9 October 2007

World Men's Road Race

With the women’s race out of the way, the U23 men’s race was about to start. Sweden had no one in this race, so I had a pretty easy afternoon on the cards. Time for me to organise all the bikes and wheels and shit, that I had collected of all of our girls in the team after their road race. I had a full truck, so spent the afternoon packing it for travel, and sorting out the Swedish team bike ready for travel. We only had three Swedes racing in the elite men’s race, so no real hurry to start work for them yet. I had the same guys racing that have been with the team for the last three years, bar one, Magnus Backstead, who decided to finish his season a bit earlier this year. So I was left with three, Marcus Ljungqvist, currently riding for CSC, with a couple of nice Cervelo’s. Gustav Larsson, currently riding for Unibet, with a couple of Canyon bikes. Thomas Lövkvist, who just signed with T-mobile for the coming season, with a couple of Lapierre bikes, from his current team, Française des Jeux. So with Gustav being looked after by his mechanic from Unibet, Klas got Marcus, and I got to look after Thomas’s bikes.

The Boys lined up before the start. From left, Thomas, Marcus and Gustav

Just like I do with the girls in my team, we had bikes and wheels being dropped off left right and center during the week. It gets a bit much trying to work out who’s who, but most of the equipment is fairly team specific, so it’s easy once you got it. I had a few hours on two bikes, but like always, you can make it last all day if you need to. We had an earlyish race start at 10am, so we had no time in the morning, as usual. The race was 260km long, so it was going to be a long day. My job was effectively done when the race was underway, I was not contracted to do the race, so I had pretty much the whole day to cruise, and watch the race for a change.

Klas, ready for his first six laps in the team car.

With a couple of bike to sort out, it was going to be an early night. But as usual, the eternal discussions on tyres, wheels, bearings, etc, always makes the time disappear, just when you need it. The big discussions of the week and most of the year, is the onslaught of Ceramic bearings into the sport. An expensive, hard to maintain option, but very cool and smooth once you get them working well. Good example on the price you can pay is about 200 Euro (about NZ$600) for a Shimano BB (providing the BB yourself, otherwise more cash) and a couple of pulley wheels. Pretty damn expensive, and with a few days in the rain, you had better be prepared to take it out and service it completely. I tried to do a bit of video for comparison, but got to involved in the testing to bother. Most of the bigger teams are just starting to use them, but because they are too expensive, most of the riders pay for them themselves.

Art Shot, with kiwi Hayden Roulston in the background.

Right, so after discussions on Ceramic bearings, we did a wheel-spinning test just to prove the theory. Our standard teams wheel, nice high carbon Bontrager, with DT hubs, 1.3min (best time 2.1min), and compared to the Zipp 404 with the ceramic in, a whopping great 7.2 mins. Standard BB with dura-ace cranks, spinning around about 3-4 spins, with the ceramic BB bearings, almost 20 spins. So quite worth the money and time, that’s assuming you can afford both. So the boys started checking there wheels, which is a shame, as my riders wheels (Shimano) felt like someone had used glue, instead of grease, when they put them together. So I had six extra jobs of taking each hub apart, cleaning, oiling and adjusting them so they moved a bit more freely. Next time I keep my mouth closed a little bit.

Eddy is still the man, just in case you had forgot, this guy hadn't.

The Kiwi 's watching the last lap commence, the whole team was out by now, so they could relax.

We woke to clear, sunny skies, which is always a relief for both the riders and staff. I had a nice leisurely breakfast, then headed into town for the race. I arrived nice and early, as I knew things would be busier on the roads with the spectators, and full in the teams car park. The women’s race had some pretty good numbers of people watching, but the men were going to quadruple the amount on the side of the course. The team parking was a lot more full, with pro men’s team buses and trucks filling every spot available. It was nice to see, and my little truck, looked very small next to some of the pro trucks, I could have driven mine into a couple if I wanted. I got all the bikes ready, tyres pumped, and the team car loaded. We were sharing the car with Switzerland today, so had to make some room for a few more bikes on the roof. But is was nice to see the car when it was loaded, as there were some real spanky bikes up there, and they were the spare bikes. But the race was about to start, Klas was the lucky mechanic for the first 7 laps, and the Swiss mechanic will be doing the rest of the race. 260km for one mechanic is a little bit much on such a nice day. I on the other hand, prepared a bike for me to ride for the day, attempting some spectating in the sun.

Marcus looking focused, coming up the finish straight.

As the race started, I packed up the truck for the day and headed out on the course. The speed of the peloton was pretty fast on the first few laps. With a break out the front running fast, the bunch was trying to keep them at a safe distance. But just like the Women’s race, the men were dropping off the back of the bunch like flies, it was fun to watch them suffering up close for a change. But the chase was done, and the bunch was all together after a few laps, ready for the next attacks. And they came thick and fast, and the team tents were starting to fill up with dropped riders. Some of them were looking pretty messed up with the heat and speed of the race. Some of the riders still racing looked like they were not even warmed up yet. By the 200km, we lost the last Kiwi in the race, being Hayden Roulsten, but it was a good effort, as half the starters were out of the race by now. The rest of the race you already know, with the Italians taking out the race, just like they did the day before with the Women. They were looking pretty strong throughout the day, and were in every attack that looked serious. I had full accreditation to get right on the finish line, but I decided to stay in the boxes and look on the monitors. It sounded like a better option than fighting with a couple of hundred press and crew for a glimpse at the finish line.

Thomas looking drained with one lap to go.

The best thing was the amount of shit, the little Italian had to put up with during the week, not even knowing if he was starting, right up to the last day. Every single person I talked to was very happy with Bettini winning. Good on him, he really deserved it. Now a small drive home, back to the Netherlands, with the season almost over for me, sweet.

And the winner, past the pits on the last lap, still focused, ready to jump.

Don't forget the photo pages for some more wicked shots.

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