Vince Gee

Walk the walk

OK, I did not really realize it till I am writing this but it is Friday the 13th. Some consider this a day of bad luck. But for me it was a day of great luck preceded by some hard work and an awesome back up guy to realize a cool experience.
Here at the Olympics there are three mechanics (so far – I think). There is Ken W. who will be the women’s road mechanic and also help with track and MTB. Bernard K is here for the Trackies. I think there MAY be someone to also take care of the MTB team but then again it also may be JUST Ken. I’m not sure and will be gone when the Dirt team arrives. Then there is little OLE me who is here to work with the Road men.
Well, Ken and I have been good friends since we met about 3 or 4 or so years ago. Ken actually replaces Kevin G. (retired) as our union VP. Not a real union but more a mechanics union to bond all of us more or less. With myself as self appointed President, Ken and I have lots of fun organizing “Union Activities.” Here there are few “Union members” but Ken and I still manage to push the envelope from time to time. Because of our good relationship Ken and I have always had each others back. This trip probably more so than usual.
Yesterday Jiri Manus (Director of Competition) asked all of us to sign up if we wanted to go to Opening Ceremonies (OC). I totally forgot to sign up. Looking at the list there was 17 people and a line after the 17th person. I initially took that as ONLY 17 from cycling could go. But being the one to push the limit, I added my name, and had drawn another line below my name, erased the 17 and put 18 to imply that 18 could go (including me). Ken was smart enough to put his name early and probably easily get to go to OC.
But to get there it was a bit of a task. Since the men’s RR is tomorrow, I had to have ALL the bikes ready to go as well as all spare bikes, wheels etc. This AM we did our normal training ride and finished at about 12:00 noon or 1:00 or so. Initially I had heard that all who wanted to go to OC would be leaving at 4:00 PM. So, that meant I had to prep ALL of my bikes, spare bikes, spare wheels and then finally assemble all my stuff for an early depart BEFORE going to the OC. Ken offered to and came through like a champ washing ALL my men’s bikes while I did the tuning/checking of the bikes. So, with Ken’s help, I finished the bikes with time to spare for the supposed 4:00 departure. But the 4:00 time frame was actually the time they shut down the village as well as all people going in and out of the Village. I’m guessing the village shut down was to facilitate the busses getting into the village that were to take us to and from the OC. There was at least 140 or 150 big busses to transport all athletes and staff going to the Opening ceremonies. It was a long line/sea of busses. What a vision.
We actually departed for the Olympic stadium at 6:00 PM and arrived at about 6:30 or 6:45 PM. We were told in advance that it would be a long night and lots of standing and not returning till about 1:00 or 1:30 or so. Just plain LATE! That’s a full 7 or 8 hours from when we were departing the village to the time we were to return to the village. Each person (athlete or staff) got a ticket to the ceremonies and each had a seat assignment. So, I had initially thought I had to go, sit and watch the athletes walk in. NOPE. I was soon told I was going to walk in WITH the athletes. What an instant rush of emotions. I thought to myself, I’m about to walk inside the stadium WITH THE ATHLETES as all of the world watched on. I’m still at a loss of words. WOW is still about all I could muster up.
I then thought how I could try to get some TV time as a non-athlete. As we were just starting to enter the stadium, the Basketball players voiced their unofficial/official plan to walk in last. So, my plan was to try to be near them. I though for sure Allen Iverson or Tim Duncan would get some TV time so I tried to get near them. I walked slower and slower and slower and soon enough I was 3 guys away from Iverson. Bingo I thought. But I guess the camera would not pan that low (to see me) even though Iverson is probably the shortest guy on the team at 6 Foot and change (?). Funny I guess.
But more than trying to get on TV was just the special treat or walking in. The energy was incredible. But even more awesome than receiving the adulation as our team entered but the truly amazing reception of the host team. The Greeks went crazy and rightfully so. They were proud of their athletes and proud of hosting the games. What a true chance of a life time.
Unfortunately for our Road guys they decided not to attend. As I said, we were told of our late return (past midnight for sure). With a noon race start that meant they would need to get up early because we had a 9:30 or 10:00 departure for the RR the next day. Too bad as I think the road guys would have loved to see what I saw and feel what I felt.ß
Bur for me, I got to walk the walk of a lifetime.


Owner of and long time professional race mechanic.