Belgium, January 10, 2006
A very brief interlude, that's how you can describe the 36 hours I'm enjoying with the family at home.
Last night, Sabine came and picked me up at Brussels airport at 11pm after our flight from Mallorca via Barcelona was slightly delayed. By the time I hit the pillow it was way past midnight; the kids were sound asleep by then. I knew it would be a short night, and as expected Tristan and Saën came barging into the bedroom at 7.30am. A wrestle and pillow fight are on the agenda on this kinda mornin' and it's always a great way to start the day.
After a hearty breakfast and taking the kids to school I got stuck into the final preparations for the next race. Logistics, material, etc. - enough to check and finalize. I've finished packing one of the suitcases with stuff I need to take with me to America, another one is waiting for fresh team clothing. A quick mid afternoon tea-break is now giving me the chance to scribble a few lines. Indeed, it's all a bit hectic today but it's good to be home, even if it's only for a single day in between races.
This week's racing was good. Our team rode the Challenge Illes Balears, Spain (1.1x5). It was a hard race to get to logistically, and for Volodymir Gustov it nearly turned into a complete disaster. He was scheduled to arrive on the Monday, travelling on his own from Milan Malpensa airport. I sent our bus driver Danny to pick him up at Mallorca Palma airport in one of the team cars. Danny got there, waited for a while and found out that Volodymir's scheduled flight had been delayed; so Danny waited.
As Danny doesn't speak Italian at all and Gustov's English is not that fluent, I called Gustov and left a message for him to ring me as soon as he had arrived. An hour and a half later I get the long awaited phone call, he had landed; I inform Volodymir that Danny is waiting for him in the arrival hall. Fifteen, twenty minutes later Danny rings me to tell me he can't find Gustov anywhere; and as he walks outside of the airport building he witnesses the team car getting towed! Obviously, the airport police doesn't even cut pro cycling teams any slack.
So, I called Gustov back and told him to be patient a little while longer as Danny was trying to get the car back of the towing company. As soon as Danny solved things, he went back inside to meet Gustov in the bar; but Volodymir Gustov was nowhere to be found!
I get Danny on the phone, again, and by that time he's starting to be quite annoyed with the situation: "I am at the bar! Gustov is not here! He must be in another terminal or something!?" I'm thinking, well maybe, but there is only one terminal in Palma...
Then Volodymir rings me up; completely frustrated because he still can't find Danny! At that point it just hit me... I asked Volodymir: "Are you in Palma airport?"
Gustov : "Yes!"
Me: "Palma de Mallorca?"
Gustov: "Euh, Palma something de Gran Canaria"
Me: "F*** man, you've flown into the wrong place!"
Volodymir, having no geographical notion of this part of the world: "So, is Palma de Malorca far away? Maybe I can catch a bus or something?"
Me again: "Fat chance of that mate, not unless that bus can go over water a few thousand k's! You're on one of the Spanish flippin' islands all right, one of the Canary Islands though, in the Atlantic Ocean; actually pretty close to Africa, and we're in the middle of the Mediterranean!!"
Turned out that the people at the check-in at Malpensa Airport were responsible for letting the poor bloke board the wrong flight. Gustov did go to the right check-in for Palma de Mallorca, but some blonde actually put him on the flight to the Canary Islands. Figure that one!
We got it sorted though; Air Iberia put Gustov up in a hotel for the night, and a day later than expected, he turned up in the right place.
Well, not sure the race was worth the hassle for Gustov but the other riders did enjoy the warmer climate. It was good training and I noticed most of my men are starting to get sharper and sharper as racing days passed.
For those wondering, Bjarne intended for his team to have an easier start into the 2006 season. Last year, we came out running full gas, but this season, we have a different plan.
Next, there's the team training camp in Solvang to attend, followed by the Amgen Tour of California. I'll be on the plane this time tomorrow and even though it's a long trip, I'm really looking forward to go to America again - and besides that, it's nothing compared to the long haul to Australia.
The ten-day weather forecast for Solvang looks promising and after having had a taste of beautiful weather in Mallorca I'm not unhappy that I don't have to spend cold and grey February in Belgium.
I'll be in touch with the CN crew and aim to keep you updated!