauties still stand, now looking a little antique that gives the town it’s third world charm.

I love these things.

Stage #1 started at the local Nuclear power station, one of the main sponsors of the tour. Kind of creepy standing in the car park, 100m from four huge reactors, in a part of the world not famous for it’s safety records. But the race was underway, no fallout was recorded on my gigercounter, thank god. The roads were just the sort of things that a mechanic loves, massive potholes every few meters, and smaller ones every half meter. What a mess, locals were saying it was because of the bad winter, most of us were coming to the conclusion that they just don’t spend any money on anything here, especially the roads. I was sweating from the moment we got going as I knew that no tires in the world can put up with this sort of punishment, and survive. And how right I was, within minutes from the start, we had the first teams been called forward to sort their riders out, about twenty pinch flats later we had our first one. Followed a few minutes later by our second one, that was it for us for the day, but a round about count was about 55 wheel changes from all the teams, this was low considering the roads the girls were riding on. The day was pretty uneventful other than the last few km’s, with a wicked little cobbled climb, up to a nice little village. Amber was in a break with a few other climbers, and managed to sprint for second, only a few seconds from the leader.

And away we go.

Day two saw even worse roads than the previous day, but only one puncture for us, a count of about 36 for the rest of the teams. You kind of feel for some of the other mechanics when you hear their team name called out on the race radio, time after time. I sat there sweating the whole time, wishing I didn’t have to get out of the car again, I sure made up for it later though. About half way into the race the first of three big climbs of the day came. We had Amber, our best rider in GC out the front in a break with five others after the first climb, with the rest of the peloton split into many smaller groups. It’s always great to see the climbers show their stuff finally, and the workers and the not so well prepared, fall off the back.

After the second climb, the leaders had about 6 mins on the next group of 20, here we had two of our girls in, Tanja and Linda. But there was a problem with Tanja’s bike, with a wrapper from some ones bar caught in her derailier. It was too serious to stop, as the group was too far ahead of the main bunch for her to loose here position. We made the decision to clear it while she was riding, hanging out the window, I was in full control, clearing most of the problem in a matter of seconds, but there was just that last little bit causing a problem with any shifting. With the next climb looming, I went in for another shot, with the car moving about 35km, on pothole ridden roads, a driver (a new director for this race, very inexperienced in these matters I must say, and I will leave it there) a bladed spoked wheel looks like a nice shiny disc wheel when you have your face so close to it. I cleared the debris, and was just moving my hand away from the spinning chain and bladed spokes, when, unexpectedly the car lunged sideways, my right hand, which was just extolling the virtues of a safe and clean job, got sucked into the wheel, and spat it out the back of the bike. I sat back in the car and was trying to workout where all the blood was coming from. On closer inspection, a nice big cut on my little finger, almost through to the bone was throbbing, but this was nothing to the pain coming form the rest of the hand. Somehow, my last two fingers got caught in the wheel and bent back with speed at an amazing angle, the force managed to dislocate the knuckle and the first joint of my little finger. Also managed to break a small bone in the hand, and take the tip off my first finger. What a mess, but while the adrenaline was flowing, I popped the dislocation back in (years of close encounters with trees in the forest mountain biking, has hardened me up for this sort of bush repairs) wrapped a bit of insulation tape around the bleeding bits and the race continued.

Tanja leading the bunch, with a clean derailier.

Amber was still out the front with the other four, and as we headed to the finish, we hear (we could not drive up the last climb as there was no room for cars there) she got a third place, excellent. All of the team finished well that day, moving us into the top of the teams classification, and still second overall, so the day was not a complete loss. My hand on the other hand (excuse the pun) was not feeling too hot, but been in the ass end Europe, I decided not to see the hospital, as the probably would have come back with a big blade, saying ‘we take it off now, please’. A few painkillers later things were looking up, and my hand was certainly looking like it was on steroids. This is one of those times when I thank the world that I am left handed, as most work was not at risk, and being the consummate professional I am, the show must go on.

Top of the last climb, and another border.

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