Cycling Weekly’s Stu Bowers is busy fettling in the Team GB pits in between listening to Dire Straights and celebrating Happy Hour…
Friday: More hectic day today, another day closer to the big day for the riders and all the riders training on the course at one time or other. The indecisive weather sure is keeping us busy and the riders on their toes. Course changes by the hour as the temperature creeps up above freezing and the snow turns to slush and mud. Obviously, all riders return to mechanics for tyre swap and plenty of umming and aaarring over pressures. Just get that lot sorted and back on the course before the sun disappears, it all starts to freeze over again, then it’s all back again for another tyre rethink, and more pressure shenanigans. All good fun and games, and of course we get there in the end, and everyone goes away happy.
Mud means bike cleaning but all outside taps at the hotel are, of course, frozen up. Luckily the hotel caretaker has a plan and sorts us out with a hose from an inside tap. Costs me my GB woolly hat as a thank you for his ingenuity and help. Starting to really enjoy the banter and atmosphere amongst the mechanics as we hide out in the bike room, fettling, until late at night. It soon became obvious Pete Hargroves had ripped off his son’s iTunes playlist for his iPod – these were clearly not the choices of a 52 year old man, although the occasional Dire Straights or Pink Floyd tune was more like it. Anyway, mood is positive and spirits high. Not in price I might add…nor the beer. Less than a pound a pint, for the Czech Budvar (the original Budweiser). It’s happy hour all the time here.
Saturday: Here we go then. First day of competition and it’s the Juniors strutting their stuff first. Final preparations had gone well, apart from a minor last minute hurdle to overcome – no drive on the rear wheel of one rider; the freezing temperature again taking its toll on the equipment. This time a frozen freehub body. Out came the de-icer again. Problem solved, and off to the pits in plenty of time to set-up. So this was it for me. Virgin territory; up until now everything was ‘everyday stuff’, fixing bikes I can do in my sleep, but this part is a whole new world – the pit lane at a World Champs. Excited and just a little on edge about what was going to unfold in the next hour. As it turned out the frozen course proved much more difficult for riders than mechanics. Only one bike change from crash damage, so we had it far easier than the guys out there breathing lung full s of freezing air, and slipping and sliding all over. Only one within-pit ‘incident’ to report too, and a lesson learnt – when there’s a big, overweight, foreign bloke impeding the progress of your rider in the pit lane, there’s an international sign which signals he needs to move out of the way…two hands shoving firmly in the chest, whilst shouting “excuse me please” does the trick. Thanks for schooling me Pete.
That was pretty much all the excitement from today. An afternoon, spent much the same way as Friday, playing the tyre pressure game with the weather, albeit now we only had the Elite men and the Ladies to satisfy. With no riders taking the start, we even managed to steal half an hour or so, to watch the U23 race, with ‘frites’ in hand – in proper CX style. I’ve seen some amazing contraptions for making noise. Besides the biggest cow-bell on earth (it took two fully grown Dutchmen to ring it) there are even guys that walk around with car batteries strapped to their back to power some of the loudest claxons and air horns imaginable. Tomorrow’s Elite race is absolutely going to blow me away for sure, as tens of thousands of equally crazy, mostly intoxicated supporters will descend on the Tabor, scrubland venue. Can’t wait.