Archive for May, 2010

Boombah!  Or, as we like to pretend that the Italians say, Opahhh!

So the last post I put through (earlier today) was 16km from the finish, and included a series of “hopefullys” all of which came to pass, meaning we won today!  A great result for the team, and a super performance by the team.

We knew that the finish was a little tricky, so got as much info back to the big bosses on the road as we could, meaning that the boys could plan their attack well.  With big drives from Aussie wunderkind, and loose cannon, Jack Bobridge for large parts of the early stage to help control the break, we then had Canadian hard man Svein Tuft not only assist Jack in controlling things, but also driving the race so hard that it was too fast for people to make decisive moves.

Then came the icing on the cake: Murilo Fischer, Brazil’s finest export since Giselle Bundchen, took the pace to the next level, so even indecisive moves became impossible, and gave our final three bullets a good platform to do their work. David Millar then drove the race for well over a kilometre at warp speed (that’s over 60kph without an engine, on the flat for those who don’t understand the technical parlance) through a couple of decidedly dicey chicanes and corners (kudos to the recon crew!) (Love a self-congratulatory back pat)

And then came the cherry on the icing on the cake!  Julian Dean, cult hero for the third of the New Zealand population who live in the UK, who account for the mystery “other third” of the whole Kiwi population (there are equal numbers of New Zealanders in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs (particularly Bondi), Europe and New Zealand for those who don’t know) hit out for home up the hill, into the wind and around a tight corner.  He was preparing things for our token bloodnut, the American sprinter and genuinely good bloke Tyler, but was doing such a good job that he left the whole field behind.  With 200m to go, it looked like Jules was half a chance of pinching the win himself.  Tyler certainly thought so, because he was looking around so much I had to treat his neck this evening for whiplash (not really).  Eventually it became obvious that Jules wasn’t quite going to make the line without being caught, so Tyler powered ahead to take the win, with an Italian second, and Jules third.

So there you have it: an Aussie, a Canuck, a Brazilian, a Pom and a Kiwi all combined brilliantly so an American could beat an Italian!  Complete gold.

The next stage is a ludicrous 270-odd kilometres, and is particularly lumpy.  After the previous heroics, we’ll see what our boys can muster.  Hopefully Irishman Dan Martin can get himself in a break and do some damage.  We shall see.


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Double Figures

We’re now deep into the Giro, Day 10 in fact, and the cracks are starting to show!  Firstly, there was a horrific incident of five of the team’s staff getting on the wrong side of some VERY raw, yet delicious steak, which fortunately didn’t lead to a team-wide outbreak of GIT problems.  Thank goodness for Universal Precautions!

Secondly (and as ever, less importantly) the riders are now in the hurt basket pretty much permanently.  The racing to date has been through pretty horrific conditions, both weather-wise, and racecourse-wise.  Yesterday was a particularly good example of both issues – the boys were riding through a rain squall of significant size, and then found themselves having to ride through standing water all the way up to their pedals.  Some called a small river, although I would have called it a creek myself.  The boys tend to exagerrate at times!  Southern Italy: road drainage and planning are minor details.

We’ve been bopping away with some solid, although not brilliant results, but hopefully today will see a bunch sprint, and hopefully Tyler will be the man at the front of said sprint.  True, a lot of “hopefullys” but not unreasonable ones!

The other key event of the race since the last message – Cadel Evans winning one of the most epic stages of Giro history with the coolest tactic of all: ride them all off your wheel!  All of the boys crossed the line absolutely caked in mud (it was a race over clay roads for 17 of the final 20km), freezing cold, exhausted, and all saying they were happy they had finished it so they could say they were in the race THAT day.  Pretty cool.  Dave Millar dragged himself up to third overall on that day too.

We’ve got 16km to go today, so that’ll be all he wrote.


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Days Four and Five

Yesterday was the Teams Time Trial (TTT) a 33km shot through northern Italy where teams departed five minutes apart and raced the clock up the road. The order of starting was based on the overall standing of the best three riders from each team, with the slowest team going first, and the team of the race leader going last (regardless of how their team was faring).

My job for the day was to check the time splits of our boys relative to the teams who had ridden before them. There was only one official time split provided by the race, and we wanted to make sure our boys got as much info as possible. I thus had to drive up the road behind one of the earlier teams and then start the clock. The guys I was following (AG2R) ended up slowest on the day, although considering they rode through a hailstorm, it isn’t really all that surprising.

The weather was to play a huge role in everyone’s day. Basically for the first half of the day, the wind was a tailwind early, and then it died out late. It was also wet and at times even hailing, which slows the boys down a lot. At the end of the day it was dry, and the wind was a strong tailwind for the second half of the race, with a bit of a crosswind for the first part. Unfortunately for us, it looked like we got the worst of both worlds, with the crosswind and rainy start, followed by a no tailwind end. Bugger! So we ended up in eighth place, a long way below where we would be expected to come (the bookies had us as favourites). A disappointing day, but there’s really not a lot you can do about some stuff!

Today was a flat (ish) stage from Cuneo to Novi Ligure. We’d put yesterday’s disappointment behind us and were fired up to give our sprinter, Tyler, another shot at a win. My non-physio job was again recon – this time making sure the final corner wasn’t too wet, which would affect the boys’ final sprint timing. All went to plan, until the final 10km, when the break of three blokes managed to stay away from a peloton roaring down the road after them.

The race book gives a profile of each stage, and the final 20km looked like it was relatively flat today, so the calculations had been done, and the boys knew the break couldn’t be more than a minute up the road with 10km to go. All was well, except the seven hills in the final 20km that weren’t mentioned in the race book! Oops. Couple this with a VERY favourable tailwind for the escapees, and it suddenly was a lot less certain that the break would be caught. At the end of the day, the break were riding the final 500m when the peloton rounded the final corner and bore down on them.

Tyler won the bunch sprint (respect!) but was four freakin seconds short of catching the break. Four. Seconds. Bloody hell! Talk about frustrating! The funny thing is, for the first time I wanted the break to be caught! Normally in that situation you love to see the little guys win out against the throng, but not when it’s my team leading the charge!!


Tomorrow is billed as a moderately hilly day. Who knows what it will actually be like! Hopefully we can do some damage tomorrow.

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The Giro: Good Times Bad Times


The Giro d’Italia version 2010 has begun.  We started racing up in Amsterdam (which, while not technically* part of Italy, was a cool place to start racing from) with a time trial, followed by two road stages.  The start of a Grand Tour is always cool – the whole team starts to find extra gears, and the organisation is singing by start time.  Despite (or because of) this, the riders get edgier and edgier, and so “transgressions” that wouldn’t have even resulted in a batted eyelid days earlier suddenly become monumentally important.  Fun.

My job has been to treat any injuries or niggles that have reared up in the final few days leading in to the race, and then to continue to do the same throughout the race.  I am also massaging one of the boys daily (all of the boys get a daily massage when at races).  At this race the daily person I’m looking after is Jack “JackyBobby” Bobridge, a young Aussie kid with ridiculous amounts of talent.  The bastard.  It’s cool chatting to him and seeing his reactions to each day!  And then I also look after whoever else needs physio treatment on top of their massage.

We’ve had mixed fortunes thus far – the Day One Time Trial saw us finish some six seconds off the pace over 8.4km, which wasn’t bad.  Day Two, and we were ONE second off the pace, and Day Three, we ended up one second off the pace again.  Ohh the pain of just missing the lead of the whole race by such a tiny margin!

Day One (an 8.4km Time Trial) dawned wet, but the rain petered out prior to the race itself starting in the centre of Amsterdam.  The road thus was drying out throughout the day, but had not completely dried out even by the end of the race.  The order of starters became very significant, and painfully for us, one of our boys, Tyler, started early in the race.  He found himself entering corners with the brakes on through fear of slipping on the road because of the potential of there being water on the road on the blind side of the corner, only to realise that the corner wasn’t wet after all, and so he lost quite a bit of time throughout the race.

Day Two was a flat stage, and WE WON it!!!  Hahahaha!  Bloody sensational result – our team sprinter Tyler Farrar won the day with one leg in the air.  Well not actually like that, but he did win the thing!  I can claim a very small part in that victory as well – each stage has a map of the whole stage, on top of a higher resolution map of the final 3km.  Typical to the Giro d’Italia, the final part of the stage was quite dangerous – there was a ninety degree corner some 220m from the finish, and my job for the day was to check out that corner, and to describe the wind at the finish so we could prepare the best sprint we could manage.

Funnily, and also very Giro-like, the corner was actually 350m from the finish, and not nearly as sharp as originally shown on the map.  So our boys knew what to expect and weren’t going too hard too soon, and Tyler eventually won the stage.  Wiiiicked result, and with the time bonus he accrued, he was suddenly… ONE SECOND off the lead.  Bloody hell.  One frickin second.  And the day before he had pulled out of multiple corners for fear of crashing, any one of which would have been quick enough for him to have gone a second and a half quicker, and held the pink leader’s jersey!

Day Three was also a flat stage, skipping along the coast of the Netherlands, and it was also a LOT less good a day for Garmin Transitions.  The roads of the Netherlands (particularly) are plain dangerous.  They are particularly narrow and twisty-turny, and also have lots of speed humps and median strips and random poles sticking up here and there.  There are also bajillions of fans lining the roads, and thus it is basically a terrifying day for the bike riders – worried about crashing, being caught behind crashes, or hitting random fans.

Unfortunately for us, our team captain, Christian “VDV” Vandevelde, crashed and appears to have broken his collarbone.  Painfully, Day Three of the Giro last year also saw VDV crash out – that time with fractured vertebrae, ribs and pelvis.  Total nightmare!  Completely gutted for him.  Also today, Tyler got stuck on the wrong side of a crash, and so lost 46s of time.  Bloody hell!  At least Dave Millar stayed with the leaders, and at the end of all of the carnage, the organisers did the sums and we ended up… ONE SECOND DOWN!!  Curses!

We were then on a “rest” day, driving all of the team equipment (a bus, truck, 2 vans and 4 cars) from Holland to Italy.  So restful!  So soothing!  My lowlight of that drive was finding the lock on the toilet I was using had broken upon me entering the cubicle.  After two or three shoulder charges I casually strolled out, acting like all was normal…  Welcome to Italia!

Today we have the Teams Time Trial, and I’ll be standing on the course yelling out splits for the boys as they go past.  Despite the loss of VDV, we still have a very strong team, and we hope to be able to do some damage on this stage as well.  The big threat seems to be Team Sky, who also have a good side.  So we shall see what happens in a few hours.  Bring it on!

Hopefully I’ll be able to update this thing regularly throughout the month.  We shall see!


*By “technically” in this instance I mean “actually”

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End of March Tallies
Countries –3 (2010 Total 6)
Hotel Days – 18 (Total 43)
Hotels –8 (Total 14)
Flight Distance –2935km (Total 26,193)
Driving Distance – 549km (Total 4269km)

End of April Tallies
Countries – 5 (2010 Total 8 )
Hotel Days – 11 (Total 54)
Hotels – 4 (Total 18)
Flight Distance – 1922km (Total 28,115)
Driving Distance – 2505km (Total 6774)

Back! Just a quickie before the Giro starts (well, only three days after the Giro started, but near enough)

March and April saw a nice turnaround in the fortunes of the team: only two fractured collarbones and two major concussions! MUCH less hectic! We also put in some very good results, popping up with wins in both individual stages and overall races (on one memorable day we won three times: two stages and an overall race. Very nice!). We also had some very strong showings in some of the biggest one day races on the calendar. Very nice indeed!

March also saw a grand turnaround in the life of Tobias, with the arrival of Mands to sunny Girona. Good times!

Upon hearing the grumbling from some of my co-workers as we all checked out each others’ programs for the first time back in January, I was quite looking forward to my block of races. I had Algarve in southern Portugal, L’Eroica and Tirreno-Adriatico through northern Italy (Tuscany), and Criterium International in Corsica.

Algarve was indeed warmer than the rest of Europe, and also about 0.2km per hour shy of being hurricane force. It was odd treating riders’ forearms rather than legs at the end of a day as they had been so twitchy on the brakes. Then L’Eroica was indeed lovely weather, and very cool seeing the boys smash themselves on these tiny, at times super steep clay roads. Was cool seeing pro cyclists battling like the salmon that don’t make it up the river to spawn on some of the really steep sections, and literally dismounting and running up the hills. Tirreno-Adriatico was back to sub arctic conditions, with a cold front actually leading to two of our staff being snowed in for 36hrs. Ridiculously bitter weather, and the riders were racing in it! Ouch.

The final race of March was Criterium International, based in Corsica for the first time. Corsica’s a little island between Spain and Italy that is part of France, and the birthplace of Napoleon. It’s also surprisingly rugged, hosting some tough racing. The locals seem to have two key pastimes – protesting French sovereignty over them, and ripping off anyone who isn’t local. The best example of the first was a car being set alight on one of the main roads of the island in protest of an election result, and of the second was the credit card machine “stopping working” when we tried to buy pizzas after the final stage for all of the team, and then we were charged a “takeaway fee” of DOUBLE the price of the pizzas we had bought. Absolute bastards. So my tip would be: Corsica’s nice, but… meh.

The other pain of the Corsica trip was that we had a double day: two stages in the one day, meaning the first stage started at the crack of dawn, allowing enough time between stages for the riders to rest, eat, clean up and prep for the afternoon hit out. “Crack of dawn” is actually incorrect too – it was an hour BEFORE the crack of dawn as this was the weekend when all the clocks were wound forward for daylight savings. Awesome. We did score a stage win, though, so that made it all okay, and that night myself and a couple of other staff members savoured a couple of celebratory beers and some terrible food on the ferry back to the mainland prior to driving to Spain in the morning.

April saw visits from family, which was awesome, sightseeing around Girona, which I am ashamed to say I hadn’t done until the fam came, and of course more racing. Roubaix was Roubaix, and then there was the Ardennes week – three races that loop around the few hilly parts of Holland and Belgium. Similar to Roubaix, we the road staff had a LOT to do on these days, getting ourselves to as many hilltops as we possibly could to give the boys bottles and spare wheels if needed. The roads are just too narrow for them to be able to get supplies from the team car, so we get ahead of the race and hand stuff out. It’s great fun fangin’ around the countryside, and a very exciting day. We scored a second place at the Amstel Gold race, which was a fantastic result.

And there you have a Cook’s Tour of March and April. I’ll try and be more regular during the Giro, which I am at now.


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