Issue 13 - Vattenfall Cyclassics, Deutschland
by Mick Tarrant, Prendas CEO
Oh boy, is that the time? do we really have to get up? Saturday dawns in caravan B19 Hymer City in the vast complex that is the Eurobike exhibition grounds.
The Prendas boyz are a little the worst for wear after a triple whammy of parties last night post show (see Andy's Eurobike blog). However, time well spent and good to catch up with business associates and aquaintances. That's Eurobike on the trade days, graft hard, party harder.
We haul arse to the breakfast area and meet once again with the mystery Canadian who we seem to encounter every time we make a move in Hymer City and gift him out last beer as he will give it a good home. Suitably revived by breakfast we pack up fast, say our farewells to the lady who is the Hymer supremo and leg it to the front of the exhibition centre, bit of a hike as the halls are not yet open so we can not short cut.
Relief, a shuttle bus and we are on track for a timely arrival to Friedrichshaven Railway Station. Initial euphoria is soon replaced by alarm as we are almost immediately inching forward in a traffic jam caused by a collision at traffic lights. However, typical German efficiency rules and the Police have it sorted and we are moving again.
We get to ride in one of those double decker trains to Stuggart and naturally opt for the top tier. It's a pleasant journey and the carriage is mercifully "mobile free" which is heeded by all concerned.
There is a cycle path running almost parallel to the railway line for almost the entire journey, in good repair and very, very picturesque, nice one. Weather deteriorates by Stuggart and we opt for a brunch in the station complex as its wet outside and pretty uninviting.
Train time rolls round and we board the impressive ICE train. We eat up the km's at speeds in the region of 250 kph and soon arrive in Hamburg.
Good fortune smiles and we are within walking distance of our hotel. The city is gearing up for tomorrow's festival of cycling as apart form the pro race there is a Sportive with a choice of 3 distances involving an entry of 22,000!!! "Jedermen" all starting and finishing in Hamburg city centre area. Wow, that's some logistical excercise.
Once checked in we hit the streets and are surprised to find that the centre is crisscrossed by various waterways. However, Hamburg is known as a port city and as such, sustained huge damage in World War 2. In July 1943, a combined RAF and US Airforce attack reduced the city to rubble with a sustained strike involing 3,000 aircraft.
This was known as the "Hiroshima of Germany" by British officials at the time and there were over 50,000 (mostly civilian deaths) The fires were so intense that ashphalt burned and the ensuiing "Feuersturm" incinerated 8 square miles of the city. Thankfully, these horrific scenes are in the past and the city has rebuilt itself admirably and even some of the older buildings are stilll intact.
As you would expect, with the focus this weekend on cycling, there are of course many concession stands plying their wares. Being in the trade, we have a bit of a snoop and although nothing much appeals, we loved this one "Winners don't dope" sponsored by Festina!!!
Now in serious need of food we veer away from the tourist traps and find ourselves in the quaintly named "Euro Passage" where we get an admirable German version of an Italian menu with wicked "Weissbiers" on tap to rehydrate. Early doors after that, it's been a long day.
Breakfast at the hotel sees us sharing the self serve buffett with many participants in the upcoming Sportive and they duly fill their boots.
Off to the Press accrediataion centre for us as we are duly accredited (thanks Miriam) although Andy actually does have bona fide press status as he writes the cycling column in the local paper but me, I'm just a chancer.
Wow, the Park Hyatt is our destination and isn't it grand? Get everything we need and off into the streets to view the goings on. The amateur event is well under way (all 22,000 of them) and the city is overrun with cyclists, supporters and locals. Nice vibe, everyone into it.
We make our way to the signing on for the pro race and run into Miriam Muller (our benefactor) and her colleague. Miriam works for the organisation and is the project co-ordinator but that doesn't prevent us being told to get out of the way by an over zealous security guy who is supervising the entry to the rider sign on area. Miriam to her credit doesn't give it the "don't you know who I am?" and simply "gets out of the way" as we all do.
I first met her at the Deutschland Tour last year and she is a shining example of how to get things done without drama and self importance. As we often joke, "Typical German Efficiency"...
Andy and I have ringside seats at the barrier for the signing on and Andy makes like a seasoned papperazzo with an impressive looking camera. We see all and sundry roll up, Haimar Zubeldia in his last race for Euskaltel. Strange to think of Haimar not in the orange of Euskaltel next season.
Our tip, "Steady Eddie" Haimar will adopt top domestique roll next season in the service of Contador and Armsrong. Vladamir Karpets got our vote for the top mullet of the day although there were a surprising number of contenders.
Interesting to see who gets the plaudits for most popular rider with the German crowd. Robbie is a fave as were Linus Gerdeman (fresh from D-Tour victory) and German Champ Fabian Wegman.
However, biggest fave by far is powerhouse Jens Voigt. Jens is in great demand for media interviews, photo opps, autographs and duly obliges everybody to the extent that the race leaves without him. Top Man Jens!!
We amuse ourselves for a few hours until the race makes a midway pass through the city then catch the hordes of "Jedermen" finishing in various states of repair and finally take up residence in the Park Hyatt Hotel to watch the closing km's on the TV.
We fine tune our exit time to the finish proper at 5Kms to go on the TV. After having previously sweet talked our way into "an in" at the Vattenfall (main sponsor) grandstand at the finish we are alarmed to hear the strains of the Australian National anthem wafting over the crowd noise in the finish straight and duly observe the top 3 on the podium! Drat and double drat - turns out the TV coverage was slightly delayed.
I leg it back to the alternate universe of the hotel press centre where the winner still has to be decided. Robbie makes it look quite easy and is a worthy winner after digging in on the final climb to remain in contention.
Andy appears a while later in the press centre having bagged some nice pics en route including a relaxed Linus Gerderman which begs the question "did he just finish a classic?" and a shoal of Orbea Orcas.
Sudden realisation, we are press, therefore we can attend the winner's press conference. Andy is already in snapping away but I get a pole position also and even get to ask a (not so dumb) question which Robbie answers at length.
Linus takes the stage afterwards< to talk about his Deutschland Tour win (finished the previous day) no mention of imminent move to Milram though.
All too soon it's over and we are packing up to make for the airport bus shuttle. We pick up a bunch of Gerolsteiner "team bibles" from the press room and duly hand 'em out to some very grateful kids who are waiting outside the hotel to catch a glimpse of whoever. Nice to spread it around, we are fans at heart and priveliged to have insider access to a big event.
Here's the bus, great, bags of time to hang out at the airport and people watch. We fall into conversation with an English girl sporting one of the finest Fred Perry polos I've ever observed who turns out to be a pub landlady in London's Piccadily but is actually a trained sign language interpreter. Interesting conversation ensues until we realise upon arrival at the airport that there are no Rynnair flights whatsover from this airport. Bugger, we checked if there was more than one airport for Hamburg and were told that there is only one.
Still, that's a bit like saying Gatwick, Luton or Stanstead are in London. Our destination was the "hicks from the sticks" Lübeck and coutesy of the kind attention of the information desk girls at Hamburg airport itself, we were able to make our plane (about 70kms away) in time.
Inevitable flight delays, accident in the early hours on the M25 saw us home gone 3am with an 8.30am start in prospect at Prendas. And you thought the Eurobike trip is one "big jolly"?