With the sunshine of Qatar gone for another year, we headed back to the cold weather of Holland. Winter was still there, it had not gone anywhere, but we had a bit of work to do, so at least I would be busy and warm for a few days. The bikes were ready for delivery, or more importantly, ready for us to pick up. Stevens Bike Company was in the north of Germany, in the city of Hamburg only about 600km away. We decided it would be quicker to pick everything up at once, rather than waiting around for delivery. As well as the bikes, there was a stack of new wheels for the season as well. Normally we use Bontrager wheels in the season, but this year there is a bit of a change of wheel sponsor. Stevens has stepped in, with a custom built wheel, very nice in three sizes. We still have a lot of good Bontrager wheels still in house, so a combination of the both will be used for the various races.
The van half loaded with 20 bikes, doesn't look like much, but it's a big van
We hit the road early for the trip to Hamburg, with the weather on our side, it was going to be an easy trip. We encountered a little snow half way up, but we still arrived just on lunchtime. After waiting for the warehouse staff to finish their own lunch, we organised the pile of bikes and equipment into the van. We were perfectly on time to pick up the last wheel being built in front of us. It looked like the old guy had been doing it for years, and it was nice to see him run a tensionometer over every spoke before he gave us the last wheel to pack away. Now a small drive home, and then we could start to build our new machines for the year. Not too far from Hamburg, there seemed to be a bit of a block on the autobahn. After moving less than a kilometre in an hour, we were herded off the highway, on to a very small road. Seems there was a problem further down the road, so thousands of cars and trucks were just sent off on their own devices, thank god for the GPS. But it didn’t help too much, within a half hour, we thought we had found an on-ramp, but it was blocked as well. We then had a great idea to head cross-country, to miss all the traffic, this was our first fatal mistake. With in a few minutes, we were heading down some very small country roads, every time we thought we were back on track, there was another bridge or road closed for repair. It was killing us as the highway was in full view the whole time, but as yet the van could not jump the barriers onto the highway. Finally after three hours, we found our way onto the right road, and were off again. It was a long day, but we had the bikes, the group-sets, wheels etc, so it was not all bad. Now to unpack everything, and start the mission of building the new bikes, it was exciting, even though it can be a drag sometimes.
A small part of the Steven's warehouse
The next day, we organised all the new equipment into the ‘service course’, and started organising the build. Building bikes is not really the hard bit, getting all the setups right for every rider, can get a bit tricky first up. But I had managed to decipher and measure all the setups for most of the girls, so the building began. We only had a few days before we were leaving Holland for the warmer climate of the island of Majorca, a larger than I thought island, off the coast of Spain. Near the island of Ibiza, very popular for cyclists wanting to escape the cold winter of Europe. So finishing nine of the teams bikes was the plan, two days later they were done. It’s always nice building the bikes at the start of the season, at least they will be done properly, and up to my very high standard. It’s always nice to have them built of course, but now I know the inside and out of every bike we will race, it’s a good feeling. I forgot to take any pictures of the new bikes, so you will have to wait till I get back to base for a look at them.
Facing off the Stems with Klas's 'Top Secret' tool. Designed to make sure the stem is providing the perfect pressure on the headset bearings. Crooked stems are half the problem with bearing failures. And when you see how much material comes off one side of the stem, you tend to agree pretty quick. More on this tool later.
Next race for the team is the ‘Omloop Het Nieuwsblad’ on 28.02.2009. Renamed ‘Omloop Het Volk’ (a newspaper ‘The People’ sponsored the race for years, now it’s sold, thus the name change). Normally the start of the racing in Europe, and signifies the real start to the season. The race starts Gent in Belgium, so it’s nice and close to get to. I just hope the weather gets a bit better before we race.