Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Peter The Great, or working the UCI Road World Championships

The new World Champion: Slovakian Peter "The Great" Sagan
First I wasn't so sure whether I'd have any photos that would prove that I was actually at the 2015 UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia. With the exception of one "off" day (at least most of the daytime hours) I had spent my entire time working behind the scenes, doing what I do nowadays at the international level. But then, on Sunday my particular duties ended just in time for me to watch the final few laps of the Elite Men's road race, and that made up for a week spent without catching literally none of the racing action. I mean, not even the media had access to the vantage point from where I took these first three shots of this blog entry. It's a memory that will stay with me for a long time.
A view to kill for!
The battle for the podium places: Aussie Michael Matthews beats Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas for second place
I had arrived in Richmond on Monday afternoon, and from there it was pretty much all work. But on Wednesday I did have a chance to spend a little bit of time sightseeing when there was a break in the racing action, and so I drove down to Chesapeake Bay and visited Ft. Monroe just outside of Hampton. It wasn't the prettioest of days, but I enjoyed the smell of the water and the screaming of the seagulls. I walked along the seawall and watched the fishermen; tired as I was, I took a delightful nap in the small dunes.
Maybe I should retire and start fishing....
Click to see the full panoramic view of the southern end of Chesapeake Bay

Beautiful lighthouse at Ft. Monroe
The fort houses an interesting (and free) museum
It was interesting to see this fort less than two weeks after being in Quebec City
On the way back to Richmond I stopped by Colonial Williamsburg, a giant living museum that really would have deserved a much longer visit than the short hour that I had—say, several days, maybe? (OK, I admit I had frittered away 45 minutes with a so-so IPA at Alewerks, a brewery that was touted as the "best" in Virginia. Well, I don't concur.)
A pretty sign is no guarantee for superior brew
Williamsburg, oddly enough, featured cobblers, general stores, and even taverns—but none that seemed to serve mead or better. So I just walked around, realizing after a while that I had not paid an entry fee. Oh well, I don't think I did any harm. I certainly wouldn't have paid the $42 admission fee to ramble along the wide streets and gawk at locals in traditional garb being gawked at by selfie-stick-toting tourists. There are reenactments, for an additional small fortune one can take a guided tour by horse carriage, or one can simply get immersed in the interesting gardens and watch demonstrations that bring to life old professions. As I said (and as several Facebook friends confirmed), one can spend a lot of quality time here if one is so inclined. Next time, maybe. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Had it not been for this short excursion I would not have seen much of Virginia at all. We were ensconced in the Richmond Marriott, smack-dab in the middle of the rather seedy downtown. It was quite something to see all those homeless folk pushing their shopping carts through the throngs of international fans. Really, I can't say that I found Richmond (or at least what I got to see) overly exciting. It was just another typical downtown, with lots of empty store fronts, fancy office buildings, and hair-extension dives next to expensive restaurants and cheap diners. I wonder what those Norwegian or Eritrean visitors thought about all that. Maybe they just didn't see.
Where did the Eritrean government find the money to send the fans?
These Norwegians were definitely waaaayyyy out there.
I noticed more Eritrean flags than orange Dutch ones.
One evening I had a chance to go to a local brewpub, Three Crossings Brewing, where I enjoyed an OK beer and a much better jazzy trombone ensemble (plus a tuba and a small drum set). Now, that was fun—and there were no crazy Belgians in attendance.
Trombone jazz session at Three Crossings Brewing
Oh, I could tell you great stories about this week, but if I did, I'd lose my job. It was an amazingly interesting week, and I learned from some of the best in the trade. It was a rare opportunity to work such an event, at this level. Few individuals get a chance to work at the pinnacle of what their profession offers, and I continue to work races that, well, don't get much more important than this. On this note I'll leave you with a few more pics from my free Sunday afternoon and the Elite Men's road race.
45 nations in  the men's race—45 team cars screaming by
One of 15 laps, for a total of 261 kilometers
The field single-filing it on the backstretch of the course
Feedzone ...
... and a massive pile-up
Some lost their chain ...
... and others some blood
So that's how I spent last week. Three days back at home, and now New Mexico beckons. Looking forward to 500 miles of driving to Farmington  tomorrow. Road Apple Rally, here I come!


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Beautiful Québec

The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac and the St. Lawrence River
I like traveling to and in Canada. Every time I have been to the great White North I have collected beautiful memories that continue to make me happy, whenever I think of them. Not even counting the several weeks on the tandem from Prince George all the way through the Okanagan down to the US back in 1983, the list is probably topped by the two trips that Judy and I took, one out to Banff, the other into Ontario, including Niagara Falls. (Oh, I almost forgot our time on Victoria Island.) There were those three times in Penticton, BC, when I chiefed Ironman Canada. At Hardwood Hills I broke my clavicle while pre-riding the UCI mountain bike course as PCP. Baie-St-Paul, Saguenay, Mont Ste Anne—all great memories. And now I have finally spent some time in Québec city as well as Montréal.
Part of the old city wall
Samuel de Champlain, the founder of Québec
One of hundreds of canons that defended Québec
As I am writing this I am four days into an almost week-long trip to francophone Canada. I spent the first days in the quaint old capital of the province, Québec. As you can guess, this is another cycling-related sojourn. Because of the race schedule and some of my duties I did have a little bit of time to walk around Québec in beautiful weather, taking in the old-world atmosphere that this former European outpost still exudes. The streets in Old Town are narrow and often cobbled, the storefronts and restaurant look positively French, and city walls, moats, and turrets remind one of the military past of this city.
Old Town just below the Frontenac, steps from the cruise piers
No wonder the bats go there at night!
The entire race entourage was housed in the swank Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, a Disneyesque-yet-historic relic of the centuries. This was the first time that I ever slept in a chateau, and had it not been for a bat that decided to take flying lessons in my room in the middle of the night (no worries, I batted the thing to the ground with a bat(h)towel and had the bellboy remove the Ziploc-bagged remnants—really!) it would have been perfect. But it sure makes for a good story!
Without photographic proof nobody would believe me
During my strolls through town I marveled at the old fortification on Cap Diamant, the ingeniously located fort that controlled the St. Lawrence River for more than two centuries. No wonder this place was hotly fought over. The views from the hill are magnificent, and I was reminded of the Bosphorus in Istanbul. Man, I do get around.
Looking toward the Atlantic—just around the corner, almost
Colorful buoys languishing ashore
Small meets large
It's not as if Québec really needed the exposure that a World Tour event such as the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec brings with it, but a $35M shot of overall economic impact into the region (as estimated by the organizers) can't hurt, either. Bringing the world's cycling elite via charter plane from Europe to the Americas is a big endeavor, and thus the race is coupled with the GP Cycliste de Montréal, which will take place tomorrow. The fact that both events are happening 10 days before this year's road World Championship in Richmond, VA, is rather convenient as well. (However, both GPs are established events that have been ongoing for years, without the WC looming a few hundred miles to the south.)
They're all here, including former (Boonen, far left) and current (Kwiatkowski) world champions
Bell lap, and everyone is "on the rivet," strung out single file
Quite a spectacular backdrop for the race
For the race in Québec the weather showed itself from the very best side—pleasant temps, nothing but sunshine, hardly any wind. It was a perfect day for racing, and the spectators loved it. And then, when I woke up this morning in Montréal after our transfer last night, it was gray, raining, and cool. Yuk. Tomorrow's forecast isn't much better, but that's professional cycling: The show must go on. My mostly off-day thus didn't yield the fun sightseeing that I had envisioned, but that's OK. Montréal is totally different from Québec, a large city with skyscrapers, a huge downtown shopping district, and massive museums galore. The contrast couldn't be more stark. From what I saw today there is a lot going on, culturally. I'd like to spend some time here in the summer or during the time of the jazz festival. Ah, so many things to do, so little time left.
On this trip I finally learned about the Québecois delicacy poutine
Downtown Montréal on a rainy Saturday morning
What frites are to Belgium, poutines are to Québec (and Canada)
Tomorrow will be another race day, and on Monday morning I'll fly back home to a place where people don't speak Québecois but Texan. Properly used by old-timers, neither is intelligible to the casual speaker of French or English. Québec and Texas probably have other similarities: conservative, frontier roots, not averse to secession. I don't share any of these traits, but I feel comfortable in either place.

Another good trip, for sure.