Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

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!


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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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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.


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