Worlds 2003 – Pro Men’s RR – Headliners and the Favorites
Last year in Zolder, Belgium, it was my first time working the world Championships. This was my second time on loan to the US Federation for the title bout. Throughout the year, I work for US Postal as all of you know. Here at worlds it is the National team/Federation team I work for and not my normal trade/sponsor team.
Last year in Zolder it was the Belgian’s who got the most cheers because it was in their back yard. The Belgian’s did not travel far to root for the Red, Yellow and Black. A close second in the loud fan category was the Italians who had the odds on favorite Mario Cipolini. He was able to close the deal and became the proud wearer of the rainbow strips as world champion.
For 2003 we are here on Canadian soil for this years race for the rainbow jersey. The Canadian team received the loudest cheers as a tons and tons of home crowd showed up for today’s race. Second on the headliner list was the American team. Being so close, there were so many that made the drive across the border to watch. I saw cars with Michigan plates, Ohio plates, Pennsylvania plates, New York plates, Indiana plates, Illinois plates and plates from as far as Mississippi.
There were also the normal cheers for the few other headliners such as Eric Zabel (Germany), Basso and Bettini (Italy), Pena (Columbia), Ekimov (Russia), and Boogerd (Holland) to name a few. But again the bulk of the cheers were for Canadians and Americans.
Last year after the race, our tents (we had two tents next to each other) were active with spectators trying to get close glimpses of our riders. This year it was easily triple the amount of spectators (if not more) surrounding our two tents. While trying to gather our bikes and spare wheels to transport back to out hotel, I was nervous watching all of it as hundreds of people milled around our area. It was hard to watch and I was worried about theft. Lucky Geoff showed up in the team car/follow car and helped me load the bikes/wheels and watch them at the same time. Duke (U23 mechanic here) and James (Junior team mechanic) also showed up to help me and Geoff load the cars and vans and watch stuff.
Probably the most surprising headliner at worlds was Geoff. He is our other mechanic for the US elite/pro team here at worlds. Geoff works the bulk of the year as I do with US Postal. He works almost exclusively in Europe and because of our teams high profile he is seen in the media often. He is often sought after by photographers and print media asking questions or in the background while the media surround our team. Being Canadian, he was definitely the highest profile mechanic here at the worlds. So many people came up to him to ask him stuff. Not only media but locals and friends as he grew up only about an hour from here. He knew everyone. He was a star that sometimes eclipsed a few riders.
The race was extremely fun to work and watch. Since Geoff went in the car, I got to stay at the team tents and relax a bit and watch the race. One lap (lap times of about 17 minutes) I even got to nap. My season is so close to being over. Only one more gig. A US Postal/Tailwindsports/Champions Club weekend were they ride and have meetings. Unfortunately it is in Napa, Ca and I have to drive 2,700 miles in 4 days. I knew this before heading to worlds so I’m mentally prepared for the long/hard drive. After that, I think a two day siesta is in order.