First of all, I have to find the High Road headquarters; this is a good place to start! The way to the seaside is full of motorhomes and vans, full of cyclists training on their bikes and full of people. There’s Lampre, Gerolsteiner, and Quick.Step, but no sign of High Road.
When I see a High Road car coming from the north side, I look inside, to perhaps get some information, but I just see the driver and a pair of wheels in the passenger seat. If the car comes from there that means…I have to go there.
Come on. One, two, three blocks. I start to worry. I ask some people eating inside a bar, “Excuse me, did you see some riders…from High Road… they have a white jersey…” I feel stupid. They’ve for sure seen the riders everywhere and they’re looking at me with an embarrassing expression on their face.
“Thanks a lot, good bye!” – now they’re making fun of me, I think when I close the door; but in that moment a High road rider is passing and turning around the next corner. Found! Great! Adam is getting warm on the rollers. “So, where’s Hoffman?”
“Hoffman is not here, sorry,” – answers a guy – “He is waiting for the riders in Urbino.” I don’t have his phone number, I don’t have anything really, and I feel wet, tired, and frustrated. Another man is asking for Piva. I know Piva, he’s Italian. Maybe there’s a chance, between Italians, you know? But Piva is at the start. “Ok, I need to follow Hansen in the Team car, who can help me?”
The messenger shows a piece of paper to me: “You have to reach Achin. He’s ready at the start for Hansen.” Achin, Hoffmann, Piva, Hansen, Richard. I’m tired of this story. Better I admit that it’s hopeless and try to get some pics of the start, but once there I cannot forget the idea and I start to check all the team cars waiting their turn in line. The name plates on the table give me hope. Adam Hansen hasn’t started yet. So, now: “Where’s Achin?”
Sometimes things work out: the High Road car with the two wheels beside the driver, I saw earlier is now here beside me. “Are you going to follow Hansen?”
I’ve found Achin, finally!
He doesn’t know me, he doesn’t know about any agreement with Hoffman but he knows PEZ. “Ah, yes, the diary; let’s go.”
I’m in the car now. I’ve followed cycling since I was 14, but I’ve never been in a Team car following a rider during a TT. This is a unique experience that I really have no words to describe it with. You feel as if you’re part of the rider.
You can see his effort, which is really big; the tachometer is always over the 50 km/h. Hansen rides the first half of the TT with a perfect position. The road is half wet and half dry and the rain stop for a while. He has total control of the bike and the corners are not a problem for him.
After the big emotion of the start, I get control of myself and I make some small talk with Achin. He is the Team physiotherapist, German, very quiet and very kind with me. He cleans the windshield of the rain and sometimes gets near to the rider to give me the opportunity of a better shot position.
While the kilometres are passing I understand that the most magic thing about being here is the opportunity to see all the people on the road. There are thousands, despite the working day and the rain. Not just adults, but many young people, and many babies.
The roads are well prepared and you find the Rosa color everywhere. They cry Adam’s name when they read it from our car. Once Adam turns on the right to begin the climb to Colbordolo we start to see Perez Cuapio, who started two riders in front of him. “Already,” I say.
The climb is steep but Adam always sits on the bike. Just for a few meters he stands on the pedals. He climbs with agility, but Perez is always ahead, and Adam is not able to overcome him; they both overcome Fernandez, who was proceeding Adam by one position.
Then he manages to drop Perez and continues full on, near the top, Adam has a difficult moment though, and Perez is again on him. Our car is braking and accelerating according to the continuous change of position.
The jury car loses patience and decides to follow the riders to make them understand that they cannot proceed together. On the following descent Perez lets Adam go; his hand gesture showing Adam the road, “If you really want…” Achin smiles, but only for a moment, then he becomes serious.
On the hills it is raining, and on the last steep climb Adam gives some troubble to the Australian champion but this time Perez is far away. Urbino, here we are!
A long tour of the city walls and then there’s the magic view of the duke’s palace. Achin loses his German control for a moment and is busy looking at this beautiful side of the city. He is busy looking at the good side of the city.
We penetrate through the ancient door to the final climb on the old town ancient road. Adam gets over it fast this time and we finally lose him as we’re redirected to leave the course before the finish line.
It’s been more or less one hour; the most magic hour this sport has given me in so many years of love. Now I feel linked in some way to this rider, even though I never got to speak to him. I will try to find him at the next departure village and I will thank him for this. To get on a bike on a boring, wet Tuesday and pedaling 40 km, risking everything on the descents, and suffering on the climbs is an amazing thing to see. After years of chasing cycling I feel like this was my first experience.
One hour later, when I start to remember that I have a family and a life outside of cycling, I realize also that my car is in Pesaro, at the start, and I have to get back there to get it!