Thursday 17 March 2011

"A day in the Life"

A few pictures from the UCI Para-cycling track world champs in Italy, alas none of the racing though. Working as a "swanny" (soigneur) with the team i am only able to snatch a few shots now and then. Competition days are full on for 12 to 14 hours with a few stolen moments for a coffee and a sit down. Whilst the team flew down to Italy the Monday before the champs, i left the UK on the Saturday morning, driving a team car down through France with Performance Manager, Gareth Shepherd. The motorways are traffic free compared to home but the 80Euros in tolls add to the cost. We meet up with Martin & John, two mechanics and Mark, another swanny driving two vans, just south of Geneva and spend the first night on the French border, no athletes around so we are allowed a beer!. Through the Mont Blanc tunnel the following morning,the snow capped alpine peaks and clear blue sky welcome us to Italy. Its a straightforward trip along the motorway for 3 hours or so and we are checking into the hotel in Montichiarri. Gareth and me even manage 2 hours on the bikes in the warm spring sunshine, things will change tommorrow as the team flies in. Three days of easy road miles and some track work before the opening day on Friday. My day will include shopping, making lunch (the riders are full board but not the staff, so its sandwiches for us), massage, driving, i have been known to take the odd wrong turning but i usually arrive safely, anything really to keep the riders happy. We are on duty all the time but manage to watch the football on the tele in the mechanics room. With the racing underway things are a a little more stressed but it is all about the riders, carrying their helmets and bikes onto the track apron we are really in the thick of the action and part of the team. Glamorous, probably not but its better than working for a living. Mark and the mechanics leave Sunday night, Gareth and me drive back Monday midday, we take a toll free route through Switzerland & Germany, before heading back into France and an overnight stop at Metz. By tuesday lunchtime we are at the Eurotunnel in Calais (the riders flew back and are already home) but traffic is light and Gareth guns the engine on the Alpha Romeo BC car, drops me off at Chievely Services on the M4 and heads home to Cardiff. I have an hour to kill before the wife picks me up, so i write up my report for the Bournemouth Echo on my laptop and i am indoors at 5pm.

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