Posts Tagged ‘Life’

San Seb From The Outside

A week after the Tour, and Mands and I got ourselves over to San Sebastian for a bit of vacation relaxery after the saga that is the nose to the grindstone month of the Tour.   We needed to drop off some key stuff for the team that was working the race (as an excuse to get over to one of the coolest towns in Europe – not bad!)  Two birds, one stone, all of that!

We rocked up at the team hotel the morning before all of the riders arrived, dropped off what was needed and skedaddled.  It was a strange sensation – seeing things getting set up and just departing – not a pattern I am used to following at all!  We then headed to our hotel, which hilariously was the race hotel for two of the other teams in the race!  Bloody hell.  And here I’d been promising a quiet weekend, barely any bike racing: “We’ll just be watching the finale on Saturday afternoon, otherwise it’s a total holiday babe…”  Famous last words or what??

We did indeed have a triffic time, doing the time honoured travel cliche when in San Sebastian of hitting the Pintxoserias the night before the race (having almost avoided seeing anyone related to the race for a whole day).  Pintxos (pronounced “pinchos” with the “os” being pronounced like in “possum”) are little niblets of food on a toothpick served over bars.  You go in, grab a plate, pick up whatever tickles your fancy then pay depending on how many toothpicks are on your plate when you’re done.  It’s a fantastic way to cruise through an evening, and was an dining style originated in the Basque country (of which San Sebastian is a major town) forever ago.

Ok.  So you may have noted “almost” in the paragraph above when talking of avoiding race-related people.  We did stroll out of our hotel room to the (ahem) glorious view of a couple of the riders being massaged by their soigneurs.  Bike riders are nice blokes on the whole.  They’re also very good at riding bikes, and are the main part of a very small global population that looks relatively good, or at least cool, in body hugging bike riding kit.  However, as my fiancee’s shudders upon through-door glimpses of them receiving massages attested, their skinny, milky white frames are not the finest sight in the world.  Heh.

When the race was finally underway, we continued our touristic jaunt, getting a bit of sun, having a bit of a swim, doing a bit of people watching and enjoying the day.  Again, a very odd feeling for me while being in a town where there was a big bike race on.  We did roll up to the team bus to see how the staff were, and then rolled to a pub to watch the finale.  It was great (although unsurprising) to see Ryder getting dropped off at the bottom of the key selective climb by Jules: stalwarts and hard nuts of the team getting the job done yet again!

We then watched the show unfold with attack, counterattack, move and reaction all going down before our eyes.  Ryder was strong, as ever, and produced a great result in finishing in fifth place.  We celebrated his performance in the bar, then moseyed down to the team bus to have a chat to the crew before they headed back home, and we continued with our holiday.  It was a very different feel to any other race I’ve been to.

I’ll be back in the thick of it soon though!


Read Full Post »

We have all been faced with, and stumped by, the eternal question when hosting a gathering: how many pizzas to order?

Until last night, I had thought the complex equation drafted by my good mate (and mathematical genius) BA in the mid 90s that he dubbed “The Pizza Matrix” covered all situations. For those unfortunates who don’t know the details, I shall go through the equation now. Concentrate.

P = Number of pizzas required
n = Number of people at party

P = n-1

This brilliant equation had held me in good stead for years and (for those astute enough to have noticed) stopped me from ordering pizza for one – a very sad situation to be in, which is to be avoided at all costs.

Last night, however, we celebrated St Joan’s Day in Girona, and had a couple of people over.  I’m not sure what St Joan did, but I assume it had something to do with blowing stuff up.  That’s certainly what the celebration is all about!  It’s an equivalent of the UK’s Guy Fawkes Night, where you go dow

n to your local incendiaryaria, get as many of the biggest, coolest, blowy-uppiest looking firecrackers as your budget can justify, and then get your mates around and set them off.

Tyler was surprised at how little the Aussies in the group knew about fireworks, and I had to explain to him that we’ve not been able to buy them for individual use for about 25yrs,

Good Grief!
The couple that blows stuff up together sticks together

so understandably we’re a little out of the loop.  He asked why, and I just pointed at the cluster of Australians who were already trying to work out how to make the crackers we had blow up more ridiculously dangerously with physio tape, spit and know-how.  Enough said.

Obviously it was a cracking (boom tish) night.  I’m still touch typing, and thus have all ten fingers, as did all of my guests upon departure.  The only flaw is that today I have a huge pile of untouched pizza in the fridge.  “HAH!  That’s a flaw??” I can imagine the bloke readers scoff – indeed there is nothing better than pizza from the fridge – but when you’re talking enough to still be eating it in August, it begs the question of what went wrong with the Matrix?

My theory is that the Matrix is exclusive of pro cyclists.  A couple of the guys have this little race called the Tour de France starting in nine days, and those who didn’t wanted to make sure that they were in super shape for their next race.  Lame excuses or what?  Thus most of the blokes at the party only had one or two slices.  Whitey and I tried valiantly to cover for not only the girls not eating their share, but also 80% of the boys, but it was beyond us.  Heroic, but insufficient.  Somewhat like the Socceroos last night against Serbia.

Clearly, like other advanced areas of physics and mathematics, there is not yet a Unified Theory that brings every eventuality under the one umbrella. I look forward to hearing how BA will overcome this hole in his erstwhile robust theory.

Read Full Post »

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.


Read Full Post »


I was sitting in a little plaza in Girona the other day, tucking into a gelato and enjoying the dream, when a dude on a unicycle with arms outstretched furiously pedalled his way past me. It got me to thinking: Has there ever been a worse invention in the history of mankind?

Think of any other mode of transport with no brakes, no gears and no steering. It is less efficient and more dangerous than walking, and also looks awkward. At least cigarettes give you a buzz.

The average unicyclist has taken quite a bit of time to garner the skills necessary to be able to ride the stupid thing, and then they’re limited to furiously spinning their legs around with their arms sticking out like they are balancing on a tightrope. There’s a reason why the Penny Farthing has been replaced: there have been quite a few advances in self propelled, wheeled technology. And yes, I will admit that old Vespas, Fiat Cinquecentos and Mustangs are such stylistically cool looking machines that their relative lack of performance compared to today’s machines is a minor detail. Unicycles are the precise opposite of this: a perfect storm of zero style and negative functionality.

But then I happened across something worse than unicycles: stunt unicycles.

There is a small troupe of stunt unicyclists in Girona. X-unicyclists perhaps? They all seem to be wan with lots of hair, wearing various types of hard wearing rugged urban jungle-type cargo shorts, and elbow and knee pads. They also have special mods on their x-unicycles – extra padded seats and a shock absorbing seat post.

I only wish that I were creative enough to have made these people up. Firstly I’d be super creative, and secondly, these X-Games rejects wouldn’t be cluttering up various parks in Girona, dragging the generally cool vibe of the place waaay down.

It seems most of their tricks involve a similar series of steps –
• Riding to the edge of a drop, doing that little backwards-forwards thing they do for a few seconds,
• Dropping off the edge,
• Gaining a great deal of speed in the process of the drop (“Galileo who? Isaac Who-ton? Dude I’m too X-Treme to be worried with your lame science mumbo jumbo” I can almost hear them say),
• Furiously trying to pedal as quickly as the wheel is spinning (pesky x-unicycles and their fixed-wheeledness),
• Discovering they can’t pedal as quickly as they need to (being the rejects of X-Games events, which are the rejects of proper sports, this lack of athletic talent isn’t a huge surprise),
• Jumping off the x-unicycle
• High fiving their mates who are still doing that back and forward wobbly unicycle thing on their x-unicycles.

A less cool series of stunts I have never seen.

See? It’s not all sunshine, roses and happiness over here! We have confronting stuff to deal with too.

Read Full Post »

February Chills

End of Feb Tallies

Countries  – 3 (2010 Total 4)

Hotel Days – 7 (Total 25)

Hotels – 4 (Total 6)

Flight Distance – 2126km (Total 23258km)

Drive Distance – 3063km (Total 3720)

So January was all sunshine and roses.

And then… KERTHUMP!  Along came Europe in winter in all of her furious unpredictability!  My first night in Girona was one of the very rare times that it snows in town.  We’re very close to the Pyrenees, so on clear days you can see snow on the mountaintops deep into May, but snow in town is rare.  I’d love to have photos to show, but I was too freakin cold to be worrying about such!  Not only was it super cold, but Mands and my central heating had drained of water while we’d been in Australia, and so there was not only no hot water, but also no heating.  Ohhh the joy!

And then for the final indignity.  Upon opening the fridge I realised my schoolboy error when, after dutifully emptying and unplugging it back in October, I then closed the fridge door.  A wonderful breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and germs.  So I also had the awesome task of cleaning the fridge and freezer out with boiled water while I awaited the central heating dude to come and rescue me.  Not my most triumphant return to business ever!

As for the team, we’ve been a little in the wars, as has most every Pro team at this time of year – sketchy road surfaces, high wind, cold hands and not yet being fully in the swing of things means that crashes happen a lot more regularly than any other part of the year.  One rib, two collar bones and a scapula (!!!) in the space of a week had us all looking to the sky wondering what would come next!

One of our boys was so bad he had to get his shoulder fixed up at a guru surgeon up in Belgium, and I went up to make sure we were on the right page as far as rehab expectations, and also just to make sure that the poor bloke wasn’t stuck in a foreign airport a day after an operation and finding out the hard way that he in fact wasn’t ready to head back to the team base.  Not a bad diversion for a day I guess!

My other trip was down to the Volta ao Algarve , which is on the far side of the southernmost end of Portugal (translation: frickin MILES from Girona).  I drove down at warp speed, gaining first hand experience of the Spanish version of “driving to the prevailing conditions” which apparently translates to “drive as fast as your car goes at all times.”  The photo is of the road just after I’d woken up to notice we were still shifting along at well over comfortable speed.  Needless to say I drove the majority of the way!  The racing was intense, with two of the boys needing to have their wrists worked on after a 200km+ day when they’d cramped from being on the brakes so often through the day, as well as a couple of big crashes, leading to stitches for one, and a bunch of skin off for another.  Another day in the office!

Algarve is a beautiful part of the world, though, and if you’re ever looking for somewhere nice and a little out of the way, I’d suggest it strongly.  The town we stayed in, Lagos, sat next to some truly gorgeous cliff formations (like a more close-up, intense version of the Twelve Apostles off the south coast of Australia).  I had a run out there, got distracted by the beauty, and ran for the longest period of my life.  Coolness!

<iframe width=’465′ height=’548′ frameborder=’0′ src=’http://connect.garmin.com:80/activity/embed/25454355′></iframe>

I think that should make the page show the details of the run, but we’ll see.

Until next time, then.


Read Full Post »