Contributed by Lee Rodgers
It hasn’t been all that bad really – in fact by the end of Stage 4 when I powered away from my co-dropees to take erm 101st place on the stage I was actually feeling not quite as 100% dead as the previous days. Maybe 94%. Which is a huge improvement. Can’t say I’m smelling the daisies yet but there is a whiff of cow dung in the air, which means at least one of my senses is working.
Lee getting ready for a hard day at the office.
The TTT was interesting. We were camped right outside the Lusail Motor Circuit in a car park, awaiting the start – we were off first by the way, which was a great honor and had nothing to do with us being the slowest team the day before, ahem. Sat there on folding chairs in a car park amongst some of the world’s finest bike riders, in the desert, with zero fans around. It was a little surreal.
Behind us in the Farnese car sat Pozzato, showing off his huge tattoo (‘Only CAS Can Judge Me’ or something like that…), to the right the Garmin-Barracuda boys, of whom Tyler Farrar has impressed, seems a solid dude.
Ready, set, suffer.
So we rode pretty well for our first time together. Came last but 1.34 down on Garmin over 11km ain’t too bad. If you judge the race on suffering we were top three easy!
Funniest thing of the day was the walk to the carpark behind Cavendish, Eisel and two guys from 1T4i who were complaining that their socks were too high.
“You can have mine if you want,” says Cav, pointing to his rainbow-ribbed, ‘Cavendish’ monikered socks. In other words, Look at MY socks baby! Got my name on ‘em!
That was amusing…
Day four and we were 15 minutes late for the transfer, meaning a mad chase behind Tom Boonen’s car to the start, 90km away. Just what you need on an already jumpy stomach full of muesli, pasta, bread, soy milk and four Arabian pastries. Yum.
Hey, isn’t that? Yep, that’s Erik Zabel.
At the start there were some 200 screaming school kids which a few of the riders looked bemused by. I loved it. It reminds you how amazing this is, how fortunate we are to be here, riding bikes around the desert. For goodness sake, if you can’t find that awesome you must be half brain-dead… Team Sky’s riders (most) got into the spirit of things and posed for photos and signed autographs, I wanted to but the nervy drive had me on the porcelain throne for 20 minutes. Lovely.
One of Lee’s teammates with World Champion, Mark Cavendish.
The stage was uneventful til the last 30km, when a cross wind kicked in after a 90 degree turn. I got spewed out the back. It is hard to explain what it is like trying to hold that wheel in front unless you’ve done it in a race powered at the front by the best Belgians and Dutch guys in the world, but suffice to say that there are certain stages to the ordeal.
First you think ‘Aaaaaargh ****!
Then you curse the life out of the guy in front.
Then you get a tear in your eye.
Then you want your mama.
Then you pop and fight the urge to vomit.
There may be variations from rider to rider but I think that pretty much nails it…
Lee in action.
My group of 8 or so passed Taylor Phinney getting a wheel by the side of the road, and then Thor Hushovd who had punctured. For some reason their team car sped on leaving them out in the dust, so we rode in together to the end. Phinney smiled at Thor at one point and said “Living the dream baby,” obviously being sarcastic. Yet there I was thinking ‘Hell yeah!” Hahaha!
I’m riding in with two world champions. Pinch me.
Thor Hushovd enjoys a photo opp.
Cavendish won, as he does often enough, all the more impressive though for the fact that he has a cold and is carrying a little bundle of festive cheer under his jersey..
I can talk though. The food here is so good that I am sure I am putting on kilos despite the daily beatings. My mother told me to always finish what’s on my plate, but when it’s a free buffet the plate is always full. Sometimes at a tour you get sick of eating for the sake of re-loading, but here, I gotta say, compliments to the chef.
My favorite is a dessert dish called Om Ali – think it’s from Ireland.
Fabian Cancellara fields questions.
Day five, a lesson in positioning was handed to me and several others. We set off from a picturesque port town but that was the end of any and all pleasing aesthetics as I spent the next 60km with a line of slaver beading a meter or so from my mouth and my nose on the stem after getting dropped on the first corner. Again, it’s not necessarily that I nor the others with me are the weakest riders here – well it could be – but your position in the pack is all-important. I’m experienced enough to know that, and in the Asia Tour I usually sit top 30 all day, but these boys are made of something else. They ease through spaces you would imagine might just accommodate a butterfly, and they do it with that kind of grace too. It’s rather spooky, the way they float. Peter Sagan in particular is incredibly smooth when he moves up, it really has to be seen to be believed.
Peter Sagan (middle) and friends.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, nose on stem etc. So there are about 12 of us and we are just plowing through this cross wind, finally we get a break and turn onto a tailwind and a long flat highway, and we are hitting 60-63km/hr for 30km before we rejoin the pack. That chase was madness, I have never gone so fast for so long, but you know the pack might just sit up so you keep going.
The mechanic’s work is never done.
Then, after settling in again, we hit the final hour or so to go point. Mindful that one of the commentators from TV had told me to try to have a go and he’d give me a mention when they went on air with 40km to go, I decided to attack! I get away with three guys, we die in a head wind but by golly there was the TV camera and a smile hit my chops amidst the grimacing.
Lee riding with Robert Wagner.
Later at dinner my commentator friend told me that the instant they hit the ‘live’ button he saw a flash of back and yellow and had a little smile to himself.
“You cheeky bugger!” he said.
“Yeehaw!” I replied, with a mouthful of penne.
On the way in the car now to Stage 6. Off from the gun, that is the plan… Wish me luck.
A little introduction. My name is Lee Rodgers and I have lived and worked in Asia for 13 years now, working a variety of jobs (scuba instructor, English teacher, journalist).
I ride for RTS Racing Team and have been riding and racing for 4 years (after an 18 year lay off after leaving the sport at 18).