Belgium, May 9, 2006
We're at the airport, waiting for our flight to Italy this evening, but it looks like the whole of the Giro is here! There's a big party with VIPs, police, food wine, champagne, beer. It's unbelievable. We'll be hanging around until 9:30 until we get a flight, which means we won't be in our hotel until midnight, but it's the same for everyone.
It's been a big organisation as it is with any transfer. We had our second bus come across to the finish so our first bus could get going and that one will pick us up from Palma airport in Italy. We also sent the biggest truck down this morning with all the suitcases and bags, and the small truck picked up all the equipment from the race today. The big truck should arrive some time around 10pm. It's a 14-16 hour drive for the mechanics. Then they have to get up at sparrows fart to prepare the TT bikes for riding the next day. It's a lot of work for the personnel.
The race cars and soigneurs cars should arrive tomorrow at around lunchtime. We already sent three cars with soigneurs and physios this morning to the hotel too, so that they can prepare for our arrival. They'll have a bit of food ready so when the riders come in, they can eat something if they're hungry.
It's a long trip, and most of them are going to go through France and avoid Switzerland because that's a non-EU country; the paperwork for entering and exiting Switserland takes too much time. All up it will be between 1200 and 1300 km.
It's a big ask from everybody. A lot of teams are doing a similar sort of travel plan, especially all the northern European teams. They've all sent one bus to Italy, and a second bus to have a shower after the stage finish.
Tomorrow won't be a normal rest day, because it's day before the team time trial. Everybody's trying to prepare as well as possible for that one, so probably we'll see a few riders on their TT bikes tomorrow.
So far, so good
We were lucky with the weather today. It doesn't make the riders quite as fatigued as yesterday. It's just the concentration that you need on a bad weather day like that which makes it so though. Today the riders agreed the parcours was harder, but it was easier to concentrate.
I think we're also going to have to be aware of the Italian weather this time of year. If we get good weather, good. But bad weather, phwoar... Those mountain stages have some pretty big altitude differences, so it's going to be heavy.
The Giro was very well received in Belgium, and there were a lot of people out. It was good to see. I think for the Giro, it's been a big success having the start and three stages in Belgium. For the team, it's been pretty well run, well organised with good hotels and good stages. The only people who could complain are Petacchi and Brandt; poor blokes.
Otherwise, as far as we're concerned, we're very happy. All is good. Although we lost 5 seconds one day, 10 seconds on another, when we're coming into the last week, we're talking about minutes.
One Cervelo down...
We lost a bike as well today. We have nine bikes for the race and seven bikes on each car, which makes 23 bikes in total. They took all the bikes off the roof racks, but there were so many people at the finish there today that Bobby Julich's bike has gone missing. It's his special bike with compact chainrings. It's going to be a hassle for the mechanics to get that organised.
We went looking for it. I saw three young kids riding across the other side of the river on bikes. So I got on a bike and took off after them, but none of them was riding our bike.
There were that many people around at the finish, and it wasn't fenced off where we were. It was a schemozzle. We were all running around, trying to move out of there as quick as we could. The mechanics and soigneurs wanted to get going, but there were so many people coming and getting autographs and photos. We're going to have someone on point watching from now on.
McEwen made the best he could from the sprinters' days. Our team's happy to get these few days over with and happy to get on with the Giro.
In the team time trial, you've got three teams: T-Mobile, Discovery, and ourselves of course. Credit Agricole, Rabobank, and Quick.Step are not going to be too bad, but off the pace compared to those three. For us, it will be interesting to see how Lampre and Saunier Duval go, for Cunego and Simoni. I see they've opted more for the climbers than the team time trial riders. They're banking on limiting their losses in the TTT and having enough riders for a lot of support for Cunego and Simoni in the last week. Different teams have different tactics, and it will be interesting to see how the race unfolds over the next couple of weeks. It's a very interesting Giro and a difficult race to predict. The day up to Kronplatz and the day before to Bondone will be very tough.
We've also still got that flat TT to go. As much as you've got the big mountains at the end, you've still got some other opportunities. I'm very confident in Basso and the team. We don't underestimate anyone though. You're foolish if you do that!
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