Thursday, March 10, 2011

Paris-Nice with Leopard Trek: Part 1

1 AM - I wake up after sleeping for an hour and I'm wide awake. I'm just getting over the flu and I've been sick for the past week. I say a few prayers to the porcelain god and then decide to head out for a late night crepe.

I go downstairs and ask the desk guy about crepes. He says I shouldn't go out. It's not a good area. I had a feeling that was the case but was hurting for a Nutella laden crepe. I segue onto the topic of cycling and we chat for about 30 minutes. He likes Lance a lot, mostly because the rest of France hated him. He says the French think the Americans are so arrogant, but he thinks the French are more arrogant. We have a lot of common ground.

The conversation dies down and I head over to the lobby to get online. A couple hours go by. At some point I'm talking to Dylan about his first race (which he won!!) and he says: "Listen, you give me a lot of advice, so I'm going to give you some advice. You should be doing something way cooler right now. You're in Europe, man! Go listen to some techno at some massive club!"

I love it. And it sounds amazing and something I'd totally do were I in Paris for any other reason. But tonight, given what tomorrow holds, I'm content to watch the hours go by in front of the glow of my laptop.

I grab the start list from my room and write down each rider's number next to his name. When the time comes, I'll be ready.

5 AM - I go up to my room and try to sleep. I'm on the bed less than a minute when I get up. Instantly I start thinking about the day ahead. All the team car videos I've ever seen go through my head. Those crazy descents, that's going to be me. It's the team car, dude. All those bottles they drink, yeah, they get those at the team car. And probably, today, from me. I swear I'm dreaming.

I get up and turn on my laptop. I start writing this. I can't believe this is happening. I've had a lot of great days in my life, more than I deserve, but this is going to be out of this world.

I think about those guys who pay thousands to ride in the cars at the Tour of California. I always see them go by and laugh. They ride in the first cars and never see any of the race. Me, I'll see all the action, and get to feed the riders doing it. I'm filled with gratitude for this gift Joao has given me.

530 AM - I'm itching. It's go time. I need that crepe ASAP. I keep staring out the window hoping it's dawn. Nothing. But it's coming. I turn on the Top 200 Hits of 90's, time to get pumped.

I get up to go out on the balcony when I realize there's a TV in the room. I just passed up 10 solid hours of French TV. I settle on a Jeopardy knockoff and plan my escape.

6 AM - I go downstairs. The smell of fresh croissants fills the air. They're in a blocked off area so I ask the desk guy when I can have one. He clears his throat, "Seven, at seven..."

I sit and watch the last 50k of Strade Bianche.

7 AM - I down four croissants, two yogurts, and a compote. Then, I head to my room to pack up.

8 AM - I arrive at the train station and ask about a ticket to Houdan. I pronounce it over and over in my best French until "Oh! Houdan!" she says. She tells me that's a different station and I have to take the metro. She says it's about 30-40 minutes away. My train is at 840.

830 AM - Montparnasse Station. I make it on the train just in time. As the train starts rolling I can feel the lack of sleep for the first time.

930 AM - I get off the train and head down the hill.

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I walk over to where the team cars and buses are starting to park.

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Finally, the Leopard Trek caravan rolls in. Kim Andersen gets out of the car and I struggle to introduce myself...




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