1 July 2008

Bit of an Update

Believe it or not, but I have actually almost caught up with my races for a change. It’s amazing what a few days off can do for the old energy levels. I have even managed to get out a few times on the road bike for a look around the town. The teams base and apartment where I stay in between races is in the city of Bonn. Sitting right on the river Rheine, and what was the capital of Germany until a few years ago, is pretty nice for riding around. There are plenty of pretty nice bike paths that follow the river on both sides, if you want to take it easy. As long as you choose days other than the weekend, they are generally not too full and pretty relaxed. I have managed to increase my rides up to about the 100km mark after a week, so I am now getting the chance to see a bit more of the countryside as well. This is also a famous area for growing grapes and making red wine, though I have yet to taste the local stuff. But they seem to grow the vines on some of the steepest land they can find, making it look as though they would slide directly off with a bit of serious rain. But the cool thing is it makes for an interesting ride through all the valleys and up over the ridges. And it gives a welcome break to the flatness of the river bike paths. The area is steeped in history, but yet have to visit any of the many museums and galleries to check up on that. But will see what I can do over the coming weeks.

Monument to some famous guy along the river ride.

Cologne is the nearest ‘big’ city, about 40km by bike, I have only attempted going there once, I thought I would just go casual, on the road bike. I started out in perfect sun, also thinking I knew where I was going, well that was a mistake, I get lost in my own house most of the time. The 40km ride there took about 85km for me to find it, it was cold, and then to top it off the rain started just as I arrived. My mission was to get some photos of the cathedral in the main square, this was now impossible, with dark skies and torrential rain. I was wet, so took my time thinking about where I went wrong on the way there, looking at my soggy, smudged map, working out the best route home. I found the train station, just in case there was a train going my way, being Sunday, I could have waited another 3 hours for a dry ride home, but it was only 40km, I would ride. Well I had to get going as I was freezing, and my wet cotton t-shirt and baggy pants were really starting to piss me off. So to cut a long story short, I didn’t get lost on the way home, I managed to follow the exact wrong way home again, doubling my 80km to 160 for the day. My clothes, bag and camera and body were soaked to the skin, my ass was raw from the most uncomfortable pants/underwear combo I could have worn. I was tired, hungry and it was dark when I got home, so funny enough, I have not been back there yet. There is always next week, at least the sun is out now, and most of the rain has gone home to NZ.

One of the local churches in Bonn.

The month of July is looking pretty easy for me at this stage (until they decide to full me up with a few more races). I am currently on a train heading northish for the Dutch Nationals, here we only have two racing, Chantele Beltman for the Women’s race, and Servais Knaven racing the men’s. The bikes and my tools left the other day, so I will meet up with the rest of the team tomorrow. To date the team has been rather successful again, with Marco Pinotti, defending his Italian TT tittle again. Kim Kirchen winning the Luxemburg TT tittle as well, and with a weekend of racing to come, who knows how many national champions we may end up with. Then there is just one last race with the girls, in the east of Czech Republic for a few days. Not much else happening other than a race in France for the men, the Tour de France, but I miss out on this circus, thank god. Plenty of others putting their hand up for this one, so being the ‘new boy’ on the team, I get to miss it, but on the waiting list for emergencies. I have been helping with a few of the bikes that needed building for the Tour, and a few more to get built yet. We have a new TT bike that has finished being tested, now we just have to try and assemble them all before the truck leaves (Kim Kirchen was on the new bike for his national win). A pile of new wheels to sticker and glue tires on as well. And with all the name changes on all the vehicles and equipment ready to roll with ‘Team Columbia’ for the first of the month, there is always something needing to be done. The grand release for the ‘new look’ will be at the press conference for the Tour, so you will have to wait until then for some pictures (they are burning a hole in my hard drive waiting for the release date).

Just lying around the town.

I will have a pretty full calendar until the end of the season, so I will try to even get a bit of a holiday in somewhere. Already I have the Tour of Denmark, Tour de Ain, Plouay, Tour of Ireland, and the Tour of Poland on my list, and I am sure they can squeeze a few more races in as well before the Worlds in Varesse, Italy. The tour of Ireland I am looking forward to, I have never been there yet, so it will be nice to see. For everyone that has ever been there, say it’s almost like my home country of New Zealand, similar at least in many ways. The race details just got released the other day, and by the looks of it, the toughest one so far. I think there will even be a couple of ferry trips with the truck, so that will be a nice little adventure as usual. Otherwise, the sun is up, summer is really nice and warm, almost too warm (is there such a thing), it’s nice to wear just shorts and a open jersey on the bike (and no helmet as usual Jessie, in case your wondering). So for those of you in winter at the moment, too bad, put some more clothes on, only a few more months to go.

The Cathedral I rode especially to see, very dull looking in the rain.

And you can have a little look at a few more images of the city and surrounds.

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