Wednesday, 27 July 2011

On Tour with Garmin-Cervelo

Picture the scene, e-mail arrives.  Opening line says "Would you like to join Garmin-Cervelo as a VIP guest at this Years Tour de France."  Let me think for a minute, sorry a second, sorry a nano-second. What then rolled out, was a cyclists dream in terms of a trip.  If I wrote about the whole thing, this blog would be about two thousand words long.  So, let me share the highlights: -

Guest Pass
  • Spent the afternoon in a bar in Paris with Richard Gorman and Sven Thiele of Hot Chillee Events, who issued the invite on behalf of the team.  We watched the time trial unfold as members of the cycling industry, journalists, sponsors and others turned up.  It was fascinating to get journalist insight - in real time -as the race unfolded.
  • The evening ended late, with Champagne and Oysters in a Paris restaurant starting at 1am.  Getting a lift back to the hotel in the early hours, our lift had David Harmon's Onix bike in the boot of her car.  Funny where you see stuff.
  • Following morning, we were up and about for a ride.  Got ushered into a room where there were a collection of top-end Cervelo bikes, didn't take me long to nab one.  Kid in a sweet shop falls to mind.  Got given the a full set of the new Garmin-Cervelo bodypaint Tour de France kit worth around two hundred quid (which getting it home is too small for me - aaagggh).  The bike had Rotor eliptical cranks, which I've never ridden before.  With my hangover, I didn't do them justice!
Cervelo anyone?
  • Setting out from the hotel, we headed up the Champs Elysees out to the Bois de Boulogne, did about five laps and then back down the Champs-Elysees and round the circuit.  Awesome to have ridden the cobbles on the day the race was arriving.  Loads of people were already taking their positions and we got plenty of support as we rolled round.
Ready to Set Off on the ride
  •  Arriving back, quick shower and change, then onto the American Embassy for a pre-race drinks/canapes reception.  It had an awesome view of the road and was a great place to watch the pre-race procession chunder through.
    View from the American Embassy
    • With the riders about 20km away, we made our way through to the hospitality stands very close to the finish line.  There was a huge screen opposite for us to watch the approach.  When the riders turned up, there was a tremendous roar, the Tour de France came to life as The Peloton whisked by.  I spent some time with England Rugby Star - Steve Borthwick -  who is a big cycling convert, great bloke (and very big).
    • As the race finished, I got tapped on the shoulder.  "An opportunity has come up to sit in the team car as the riders do their procession lap, fancy it?"  - mmmm, let me think (scrambling out of the stands and sprinting towards the team coach).
    • Jumped in the car and who should be there - but Mrs Tyler Farrar - had a good natter with her about being a cycling WAG and then just soaked up being driven up and down the Champs (I spotted David Millar having a moment when I had the video on before they rolled out, which you can see here).  
    • He handed me his camera as we set out and asked me to take a few photo's - which I was happy to oblige.  Thor handed me some Norwegian cookies that a fan had given him.  It was incredible the reception that Thor got, he is a very popular rider with all the fans.
    • Riding up and down the Champs-Elysee was awesome.  Tens of thousands of fans were still there, ready to greet their idols, get autographs, photo's, a kiss, a freebie.
    • Getting back to the pits around a quarter past seven, it was straight back to the hotel to get changed, for the post-tour party with the team.  Set in a beautiful contemporary museum in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, all the riders, their families, the team and support crew plus sponsors enjoyed a magnificent dinner, speeches, wine and song - quite a night, as Garmin-Cervelo won the team prize. 

    The team posing at the Champs turn
    •  Rising the next morning, it was pretty surreal.  I'm reading David Millar's book - "Racing Through The Dark" - at the minute.  I wandered into a park, sat down and read for two hours, just soaking up the sun and the pre-race buzz. 
    • As I arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport to travel home, I spotted Team Sky Manager - Dave Brailsford - in the lounge and asked him to sign the book, as he did the foreword.  Little did I know that David Millar's sister - Frances - was sat right next to him, she introduced herself.
    • Flying home, Frances Millar was in the seat in front of me, Dave Brailsford in the row in front of her.  At that very point, I'd reached the bit about when David Millar was arrested during a dinner with Dave Brailsford in Biarritz, France.  How funny that the two people that dominated that chapter, were sat in front of me.
    • Arriving home, I have to say it was a top weekend.  Richard Gorman and Sven Thiele of Hot Chillee, were absolutely brilliant hosts, great mates who gave me a real insight into the sport.  Garmin-Cervelo certainly know how to put a show on.  A huge thank you to Alex Palmer of Slipstream Sports, who worked hard all weekend with all the guests and made this super-special weekend possible.
    • I grabbed a stack of pictures, here's some to take a look at.
    Liked this beauty
    Rotor Cranks

    Orbea close up crankset
    Thor Hushovd rear gear ratio

    Thor's World Champion Bike

    The DS masterplan in the car

    Euskatel boys hang around
    Rotor makes you motor

    Spotted this on the Euskatel frame - nice touch.
    Liquigas on their to the procession lap
    Andy Schleck stops for a chat
    Thor's Stealth Bike - Radar Invisible!

    David Millar Post-Race Interview

    1 comment:

    1. What a fantastic opportunity. I have been in several team cars for UK races as a guest & mechanic but this was a real treat. I'm not jealous one bit, honest!