April 13, 2007
I have finally left California, and all the Escalades rolling on 24" phat chrome. I have replaced this with a soothing southern voice and Chevy pick-ups carrying 'go dogs' logos. I have arrived in Athens, Georgia. My home for the rest of the season. The home of Barbara and John Dowd. I am sure countless riders will know of the Dowds and their home for itinerant bike riders.
I am currently residing in a room once occupied by an original 'Aussie in America' Luke Stockwell, whom, many moons ago, (sorry mate I know you're not that old, but it reads better) was beginning the same adventure I am about to undertake.
So, back to the job at hand. After unpacking my suitcase I set about finding some training routes, adapting to the pollen, and getting focused for our upcoming races. For a while there it was 25 to 30 degrees Celsius and I was loving it... although the pollen was getting up my nose! I was yellow after every training session.
I headed out for a local race - the Perry-Roubaix. Yep, it had a dirt section, no it was not like Roubaix - or any cobbled race I had ever done - it did however make for a nice change. I won the bunch kick for 5th, and felt okay. Next stop would be the US Open in Richmond, Virginia. A new race on the US calendar which was to be televised for two hours on NBC.
Eights hours north up the I-85 we hit the handbrake and pulled into Richmond. It was cold.
We did a training ride the day before the race to check over the cobbled climb of Libby Hill. Okay, this was real cobbles. Similar to something you would find in Belgium, just a little bit shorter. I went to bed hoping for a good ride.
White. I can still hear my DS, Jesse Lawler, "oh good lord" (insert mild southern twang). I awoke the next morning to a sight better suited to Het Volk of '05. We loaded up the van and drove one hour to the race start in Williamsburg. Snow - two degrees Celsius and snow. Shoe covers on top of shoe covers, gloves on top of gloves, etc. You get the picture.
The race started and it flew by. It was flat out from the start and before I knew it we had hit the finish circuits for eight laps of a 9km finish loop. It broke up consistently each lap and with three laps to go Willo, Evan and myself were left in the peloton - well, the 50 riders in the race. We had had our fair share of bad luck up to this point. Neil had crashed out, Tommy had a flat tyre and Austin's saddle slipped. Hoppy and Tim had worked really hard in the first half of the race and brought Willo to the front numerous times to put him in good position for the hill.
The race was by now resembling an accordion, stringing itself out over the climb then coming back together on the back side of the loop. Each time a few riders would never see the race again, their day ending in the abyss between last wheel and the commissaire's car.
With one and a half laps to go I was feeling okay, and was covering a few moves, when, bugger me (it's not quite what I said), flat front tyre, top of the cobbled climb. I ripped my front wheel out, and waited, and waited, and watched 40 guys ride past me...then got a wheel from Mavic, then got back to the bunch. If that had been Belgium some old guy, with a cigarette and a beer would have had spare wheels and I would have been on my merry way faster than you can say "voor mijn een pintje!"
Once I regained the bunch the race was over. Willo and Evan were battling it out up the road putting in great rides for 7th and 16th respectively. I was happy to get a good day in the legs and feel some power, and to get a hot shower.
I am now nursing a bit of a head cold (really?), and I am resting up for the Tour de Georgia which begins on Monday. This week we have some media nights, meeting sponsors and drinking coffee!
Well, it is about time for me to go ride and try not to get lost and spend 20km on a dirt road like last time!
Oh, and I learnt some more 'southern': the plural of y'all is all y'all.
Y'all come back now,