Season opener, a Belgian Classic
Bernard KOCIS- Journal
29 Feb 08
Preparing for our European adventure began with me spending 12 hours in a car driving to Canada with two of our riders who continued training in the South after our official training camp ended. They collected me from my house in Virginia and we hit the road.
Once again in Canada, I was supposed to build TT bikes and the remainder of our team bikes and spares but our parts were still on the water between Japan and North Americaâ€¦looks like we travel lighter than we wanted.
I gathered all the parts and spares we had and packed 7 bikes plus my mechanic kit and we headed off to the Toronto airport where all but one rider met us and gave the ticket agents quite a start with 9 people hauling over 30 pieces of baggage! Steve had an Ace up his sleeveâ€¦he arranged with the airline management to take all our luggage (both ways) without excess baggage fees!!!
Off we go to the gate and after a quick stop in Montreal to collect our last rider (and a couple hundred others destined for Paris) we would be in Europe the following morning. Or not.
Our plane developed a mechanical that couldnâ€™t be fixed in time for us to leave the same day, so we had 24+ hours layover in a Toronto hotel (could have been worse, could have been stuck in the airport). We finally departed Toronto made the Montreal connection and arrived at Paris DeGaulle airport.
Steve had a friend drive a Sprinter van towing a small trailer to collect us and with the rental car, we all settled in for a 3 hour drive to Oudenaarde, Belgiumâ€¦our home for a month.
The Bed and Breakfast, Hof Ter Kammen, has the capacity to house 30 people (if youâ€™re a bunch of Juniors who can sleep and function packed into high-capacity dorm rooms) but the 10 of us are quite comfortable. The proprietors have two boys and are involved in the local Flanders cycling community. Steve was invited by them to the annual club awards and celebrity turn-out one evening.
Earlier in the day, our host, Christian, popped into the bike room to chat and I asked him about his bike. He told me it needed work as the gears wouldnâ€™t work all the timeâ€¦a few derailleur adjustments, cables tensioned, wheel trued and bars re-wrapped made it normal again. He was thrilled. So much so that he invited me (!) to the club event too! Wow!
When we (Steve, JosÃ©e and I) arrived the place was filled and there were lots of speakers and awards, all of which were presented in Flemishâ€¦I only understood Thank you and Congratulationsâ€¦and towards the end of the presentations, Steve was called onto the podium with Nicco Mattan for an impromptu chat. Steve loved it! With his time spent in Belgium he understands more than he can speak but they were kind and spoke English.
A great reception followed with an open bar (yesâ€¦free beer in Belgium!!) and 3 types of local cheese, great bread and wonderful patÃ¨.
We had a blast chatting with our hosts and with their help and translations managed to meet a number of local, national and international cycling stars. This was truly one of the best experiences Iâ€™ve had in this business.
The Flanders cycling museum is housed in their club house (or vice versa) which is so packed with real cycling history it is unbelievable. We only saw what was displayed in the entry foyer!
We plan to return with the boys soon and go through properly!
Rightâ€¦time for me to sleep now, our first race of the season is tomorrow, the Beverbeek Classic. I think itâ€™s a UCI 1.2 race. Wake up is 6AM!