31 October 2007

Changing of colours.

After working for Team Flexpoint (also Buitenpoort–Flexpoint 05/06) for almost three years, and It’s time to move on. It was the original plan, eventually move on into the Men’s teams, as I had aspirations of eventually working on some of the great tours. Well as of yesterday, it’s one step closer, as I just signed a contract with T-Mobile for next season. This is a great leap forward for me, a great adventure, a big challenge, a new beginning, a new country, and a new bunch of girls, and three old ones. I will be working with the Women’s team for most of the year, but will be working the odd race with the men’s team. The T-Mobile Women’s Team, has finished the season in first place on the UCI list, essentially making it the number one team in the world. With over 30 wins during the season, most of these in the latter part of the season, the team was elated finishing on top, out of 42 trade teams. They have been our largest competition for the last couple of years, bringing us to many close calls, (loosing to them in under .23 sec in one stage race). Many a race we have had the Magenta Audi, just menacingly close, in front of us in the caravan. Now it’s time to ride in that car, nice.

The new colour, Magenta. At least I can see them in the peloton easily.

I have had a great experience with my current team, some great races, we won some fantastic stage, and one day classics. Dominated the world, for a while, and certainly was the most feared and professional looking team around the world. I learnt a hell of a lot from my Director, Jean-Paul van Poppel, looked upon as one of the best directors in women’s cycling, and I believe it. With some of his race calls and predictions, you wonder where he pulls the ideas from, and when they work, we are speechless. I also had the honour of working with women’s cycling most famous walking encyclopaedia, Klas Johannson, a fantastic knowledge base, and tactics, we could not have done without. Klas also spent many races working as second mechanic, many a stage race I could not have survived without him helping. The fun times we had in the car with the two of them, the jokes we told, the stories that unfolded, and the lunches swapped, and the races won. That feeling at the end of 10 days racing, when you pass the finish line cheering and yelling cause we won.

A moment as good as that, was balanced out by the same number of lows, the looses, the disasters. Some many close runs to the finish, that almost won feeling, is no where as good as the winning feeling, but it’s all part of the package. Those crashes, ohh those crashes, my stomach is turning just thinking about them. They never get easy, when that urgent voice comes over the radio, crash, in whatever language it may be in, I’m ready. Wheels in hand, running to the veritable pile of bodies, hoping for the least, and sometimes finding the worst. Upon reaching the bombsite, there are bikes and bodies everywhere, someone is crying very loud, there is blood, there are very quiet girls just holding things, it’s scary sometimes. We have been lucky really, considering some of the disasters the team could have suffered, hey all got their toes, and a few cool scars, add character to an otherwise perfect leg.
The clothing room, each rider has a box with custom built kit.

A few of the TT bikes hanging around.

We had some fantastic times with the team, some great countries seen, some bad countries stung by, even visited little old New Zealand, it was a great experience, but now it’s time to move up. It’s an offer I couldn’t refuse, and the next challenge to cross off my list shortly. Two more of our girls joined T-Mobile for next season, Madi and Luise, and they will join Linda, who has been there a year. So it will almost feel like home already. The other new rider Mara Abbott, the current USA champ, is the only rider I haven’t met. I know the rest of the team well enough, as we work all pretty close, and share the same Hotels throughout the year. So you become friends, even if you don’t want to be. I will be sharing the work with another mechanic Gregor, but by the looks of things, I get most of the good races anyway. I start early in the new season, working for the Men’s Team at the ‘Tour Down Under’, early on in Jan, and the directly working with the Women for Geelong and the NZ races. Then heading to Europe where I will be based in Bonn in south west Germany. So it’s all pretty exciting.

A nice collection of wheels, just a few of them.

I went for a bit of a drive to check out the new base and my accommodation, it’s only a couple of hours from my Dutch base. All of the trucks and vehicles were home, and the place was looking fantastic when I drove up, all pink and shiney. I had a pretty good look around, and I think I could like it here, it’s quite a step up from the garage I have been working out of. I met my boss, and the head mechanic from the men’s team, and managed to get my sticky nose into every corner of the building. They have two staff that look after the place, and the equipment. And about 6 mechanics for the 30 riders, we have two for the 13 Women. It was well stocked with stuff, even for this time of year, but the trucks were empty, and they were stripping bikes to save the groups, for next season’s training bikes. I then walked across the carpark to the office and accommodation building. A nice third story apartment, just fine for what I need, a bed, internet and a stove for home cooked food, it was sweet, and so were the office ladies, they think my accent is funny.

The team has only a few changes to the line up, in fact ten riders stay, and there is three new ones (denoted by *). But more on this later when I get a bit more time. Now only four more days in Holland to go, then a five days in London, a couple in Melbourne, then home to summer, sweet.

01 Mara Abbott* USA
02 Kim Anderson USA
03 Judith Arndt Germany
04 Kate Bates Australia
05 Chantal Beltman Netherlands
06 Luise Keller* Germany
07 Emilia Fahlin Sweden
08 Alex Rhodes Australia
09 Ina-Yoko Teutenberg Germany
10 Madeleine Sandig* Germany
11 Linda Villumsen Denmark
12 Anke Wichmann Germany
13 Oenone Wood Australia

Check out some more pics of the base here

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