The History of Bob

Gent. A wonderful place, and setting for our story.

Bob in front of his humble abode. It doesn't look so bad!

It appears I spoke to soon. A walk around the corner to the right brings you here, to Bob's cage in the basement. For reasons still unknown, every morning the landlady who lived upstairs would come down to the sidewalk and throw a bucket of slop water on the window.

Bob in his natural habitat: The Gent velodrome, where he schmoozes with current, former, and future pros, the director the UIV, riders from his past, attractive girls on student night, Belgian aficionados, Australian ex-pats, and pretty much everyone else. Lurking behind is his former manager, renown for his dastardly conduct, questionable contacts, latching onto all English-speaking riders, and being some sort of a cycling slumlord. Now Bob buys him a drink every year for getting him into races he never could have otherwise.

Now Bob makes an annual pilgrimage to the velodrome in Citadel Park to watch the 6-day. I'm starting to understand why.

Belgian Holidays

At Andy's request, here's a bit about how the Dutch and Belgians celebrate the holidays. First off, Christmas is reserved as a primarily religious holiday, and St. Nicholas Day is when presents are exchanged. Not that unusual, right?

Santa Clause, on the other hand, is vastly different. Namely, he's the former Bishop of Turkey and lives in Spain rather than the North Pole. No elves or reindeer here, he's accompanied by 6 to 8 black men who used to be his slaves. With an eye towards more progressive racial relations, they're now just referred to as his close friends. This cursory hint at political correctness is incredibly confusing when taken in light of the way the holiday is celebrated.

When we were in Gent a St. Nicholas day parade came marching through the streets, and the first thing we see walking around the corner is a man in black-face dressed up and dancing around. Then several more. And then Santa. No one batted an eye. We were left incredulous. Maybe those half-witted Minnesota college students who keep dressing up in black-face should study abroad in the Benelux...

David Sedaris wrote a hilarious piece about this. Treat yourself and read it here. It's worth it.

The Gent Story

Time to catch up, it's been a while. Everything worked out leaving Geneva, getting to Brussels, and on to Gent. I met up with a pretty substantial Blaine contingent, including my parents, Bob, Bill Nicholson, Dave Thimeson, Lionel Space and his wife Noel. All in all we numbered 11 spectators with NSC connections. I was surprised.

Let me state without further hesitation just how great it is to be a cyclist in Belgium. You walk out of the train station in Gent and are greeted by a public square that doubles as sea of bicycle parking. Down the boulevards of the streets that radiate from the square is an even more expansive tangle of bikes. Some have clearly been there for years, and won't be removed until they rust through, but the vast majority are ridden regularly. It was a nice way to be welcomed to the city.

As for the racing. Gent was quite a bit different that either Dortmund or Munich. The German 6-days are known for being a huge party, with the racing occasionally taking on a supporting role to the live music, discotheques, light shows, and other acts. The halls are huge, and lighting verges on seizure inducing, and everything is a polished show.

Gent disposes with all that an focuses purely on the racing. No light show. No temporary discotheque, VIP dining on the infield, or teenie-bopper musical acts. Dave Wiswell summed it up pretty well, saying that Gent is more like traditional 6-days, "all bike racing and beer drinking." And it has plenty of those two things. The stadium in Citadel Park is far smaller than Westfallenhallen in Dortmund, or Olympiahalle in Munich, but it is packed. The seats are filled, and the infield is jammed to capacity. Everyone is there to watch the racing, and go crazy for it.

The fanaticism of the Belgian locals was further fueled by the rivalry that immediately developed between the teams of current World Champs Bruno Risi and Franco Marvulli and the local favorite Iljo Keisse riding with Robert Bartko. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the riding of the British team, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, who roundly sucked for the first few days. They lost 10 laps in the first day, and landed in second to last. The second night saw them lose another 7+ laps. The pair finally started to come to life as the week wound down, but they were generally lackluster at best, and disappointing at worst.

I had previously set out the goal of keeping track of all the people I met with Bob in Gent. Some of you pointed out the futility of this task. You were right. I abandoned that about half and hour into the first night.

The Talent Cup saw a bit of drama go down on the American side of things. On the second night, East and Carroll got tangled in an exchange, and Austin went down, dislocating something around his shoulder (maybe it was his collarbone) in the process. Guy rode the third night alone, going in and out pretty much whenever he felt like it, and I think he actually came off the track for the final 15 laps or so. Luckily the officials took pity on him, and didn't take him down any more laps. It was pretty funny. In a simultaneously disappointing and convenient twist of fate, Dave Wiswell, who had been racing sick, withdrew after the third night, so Jackie and Guy were paired for the last two nights. The method that is used to settle the laps in this situation was pretty clever: the laps lost by the two teams are averaged, and then another is tacked onto the total to give the standing of the composite team. I'm not sure how the points are dealt with, but the laps system seems like a pretty good one. On the last night Guy and Jackie made the right move at the right time, taking a lap early in the race while the top three teams shadow boxed with one another. A flurry of attacks in the second half put them on the rivet, but they gutted it out, stuck the good wheels, bridged when they had to, and retained their lead to win the night. It was awesome, and a really good way for the two of them to end what had initially looked to be a disappointing and ill-fated start to the race.

In the pro field it was the local star who triumphed, as Keisse and Bartko took a last-minute lap on Risi and Marvulli to vault into the lead. The crowd went crazy. I'm convinced that there's no place like Gent for this. Everyone was on the feet, cheering and clapping. Bill and Dave remarked that they've never seen any sporting event where the crowd was so enthralled with what was going on, and I completely agree with them. The intensity didn't end with the racing though. The majority of the fans stayed around to watch the awards ceremony afterwards, and the party was still going strong at the bar owned by Iljo's father a full 8 hours later, and went long into the night. If he wasn't before, Iljo Keisse can now be confirmed as Belgian royalty.

Again, there's no better place to be a bike racer than Belgium. When I arrived in Brussels, the immigration official who processed me asked where I was going, and when I replied "Gent," he immediately knew why. He started asking me questions about racing, if I had met Keisse, and commented that Cavendish had come through just 15 minutes earlier. The guy working next to him jumped into the conversation too, and were content to talk about the 6's with me for a good 5 minutes while the line behind me (and the one next to be, consequently) were left waiting. What a great place.

Photo Catch-up

Adrian throwing me in at Dortmund

Me being unwillingly thrown in for more suffering in Munich

Finally, some recovery

The spectacle in Munich

Derny racing in Geneva. It was much more of an event for the racers here than in Munich or Dortmund, where the spectators clearly came first.

I'm at the Geneva Airport now, waiting to fly to Brussels. From there it's up to Gent. My racing is done for a while, and I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to take in a 6-day as a spectator instead of a racer, and to follow Bob around and see him in his true element. It's going to be awesome. Stay tuned for updates on the racing and a running list of all the people Bob knows.

3 Jours d'Genéve: Final Wrap

The other Americans had a mixed time with the derny racing. None of us had ever done it before. Wiswell had a painful time at the hands of an inexperienced driver who wasn't very smooth and kept dropping him by surging the pace. Realizing how important the driver was, he went up to Jean-Jacque after his race and insisted that he drive for Jackie. Adrian and Jackie hung at the front for most of their race, but eventually one of the other leaders, Bruno Menzi attacked off the front and gained a lap. At the finish, another rider came around them, putting Jackie and Adrian in 3rd and 4th respectively.

I was pretty blown after the derny racing. Not surprisingly, a long 60 km/h motorpacing session is not a good way to start a set of races. My points race was an picture of suffering, and did us little good in points. The Swiss riders were beginning to team up against David and I, so we joined forces and did what we could while severely down on numbers. Adrian rocked out in his race though, and took a lap with a small group in addition to picking up a bunch of sprint points.

The elimination saw me pip Jackie, and David in turn pip me. Confusion ensued, as our numbers and colors were called out in French, and David thought that they had called him out. He was protesting, and I was trying to tell him that I had been eliminated, and that that was what the officials had said. A moment later it all made sense, we realized that he was still in the race, and I did what little I could to push him back towards the dwindling pack. The good thing is that by being at the rail and a little ways back, David had a sweet run at the back of the pack and parlayed it into a 3rd or 4th place finish.

The final madison of the 3-day had its share of confusion as well. No one bothered to tell us that there were no sprints in this race. The madison on day 2 had 3 sprints; day 3 had only the finish. In a manner reminiscent of the start of the derny race, we rolled off the rail, and I was left wondering why the neutral lap was so fast. Then I was wondering why there were 2 teams half a lap up. I guess it's acceptable here to forego a neutral lap if someone wants to attack off rail. Personally, I think it's crap. In every other race the officials were sticklers about the group being together before the race was allowed to start. Why would they change it now, without so much as telling us?

We ultimately brought the escapees back, no one managed to take a lap, and Wiswell and I went one two in the nonexistent sprint at 60 to go. Somewhere near the end, I glanced behind me, got caught under and exchange, which forced me under a second exchange that happened a moment later, just ahead in the line. It was ugly. There was a fair dose of bumping, the sound of bikes colliding, and some sliding around on the apron, but no one crashed. It was amazing. Jackie summed it up perfectly in describing it as "the super-submarine." Embarrassing... Coming to the finish, Jackie put in a perfect attack that was reminiscent of his scratch race win on the first night to take 3rd on the line.

When everything was tallied up, our two teams were tied. We were both two laps down, and both had 296 points. The decider? The final sprint in the madison. Simes and Wiswell took 4th, Adrian and I pulled in 5th. Not bad, and it was one hell of a race.

Derny Action

It turns out derny racing isn't so hard. Or at least the concept is simple. It's like drafting Big Ben, but not quite as effective. I'll give you the quick run-down on strategy:

1. Drink lots of espresso. Way more than you think is reasonable. I'm beginning to realize this applies to most forms of bike racing in Europe.
2. Put on the largest gear you've ever raced. In this case, a 52 x 14. Quite a shock to the legs after racing a 49 x 15 for everything else.
3. Stand on the homestretch until someone rambling on in French points to you, then points to a spot on the fence. Go there.
4. Try to get your massive gear turning, and get behind your respective derny driver in the line.
5. Hold on for dear life, occassionally shouting "Allez!"
6. 90 laps laters, try to figure out what just happened.

In my case, what happened was that I had fortune on my side. I got one of the more rotund drivers, who also happens to drive in the pro 6-days. Not a bad draw. Going against my luck was that I started second to last, which means that when everyone is rolling onto the track, with 10+ riders and motors, you're more than half a lap down on the leader. This is not where you want to start on a 167 meter track. Almost immediately I could see across the turns that a separation was happening, but a few allez's later, Jean-Jacque had me across the gap. From then on, he just did his thing, and I did mine. His thing was navigating through the other riders, picking the speed, and deciding the strategy. My thing was counting down the laps and wondering at what he was doing. I'm still not entirely sure, but I do know we lapped the field, and I think the number of fingers he would occasionally show me had something to do with how much he was going to speed up to pass someone.

Another thing about derny racing is that on a track this small, the fastest line isn't in the pole lane, but somewhere just below the blue. This means the riders who are going slower, getting gapped by their drivers, or just generally suffering end up at the bottom, tempo goes on in the middle, and those of us unfortunate enough to have a driver intent on passing are doing motor-paced hill repeats at the rail.

When we finally finished, Jean-Jacque was clearly pleased. Physical state not withstanding, I was pretty happy too. We had passed a bunch of people, and more than that, I was still alive. It turns out I took second, which made me even happier. Jean-Jacque, on the other hand, was suddenly pissed. He thought we had won. Rene Shibely, one of the riders who had started at the front attacked while the race was still neutral and bridged the 50 or so meters to the back forming field and taking a lap, which the officials (rather dubiously) awarded to him. The more I think about it, the more I feel robbed. I took a lap from the tail end of the group, passed everyone a second time, and finished at the front, while Shibely snuck a lap before the race actually started, lapped again behind me, then started to blow at the finish and drop off the pack while I was accelerating away. Not cool. I missed out on picking up my first Euro win because of that. Granted that a derny race is a bit of an anomaly, a win is a win, and I'll take it.

3 Jours d'Geneve: Day 2 Wrap, or Think Like A Monkey

Racing really came around for me today, and I think I know why. Adrian passed on a bit of sage advice before my points race. To summarize: Think like a monkey. Don't take any shit, be the one to throw it. Not only is the mental image priceless, but it seems pretty apt as well.

Day 2 finished out strong with the madison. Things blew apart early. The race was only 15 km long, so it was full-on from the gun. The first attack came from Jackie only a few laps into the race, and there wasn't a real pack again until about the halfway point. Even then, it only lasted maybe 10 laps before it all splintered again.

Things got so messy that I honestly don't know what happened, except that we picked up third place in the second sprint (of 3) and won the finish. We took a bunch of laps on a lot of the teams, and from what I can tell, only one team took a lap on us. As it turns out, we lost two laps to the leaders, and 3 teams when up laps on us. It was a surprise to me. The funny thing is that there is one team that finished behind us on points, but equal on laps that I am certain we lapped more than once. Perhaps the exchange rate is coming into play here too.

The final scoring put Adrian and I in fourth for the madison, with Simes and Wiswell right behind us in fifth. On the day, we took fourth, landing in fifth in the overall classification, and Jackie and Dave are just ahead of us in fourth overall.

Tomorrow we have derny racing. Awesome? Wait. No, terrifying is more like it. All I know is that I need a huge gear and to yell either "allez" or "ho" for faster and slower, respectively. Do anyone out there have any more derny racing advice for me?

3 Jours d'Geneve: Points and Keirin

By the lunch break, Simes and Wiswell had moved up the standings into 3rd, while Adrian and I picked it up and moved into 5th. Our afternoon session started out with a points race for Dave and I, and it seems like I've finally gotten my racing to come around. I won the first couple sprints, and factored into all but one, finishing up in second. Someone powered off the front after a sprint midway through the race, and managed to take a lap, pushing me out for the win. Oh well, it's still an improvement.

The keirins here are a mess. Maybe it's that Europeans just don't know how they work, or maybe they just don't really care at this event, but it was nothing like it should be. First off, you don't have holders, and you don't draw for starting position. Rather, they assign you a start spot, and have you hold onto the fence in the infield, in the order they want you to roll of in. After that the derny pulls around, and everyone rides up onto it, but this is done at or above the red line. Another thing I should mention is that you don't necessarily ride up to the wheel of the derny right away. The Donimator would love it here: apparently it's kosher to take the motor, then half a lap later fade off by 30 meters, jockey for position, then sprint back up to it. Once you hit 500 meters to go, the motors pulls off. Except that it pulls off going 38 km/h rather than 50 km/h. Little bit of a discrepancy there.

However weird the keirins are here, Adrian, Jackie and I all finished third in our respective heats, with Dave managing a second place finish in his.

The last event of the day is the madison, coming up soon.

3 Jours d'Geneve: Catch Up

Things finished up late last night, and racing started again early this morning, so I passed on the post-elimination update. Suffice to say I rode a spectacularly poor race, got swallowed up and spit out the back, and pulled early. Oops. Adrian faired pretty well, but again the night for the Americans was topped by Simes pulling off 6th. He rode a very respectable set of races, and definitely put in the best results of the Americans. Simes and Wiswell ended the night in 4th, while Adrian and I dropped to a tie for 6th, 1 point behind 5th.

Adrian and I are CouchSurfing with a really nice guy named Florent who lives only 2 km from the track, and not only is it convenient, but he's a masseur, and offered to give us free massages last night. Awesome. He says that if he wasn't working this weekend, he would come to the track with us and give us massages between races. What a great guy. Yet again, CouchSurfing comes up with the best.

Back to racing. After a breakfast at the track of bread, croissants, and triple shots of espresso that are also used for degreasing engines and stripping the paint off boat hulls, the racing got under way. Adrian pulled off a very nice ride in the points race (red numbers only) taking 4th, only finishing behind the 3 riders who gained a lap. Simes looked a bit toasted from his stellar performance yesterday, but still pulled out a respectable finish. Wiswell and I needed to wait for a couple hours until our first race: an elimination with all rider competing.

Adrian wasn't really feeling it, nor were Wiswell and Simes, but I finally pulled myself together for a decent ride, finishing 5th. Not great, but at least it garnered up some good points against the other teams around us in the standings. We've got a lunch break now, then it's back to racing, with Wiswell and I (and the other black numbers) taking our shot at a points race, followed by a set of keirins, and finally ending the day with a madison.

A funny thing about the lunch. The organizers provided sandwiches and Coke for only 2 Francs (about $1:75. Cheap!) but gave them to us Americans on the house. I imagine their thinking went something like this (only in French):
You know those dirt-bagging Americans, the ones who are living in the bike cage and sleeping on a stranger's couch rather than the bomb shelter dorms to save 10 Francs per night? I bet they could use a cheap lunch.
And we were more than happy to eat it.

3 Jours d'Geneve Live Update: Scratch Race

Our second night of the race was a 36 lap scratch race, all riders together (12 teams, so 24 total). Things started out quick and strung out, with Adrian and I rotating at the front, chopping back down into the line the way we learned in Dortmund and Munich. People seem to be a lot less aggressive here, so it was a bit easier to force your way back in. Anyway, Adrian attacked, and I was on his wheel, so I just sat at the front and blocked things up for a few laps. Picture, if you will, the "Great Wall of LGR" that has become a fixture of Blaine cat. 1/2 racing. Now picture me trying to do that all on my own. Not too successful. Someone caught on, and it was only a matter of time until Adrian was swept up. Things were nearing the end, so there were a handful of more futile stabs, but ultimately it came down to the final sprint.

I had drifted towards the back, but found Jackie Simes' wheel there, and knowing his pack sprinting prowess, figured it would be a good one to tack onto. He was picking his way over the top, so I felt pretty good about my choice. True to form, he attacked over the top at the perfect time (about 3 to go, I believe), right as things bunched up. I was pinched off his wheel, and while Jackie went on to win, all I could scrape together was 6th. Not too bad. Not too good. Jackie, reached for comment after the race, was rather passe about the whole thing, like he does it all the time. The consummate professional...

Next up: Elimination

3 Jours d'Geneve Live Updates: Points Race

Alright, we survived the first 24 hours in Geneva. Not only that, we started racing. Unlike the UIV Cups, where we were the first event, finished up, and then the pros were on, here we're racing in the Open Category, and are interspersed, along with juniors, cadets, and women, among the pro schedule. So this means we have lots of down time. Our first race was finished by 6:45. We don't go on again until 9:30 for a short scratch race, and then again at 10:30 for an elimination. This is going to be a long night, so here come some live updates to fill the time.

Vel d'Hiv is only 167 meters, so they split our 80 lap points opener into two groups. Adrian had the first 40, then a few neutral laps to change, and I took the second 40. We both got into breakaways in our respective races, with Adrian taking second twice and fourth once (he almost lapped the field, but was gapped off by the rider in front of him throwing in the towel) and I won a sprint while in the break, but didn't take any more points. As it stacks out, we're sitting in fifth right now, just behind the other American team of Simes and Wiswell.

The dry air is seriously compounding my cold and cough, so we'll see how the rest of the night plays out. Stay tuned for the scratch race update to follow.


Winter hit Tübingen with a vengeance last night. We got out just in time.

Sub-par training weather.

Snow, ice, everything. Fortunately, we were off to the train station, and as of 8:02 this morning, on our way to Geneva. It was snowy all through Germany, and a bit past Zurich. By the time we hit Laussane, it looked downright balmy outside. Lake Geneva to our left, with terraced vineyards stretching down to the water. In actuality, it's still cold, but it looks like. I wouldn't mind spending some time in Laussane. It looks like quite the inviting place. Maybe some summer training...

We hit Geneva, got off the train, rounded up a few Swiss Francs, got ripped off by a lazy cab driver (there was no way they would let us on the bus with all our gear) and made it to the track. On that note, here's a video from an lap around Vel d'Hiv this afternoon:

The management at this track is about as helpful as we could hope for, and then some. The director offered to let us keep our bikes in his locker, and when we asked if there was a place to store our cases as well, he went and got a key for the storage area to give us for the weekend. Pretty sweet. If nothing else pans out for housing, Adrian and I have come to the conclusion that we would be content just sleeping with the bikes. The location is unbeatable.

Perhaps it would make us bike hobos to live here. On the other hands, there are showers just down the hall...

Now it's off to find some food and meet our CouchSurf for the night. Racing starts tomorrow evening. Maybe I'll find something fun in Geneva tomorrow to talk about. If not, you'll need to wait until later for a distraction from work.

I'm Czech?

I've only raced in two 6-days so far, so I'll admit my experience is pretty limited, but Munich really doesn't seem like they had it together, especially not compared to Dortmund. Case and point: If you look at the results on CyclingNews, they have me listed as being Czech. I'm not sure how this came about, particularly when you consider that we were invited as Team USA. Adrian is still from the US, even though he also has Hungarian citizenship. How did that happen? Also, all the points we earned over the three days of racing seem to have disappeared. It's not that we have zero listed as our total, there's simply a blank where there should be a number. Maybe Adrian was on to something when he postulated that there is a points exchange rate screwing us in a manner similar to what the Euro is doing to the Dollar.
One problem with racing in Europe, however, is the exchange rate. Not just the half-again Dollar to Euro exchange rate, but the way foreign riders are scored during the race. For instance, if a foreign team, let's just hypothetically say two handsome young lads from the US on the red team from the 2007 Munich 6 Day, were to score 10 points and finish at 2 laps on the final night of racing, in the results they will show up with 7 points and at 3 laps. Got it? The same exchange rate is also applied to all other non-German teams, even those on the Euro.

In other news, I woke up this morning with a cold. It was about 33 degrees outside, and going between snow and rain. I think it finally settled on sleet. These elements combined to give me approximately 90 of the most unpleasant minutes I've ever spent on a bicycle. You're probably familiar with the phase "That really chaps my ass." Today's ride gave me a whole new appreciation for those words.


Perhaps the single greatest revelation of this trip has been Müllermilch.

My new religion?

Every now and then you hear about how chocolate milk is the perfect recovery drink. I never really went for it, but then again, I don't like drinking milk, and making it chocolaty only helped a little.

Enter Müllermilch. This is some sort of chocolaty, malty, dairy-based godsend. My German is shaky at best, but I think one of the ingredients is buttermilk. Maybe that's what does it.

Whatever they put in it, Adrian and I have been drinking this stuff like it's our job.

As of noon today, our trashcan contained nothing but 5 empty bottles of Müllermilch. We went back to the grocery store this afternoon to restock. We only bought Müllermilch.

I also went on a ride this afternoon with a local cyclist names Andreas who I had met on CouchSurfing. The weather was still cold, with a high of 36 today, but he was still willing to meet, and we put in about 2 hours along the Neckar River. At the end was a nice long climb, where it was snowing at the top, and cold enough that it was accumulating on the ground and buildings. It was still fairly nice when I left Minnesota, and outright warm when I was in Canada, and somehow the idea that I would be in Europe, in winter, riding my bike, has only begun to dawn on me. Tomorrow is supposed to be colder. I'm glad I brought my shoe covers...

Riding through small German towns is fun, even when the weather is cold and dreary.

Me and Andreas back in Tübingen in front of his favorite beirgarten.

Exploring Tübingen

Today was our first full day in Tübingen, and offered our first chance to really look around. The weather cooperated as well, and for the first time in nearly a week the rain subsided and the sun came out.
The view from the balcony of Csaba and Emese's flat. You can see some of the University buildings on the ridge across the valley.

Adrian has a cold, so I put my bike together and struck out on my own to investigate the city. The downtown is at the bottom of the valley, on the Neckar River, and there are other pockets of buildings scattered around the on the hills, at the top, and in various little draws.

Another balcony view, looking in the direction of the downtown. It may appear idyllic, but it's actually damn cold. The sun is a welcome change though.

Csaba and Emese live nearly at the top of the hill, which makes for a brutally steep ride back up after forays into the city. Probably the most fun in Tübingen is hopping from one little area of the city to another. One part will look very new and industrial, but turn a corner, and you find a handful of roads like this:

Winding, cobblestone, and confusing. At least they almost all dump out onto a few main roads.

Fun to ride on, albeit challenging.

Adrian opted not to bring a road bike on the trip, instead just bringing some training wheels and a front brake. Up to this point, it seems like a great plan, as traveling with just one bike is a lot easier than two. But now that 45 x 20 gear combination is going to be tough. I guess we'll see just how tough he really is. To his credit, one afternoon in Munich when we went to train at the track, he forgot shorts. Not one to be sidelined by such problems, he safety-pinned his leg warmers to the bottoms of his underwear and took to the track. A bit of thigh flashing ensued, but by and large it worked out. It takes a real man to ride a velodrome, in a stadium, in Europe, in your underwear.

This makes me proud to be an American.

A (6) Day in the Life of Brian

8:00 AM
Wake up, roll out of bed

8:05 AM
Wander out in search of breakfast. Try to figure out where you are. Something about a rowing center...

8:06 AM
They look like they know where they're going. Follow them to food.

8:07 AM
Success. Breakfast is in here.

8:20 AM
Look out the window at this thing. Turns out this was the venue for the rowing portion of the 1972 Olympic Games. The summer games. Maybe that's why it's so damn cold in the dorms.

10:00 AM
Round up every warm piece of cycling clothing you own. Dawdle because you don't want to go ride in the cold.

10:15 AM
2 km of canal, with smooth, flat service roads on either side. Perfect to spin out on.

10:30 AM
Remember the cold? Well now it's raining too. Shouldn't have waited so long to ride, moron.

10:45 AM
It's still raining, and you're still riding.

11:00 AM
Lap after lap after lap.

11:10 AM
Back to the compound. Quite a step down from the Hilton in Dortmund, but at least they give us all our meals.

11:15 AM
Survived the ride. Take a shower, and go find lunch.

12:05 PM
Lunch. Didn't I say something about mystery meat before?
12:45 PM
Sit around. Get used to this, as you'll be doing a lot of it on race days.

3:30 PM
Arrive at the track

4:00 PM
Have a look at the track itself. Still not open. Consider the possibility of warming up in the metal sphere those motorcycle nutcases ride in.

5:00 PM
Hang out in the room they give the UIV Talent Cup racers before the riders' meeting. This meeting will mean almost nothing to you, as 75-80% of the speaking will be in German, with the English translation making up the remaining 20-25%. Spend these 30 minutes wondering what else you didn't hear. On thing you do pick up: They've decided to make the race U-26 rather than U-25. Someone who was too old must have wanted to race. Yeah, rules, whatever.

5:45 PM
Warm up on the track. Wear the TROY jersey so that Super-Rookie can't complain. Try to be enthusiatic about this. 240 laps of all out madison looms in your immediate future. It will hurt. Reconcile yourself with this fact.

8:15 PM
Eat in the Fahrraderkantina after the race. You don't have any say in what you get, but it's free, and you're hungry. Eat it anyways, burned soup or not.

9:15 PM
Load up the van for the trip back to the compound.

9:25 PM
Distract the person driving your van down the Autobahn with flash photography. Fall asleep shortly after.

A Fresh Start

A lap around the velodrome in Munich

Today we left Munich and went to Tübingen, parting ways with David, who plans to stay in Munich for remainder of the pro racing before returning to the US.

After a remarkably pleasant train journey, we arrived and were picked up by Adrian's cousin. He's a research scientist at the local university, working on how hearing works, but more pertinent to our immediate existence, he lives at the top of a really long, steep hill. I'm glad I brought my road bike. Adrian opted to just bring his track bike, with a front brake a 45 x 20 as
his lowest gear combination. Ouch. Tübingen looks like a nice place, very picturesque, set on a river in the valley surrounded by some good sized hills. There are two national parks nearby, so there should be plenty of options for riding. I also met a guy named Andreas on CouchSurfing who lives here and is an active cyclist, and he offered to show us the good places to ride, as well as give me a place to stay for the week if I need.

I should probably repeat just how awesome CouchSurfing is.

We're here in Tübingen until Thursday, then we're off to Geneva for a 3-day. It looks like it's going to be an awesome week.

If you want to read something truly epic, check out Adrian's tales of his time racing for a pro track team in Hungary last year and all the drama that ensued. It's quite a tale. A sort of Iliad of the cycling world.

This is how we traveled for the first 12 or so days. Crammed in the back of a cargo van, with only a little window into the cab for light.

If this is my alternative, I'll stick with the trains from now on. They're comfy, quiet, spacious, well-lit, ventilated, cheap, and fast. Let's list off how many of those things the van is:

Adrian and I exchanging at Dortmund

I was in the hurt box in no small way.

The concourse/staging area in Munich was more like something out of a poorly done sci-fi movie. The Star Wars-esqe exterior of the Olympiahalle doesn't help either.

I kept track of the distance I rode while we were in Munich. Over three days, between warming up and racing, the total came to almost exactly 200 km. I wouldn't have guessed it was that much.

In every race..

...someone has to finish last.

Munich is done. Adrian and and I managed to scrape ourselves together tonight and actually race rather than merely survive. Things didn't look promising at the start of the evening. Neither of us brought rollers on the trip, as they're simply too heavy and massive to haul around. Today was the first time it looked to be an issue. There was some sort of concert going on in the track when we arrived to warm up, so we weren't allowed to ride. No big deal, it was only 5:00, and we didn't need to race until 6:40. Concert ends. Tear down begins. Everyone jumps on rollers in the hallway outside of the staging room.

Everyone except us, of course. So we wait. Eat a gel. Drink some water. Stretch a little bit. 6:00 rolls around, we grab our bikes and wander up to the infield. The service door (same kind as in Dortmund) is open in turns 3 and 4. So we sit some more.

6:20 comes around, and we're getting nervous, so we start to roll around the apron. The door finally comes down just before 6:30. Nothing like a sub-15 minute warm-up to clear out the legs after two hard days of racing. And it's not like things start out casually here. Even the neutral lap is full on.

Whatever. We take to the line and rail, roll off, and suffer like it's going out of style for the first 15 laps of so. Funny thing happened then. I started to feel good. So did Adrian. He made a big move over the top of the pack, got us some prime position at the front of the pack, and before you know it, we picked up some points in a sprint. Then we stayed at the front. No more tail-gunning for us. We continued to pick up a few points here and there, in one case actually exchanging as we crossed the finish line at the head of the pack (one team was off the front). Perfect timing. Things got back to suffering soon after that, but we managed to regain our composure and actually race like we belonged here.

When it was all tallied at the end, there was still something amiss. Munich isn't using chip timing the way that Dortmund did, and the scoring shows it. Last night there were people scored ahead of us that we lapped, and tonight was no different. Even our sprint points didn't add up the way they were supposed to. We were placed 12th, but should have been somewhere around 7th or 8th. Thanks once again to omnium scoring, this means we're last. 15th out of 15.

There was some redemption though. Even if we netted a big old DFL for our resumés, we picked up some compliments on a very good race from the coaches and riders of some very solid teams. While the absolute standouts like the Australians weren't here, the level of the field on whole was probably better, with national team riders from Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and the US as well. If you're going to lose, you might as well lose to the best.

On to Munich

Alright, things have been a bit crazy since leaving Dortmund. We had a great time hanging out with Vio and her friends, and they took us all around the city. It was great to get to look around without needing to stress over racing for a couple days. On Wednesday we piled back into the van and set out for Munich. We didn't ride the day before in order to recover from solid week of intensity on the bike, and planned to hit the track when we reached the Olympic Stadium.

No luck. We got in on Wednesday afternoon to find that the track was still being painted. By the time we got to where we're staying, it was about 10:00 PM. No riding. So two days off, and racing beginning the next night. Not exactly an optimal riding plan.

But first a little about where we're staying. It's a considerable notch down from the Hilton they put us up in at the Dortmund race. We're at a rowing center some 10 km outside of town that was built for the 1972 Summer Olympics. Some interesting things about this place:

--The 2 km long canal in the middle of nowhere.

--The building looks like a cross between a horse stable and a bomb shelter.

--The lights are all on timers, so you hallways are almost constantly dark, and when the are lit, they go dark at random.

--There are vents in the bathroom that open automatically when the lights go off (timers again) and let what would be hot, steamy air from the showers escape into the warm summer surroundings. In this case, it just lets even colder, winter air (it snowed today) into an already cold building, with extremely cold toilet seats.

--The doors creak severely, and the place generally just smells like a hog farm.

On to the racing. We finished night two today, and are, in short, getting worked over. Last night only one team took a lap, and we stayed on lap, even though Adrian's legs weren't feeling to hot and I felt like I was bonking. They don't feed us before the race here like they did in Dortmund, so I ate about 6 hours before race time, and didn't have anything with me when we went to the track. Again, poor planning. Tonight was longer than the previous racing, at 48 km instead of 40 km, but it hurt an awful lot less thanks to the track being much smoother than Dortmund. I think that really redefined my standard for discomfort on the bike. It just sucked. In any case, things got shattered, and while my legs were doing better today, Adrian felt even worse than yesterday, and we made some stupid mistakes, like a missed exchange on my part, and some messy ones where I had to slam on the brakes to get to Adrian. Not too good. There are a few strange things though, namely in the scoring. We're listed in dead last right now, but I know we beat several teams last night, and there were a handful of teams that went down more laps than we did tonight. So something is screwy here. They don't have transmitters on our bikes the way they did in Dortmund, and that can't help.

The show here is generally a lot smaller. There was almost no one in the stands either night. Last night it was chalked up to a Bayern soccer game here in town, but tonight was nearly as vacant. To their credit, they do have fireworks, but the practice of setting them off on a freshly painted wood track is bit dubious...

Tomorrow we'll try to scrape ourselves together and put in a real race. After that, we're off to Tübingen, where Adrian will be based with his cousin for the remainder of the season before going to Geneva on Thursday for a 3-day.

Pictures and video will go up when I'm somewhere that lets me get on Blogger.


Check out this bit from a newspaper Adrian and I found on the U-Bahn last night.

12000 fans for came to Westfallenhallen for Sunday's racing. And this was only day 4 of the pro race. The close seats were nearly all filled, as was the infield, and spectators were starting to fill the upper deck, too. The finale is tonight. This should be amazing to watch.

Dortmund Day 3

Well it ended last night for us, as Adrian and I concluded our 3 nights of racing in Dortmund. After out lackluster performance on day 2, we scrapped back together for a decent ride on day 3. Still not quite up to par with our first night, but not too bad. We lost one lap to the field, and the Dutch team took a lap on everyone else, so we ended the night officially at 2 laps down. The Aussies won, and no one was surprised.

Hanging out before the start of day 3.

When the points from each night were tallied up, Adrian and I pulled off 10th. Again, not to good, but really not that bad for my first try. One unfortunate thing is that even though we had such a terrible day on day 2, we would have actually finished one spot higher had the race been scored normally, with laps and points carrying over from one night to the next. As it happened, we finished a lap ahead of the 9th place team. Oh well, rules are rules.
Tom and Adrian.

Despite a few close calls, we managed to avoid hitting the ground this weekend. For example, last night the Polish team decided to chop down and go under an exchange, and to take my front wheel with them, but somehow it all stayed upright. A few other teams weren't so lucky, but at least Adrian and I didn't crash.

Average speed for the races was 52-53 km/h. 40 km per night, covered in between 46.5 and 48 minutes. All in a 49x15 gear. Bob and Bill, thanks for all the motor pacing this fall. It certainly paid off here.
The pros going at it.

Now for some lowlights, and the lessons learned:
1. After night 1, I ate a mystery meat burger/sandwich/??? at the track while we watched the pros race. Sometime around 1:00 AM, said meal woke me up, and I spent a good while giving my offerings at the porcelain alter.
Lesson Learned: If it's cheap and unidentifiable food, don't eat it. Especially before a race.

2. Temporary tracks can be bumpy, and even if you have a saddle that fits and is comfy in most situations, if it isn't padded, it will still feel like someone is kicking you in the ass 5 times per lap. If the saddle fits well, it will just feel like their kicking the bones. Not much better.
Lesson Learned: Bring a more padded saddle next time.
(This lesson and similar justification also applies to bar tape)

3. Dave Wiswell was unfortunate enough to have his saddle literally snap off during the third night of racing due to the bumps in the track. First the rails on one side broke, then a while later, the other side went, leaving him teetering dangerously and uncomfortably on a shell perched on top of the post.
Lesson Learned: Look at my saddle tomorrow, and figure out what the creaking that got louder each night was.
Alternate Lesson: Buy a downhill saddle.

For now, Adrian and I are staying with a really cool woman in Dortmund named Violeta who we meet through CouchSurfing. If you don't know about CouchSurfing, sign up and get on the boat, it's great. We met up with her last night, met her friend Mathias, and spent the evening wandering around Dortmund. It's like having instant friends. Today we had an easy spin around town, but backed out early in our 2-3 planned hours, as it's getting cold here, and we figured we felt "good enough." We have a few more days in Dortmund before heading to Munich to start racing again on Thursday.
Cruising around Dortmund this afternoon.

Check out BF-One to brush up on your Dutch and see some pictures of Adrian and I racing at Alkmaar, and a shot of us traveling in the back of the van (no seats, just two folding chairs and a bunch of bike gear).