It’s time for me to get back on the blog wagon. If I had a dollar for every time I wrote that, well, I would have a lot of dollars. As I write this, I’m sitting in a dimly lit hotel room in Italy, appropriately listening to Andrea Bocelli. I’ve been here for the past five days or so- they’ve all blended together a bit- but that is unimportant.
I’m here, in Montichiari, Italy, for the 2011 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships. The racing program starts tomorrow with the men’s C’s (single bikes) racing the pursuit and the tandems racing the Kilo. The women’s single bikes will race the pursuit on Saturday and the 500 on Sunday. The team sprint and match sprints will be held on Sunday as well. Here is the schedule, but what this means for you, in regards to me- I race pursuit qualifying Saturday morning and if things go well then I’ll race for a medal that evening. Sunday morning will the 500 and then I am done racing. After that I plan to watch the rest of the racing on the program and enjoy our time left in Italy before heading to the airport at about 3am Monday morning.
Here’s a bit about the trip over: The ~26 hour day of travel to Europe was complete with its concomitant mishaps. Most people had seats in the “cattle car” or the back of the plane, flight delays, one lost passport resulting in a two day expedited replacement of said passport, and 25 bike boxes being left in Munich on the tarmac. In all honesty, this was one of the simpler trips across the pond. We usually fly with both or all three of our bikes to competitions but this time Adam, our LA based track coach, took almost all of the bikes with him when he flew. That left just a few bikes to travel with the athletes from their various departure cities. I flew with my road bike, and I must say that traveling with only one bike is pretty nice.
I don’t usually talk to strangers, but the flight to Munich was different. My seatmate and I exchanged the typical pre-flight banter of Hi, how are you? Are you traveling on business or for pleasure? What type of business? Bicycle racing sounds like a pretty good business to be in! One question led to another and we ended up talking for three and a half hours! There are few people on Earth that I have conversed with for three and a half hours straight and Jason, in 39B is now one of them. This is the second interesting person I’ve met on an airplane- the previous being a civilian demolitions expert contracted by the military who is also a gunsmith, shoots competitively, has some type of engineering background and also keeps bees and has a honey and beeswax product company. Jason is a drag racer and as a racer, was able to ask intelligent questions about cycling, the different races and the different types of equipment. It was actually pretty fun to answer all of his questions and teach him about the sport. It was also interesting to learn about cars and drag racing. After saying nearly everything I know about the sport of cycling, I was pretty tuckered out and fell asleep. Before landing, I was able to squeeze in a viewing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Think what you will of me, I love those movies and have seen them all. This is the first one that I have not viewed in theatres but I assure you that I will see Part II on the big screen. Don’t you worry about that!
After checking into the hotel in Montichiari, we sat down for dinner. Our first course: assorted steamed veggies and lettuce (not all together). Second course: Pasta or rice (both are very good). Third course: flattened chicken with tiny potatoes. Fourth course: fruit. Dinner since then has been basically the same, with variations on the main course and type of meat. One night we had flattened beef, the other night we each got half of a chicken, and tonight we had three wings of chicken. Mine still had some feathers and a few chicken hairs on them.
The bikes finally arrived mostly undamaged. Mine was the only one that sustained any damage in transit. The dropout, or part where the wheel is held into the frame was severely bent. In the process of trying to straighten it out, it snapped off. It sounds minor, but actually rendered the bike unrideable. Because the bike is/was a fancy-pants bike, it did not have removeable or replaceable dropout. So, shortly after the bike was unpacked, I repacked it and boxed it right back up for the trip back to the states. It was definitely a sad day for me. I quite like that bike and have had a good long run with it. But, all things must come to an end. Thankfully, most of us on the team are all close enough in size to each other that borrowing bikes is not a problem.
The track bike was undamaged and is in perfect working order. I would much rather have a broken road bike than not have a track bike- this is track worlds after all. We’ve ridden the track and besides it being really, really cold, I like it. The LA velodrome is shaped more like a hotdog than a hamburger. A hamburger track is much smoother to ride because you don’t get big power spikes going through the turns. It’s a much more consistent effort. That said, the hotdog tracks are fun because you can feel more G’s in the turns than the rounder tracks. Like each city, each track has its own personality and different characteristics. The are all unique and have different things to offer the racers. It’s one of the nice things about track cycling- while it’s the same event, distance, equipment and competitors, you have to be able to adapt to the situation.
I’m feeling confident and excited as we close in on Saturday’s racing. First up though are the men and the tandems tomorrow. Everybody is flying and I’m looking forward to getting all the results as they trickle in throughout the day. Check Twitter and Facebook for updates from me and the results website for official results.