Cycling Weekly tech guru and accomplished ‘cross rider Stu Bowers mans the pits for Team GB in Tabor this weekend.
I wasn’t really looking forward to the two day drive – who would? Still I like a challenge and a few feet of snow and temps down to -26 should keep us on our toes, especially in the dark. At least the German autobahns would be something to look forward to. It’s not every day you get to drive without speed limits. It didn’t quite turn out all that exciting – the Sky GB van maxed out at 80! Gutted. Plus, the snow covered landscape that had looked pretty and scenic to begin with, was nothing more than an endless strip of black tarmac, bordered by a white out, as we passed through the fourth country in a day.
Remind me again why I thought this was a good idea? Oh yeah, in a few days time I’ll be right in the thick of the scrum that is one of the most amazing spectacles in cycling - the World Cyclo-Cross Championships – and I’ll have the best seat in the house in the pits. The thought alone makes the hair on my neck stand up. That’s why.
It’s amazing what you learn when you have so much time to kill. Turns out that Peter Hargroves, owner of Hargroves Cycles, showed very early signs of his entrepreneurialism by making a killing organising his school ‘end of year’ disco, then made a tidy packet selling his homemade sandwiches to the masses queuing to get tickets for a Deep Purple concert! Who’d have thought?
What else have I learnt so far? Well, pretty much anything on a bike freezes at -11. Pedals and headsets barely turn as the grease becomes so thick, chains need to be lubricated with de-icer, not oil, and it’s a good idea to cover your shoes and cleats in de-icer cleats too, if you want any chance of being able to release your feet.
We decided to head out for a bit of a leg spin earlier today, which lasted all of 20 minutes – if you rode fast enough to stay warm the windchill on your face was unbearable, and I couldn’t feel my fingers at all after just five minutes. It’s no wonder Stybar is favourite to take the World title in a few days. He lives just outside Tabor, so not only has he got the home advantage, these conditions whilst a big shock to most, are just the norm for him.
Snowed a good three or four inches more last night, but temperatures have been a bit warmer with the cloudier skies. Been at the course today, and it’s possibly the least likely venue you would ever expect a World Champs to be held on. The course is shoe-horned onto some waste land between a supermarket and a row of pretty dismal looking tower blocks. That said, it’s more than testing enough to produce a worthy champion, with the mix of snow and ice, and a surprising amount of climbing. It’ll test the best for sure. Standing on one bend we witnessed some of the World’s top riders, including ex-champion Richard Groenendaal, having a little unplanned lie down in the snow. All’s good and positive in the Brit camp though.