The sun had been out for the last couple of weeks and on Thursday the temperature was nudging 28єC in the shade in the seaside town of Calpe. Phillipe Maertens, the PR man for the RadioShack team Twittered me earlier in the week “I was already surprised you didn't show up yet. You're welcome!” My mechanic mate; Alan Buttler suggested I should visit on Friday as the Katusha team would also be at the Diamante Hotel, sounds like a great idea!
Well it would have been if the weather hadn’t broken and the cloud come down from the mountains causing a wet drizzle. There was a chill in the air, this was all Alan’s fault! Suffice to say there were no riders in sight when I arrived except Fumy Beppu, who was first down to the truck for a shoe plate adjustment. Fumy is one of the friendliest riders in the peloton and always is ready for a word or two. If you follow his Twitters he has some good comments, but sometimes in Japanese. One of his Twitters from the training camp was: “We climb top of the mountain by walk 2h30- after training. Climb was harder than bike!” this refers to the day the team climbed to the top of the Peсon de Ifach, which is the big lump of rock on the edge Calpe. It is a hard climb, especially if you had gone for a ride earlier in the day.
The bikes were all lined up, but as some of the riders are from other teams there was a mix of bikes, the most obvious being Philip Deignan’s Cervelo. Philip is another nice guy who is open for a chat. Last time we met was also in Calpe during La Vuelta a Espaсa earlier this year. At that time he had just learnt that the Cervelo team would be no more at the end of the season and he was worried for his professional future and if he could find a team for 2011 at that late date. Now things are different: he’s at RadioShack. All is well, at least for this year.
I think he asked me more questions than I asked him which is not the way it’s meant to work! “So, you live near here?” and “What do you do for a living?” But the best had to be: “Do you get out on the bike much?” This threw me completely for two reasons. 1. I had not been out on my bike for a couple of weeks, and 2. I had never been asked about MY cycling by a ProTour rider before!
Sports Director Viatcheslav Ekimov wandered down, he looks fit enough to win races still.
Most of the other riders had come down and were ready to roll. I noticed that Haimar Zubeldia had a pump and spare in the extra bottle cage on his Trek. You don’t expect to see top Professional riders with following team cars to have to carry a spare, but there you go. Talking of team cars; no one had thought to fill the tank of the car after yesterday’s ride, so Alan had to tear off for fuel to return in time to see the riders disappear up the road. He jumped out of the driver’s seat and the DS jumped in and drove off...without him! This was OK because that meant he could buy me a coffee and talk about old times.
The Diamante hotel is where all the teams are staying this year, Katusha, RadioShack, Quick-Step and AN Post, Vacansoliel are down the road in Benidorm, BMC are in Denia not far to the north. Katusha had their team busses in the same car park and the mechanics were busy building up the new Focus bikes for next year, world No.1; Joaquim Rodriguez was there, but didn’t look like he would be doing much training.
I bumped into an old friend I hadn’t seen for I think twelve years; Julien DeVries, he has been the mechanic to the stars, Eddy Merckx, Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong and many many more. Anyway it was time for a nice Cafй con leche.
While Alan and I were chewing over the past when Philippe Maertens (RadioShack PR) came over to have a word. Philippe commentates at Cyclo-Cross races for Belgian TV channel vt4 when he is not working for RadioShack and previously for Astana. Here is a little piece of film from one of his shows...sand must taste nice in Belgium?
Repo Philippe Maertensjef cleemputVimeo.
What do you think of the Cross season so far this year, Philippe? “It’s been very good, always a different winner, it’s kept the interest of the fans, yea a very good year.” What about that face plant? “Oh that! Well it was funny, I enjoy it all.” You can watch the Cyclo-cross coverage on vt4 live on the internet.
Back to Alan Buttler, which races will you be working on this year? “It looks like I’ll be having a very interesting year. We won’t be back to Calpe in the New Year, this year it will be Mallorca so some can go straight into the Challenge Mallorca after the training camp. Most of the riders who will go to the Tour Down Under will be American, it makes more sense. I think I will do Milan-San Remo, Liege, Critierium International, some other Classics and Giro and Tour. You never know I might even come and see you in La Vuelta!”
It looked like the riders were starting to return form a wet two hours in the hills behind Calpe. Everyone was happy with the day but no one was hanging around to chat. I asked Philip Deignan how the ride went? “Well it was cold up in the mountains, maybe only 14 or 15 degree’s!” there was only one answer; what is it in Ireland? Minus 3?
It was time for me to say my good-bye to Allan and then to Julien, maybe I’ll see him again in twelve years time?
Later that evening Alan phoned me from a bar on the sea front, recently retired Josй Luis (Chechu) Rubiera had come over to say goodbye to the riders and staff that he hadn’t seen at the end of the season, drink had been taken and there had been some fun...but the season isn’t that far away though!