Stage 7 - When the TV van goes airborne

for Jun 7, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

Stage 7 featured an out and back loop with some more climbing.  The climbs were not as long as the previous day, but the descents were more technical and with the rain threatening to come down, crashes were inevitable...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The water bottles had not been washed and filled the night before, so we quickly had to do that before the start.

 

 

 

The stage started with several loops around the city which ended up being criterium style with hard surges and several attempts to break away.

 

 

 

 

 

From the vantage point of the passenger seat today, I had the opportunity to do some sightseeing while following the race.  The town was surrounded by an old castle wall with several turrets.  Some of the houses had been built using the wall as part of the building!

 

 

 

 

As the riders headed out of town, the rain started to come down.  Coming down the first steep descent, one of the Russian riders slipped and took out two of our riders, Dawid and Brandan Mathias.  They quickly remounted and caught back on.  A bit later, another 2 of our riders got caught in a crash, with Brandon Throop dropping out with several bruises. Derrek Ivey remounted and gave chase while motor-pacing behind the car.  As we hit one of the big climbs of the day, we pushed him up for a little while.  As he motor-paced again down one of the descents,  the TV crew attempted to pass us on the wet and slippery road, not realizing that there was a sharp turn just ahead.  As they frantically tried to lock the breaks in a vain attempt to stop, the van skidded forward with smoke coming out of the tires, and went airborne over a small drop and into a farmer's field... All this while the camera man was filming with the side door open!!

 

The crew appeared to be ok, so we kept going and eventually reached the car convoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The turn around loop was a narrow road with some sharp turns and steep descents.  I have no idea how the riders managed to go down with no serious crashes!!

 

 

On the road back, one of our riders was struggling  to hang on, and went down in a crash again, got up, and was taken out  into the bushes shortly after as one of the riders in front went too wide on the turn...

 

 

 

But to the relief of all, the finish was in sight.  We finally made it to the end, with only one more rider abandoning the race.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so ended our excellent Polish racing adventures.  But we still had 2 days of fun in Wroclaw...

Stage 6 - The international incident

for Jun 6, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

Stage 6 was a monster.  162km with 6 big climbs and 2 technical criterium style loops over cobblestones and a steep hill to start off with.

 

A pack of about 15 riders quickly separated themselves from the peleton and rode out of town with a nice little gap that would gradually increase for most of the race.  Our ringer, Dawid, was in that front group but with no support riders.

 

Coming out of town, the peleton slowly regrouped as most teams were not interested in chasing since they all had a representative in the lead group.

 

Although the first climb did almost take a few casualties with several of our riders having been caught in a near crash and were chasing the peloton.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our youngest rider did end up jumping in the sweeper early on and would  be joined by several other riders later on as the stage took its toll.

 

From my vantage point in the team car, I got to follow the race closely and we followed the peleton and then eventually caught up to the leaders as they hit the biggest climb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And all the while I did get to enjoy the beautiful polish countryside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we reached the top of the highest and final big climb of the day we dropped off Mariusz with some water bottles and feed bags to give to our riders in the peleton as we were now following the lead group.

 

 

After a long descent, the lead group eventually reached the finishing city where they had to do 5 loops with a short but steep climb.  The loops were fairly uneventful with the exception of a few attacks that were reeled in, but on the final lap Dawid attacked on the climb and stayed away for a little while but was eventually caught with 3km to go.

What ensued were some mad sprints to the finish, with what appeared to be some scuffling among the Mrose and Russian riders.  As they crossed the finish line, the Russian rider punched the stage winner , Bodnar (the top rider on the Mroz team) in the shoulder, breaking his newly healed collarbone.

One of the Mroz soigneurs jumped in the fray and pinned the Russian rider against a wall and started punching him, but the Russian team director, a big fellow at somewhere around 7ft tall stepped in and started tackling him.  The Mroz mechanic, whom we had amicably nicknamed Arnold due to his muscular build although he stood at under 5'6'', who was also a Muay Thai fighter, quickly joined in, throwing elbows and knees at the Russian.  The Russian made good use of his long reach landing a punch in Arny's face, but was pinned over the hood of his car by Arny's rapid movements.  Arny managed to land an uppercut on the Russian cutting him in the face before race officials stepped in and stopped the fight, eventually penalizing riders and team entourage.

Stage 5 - And up we go

for Jun 6, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

Today features 2 stages, one time trial up a mountain in the morning, followed by a 150km mountain stage in the afternoon.

I was actually looking forward to these stages as I think the terrain is much more suited to me but I will unfortunately not be riding today.  I did manage however to get a ride in the team car and follow the race from the convoy!!

 

For the time trial stages the riders are sent at 1 minute intervals in the reverse order of the GC (general classification, which is the overall standing from all the stages to date).  I was supposed to follow the time trial in one of the other team's cars, as they pair up the car with a neutral observer to make sure the riders don't draft or hold on to the car. 

 

 

 

The plan ended up falling through, so I just walked up part of the course instead.  There was a quaint little village shortly after the start, so I took a few pictures as the riders passed me by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The winner of the time trial ended up destroying the field, and finished a good minute faster than the predicted winning time.  Most of my teammates were caught a bit off-guard by the time and were out of the cut-off limit, but in the end everyone was allowed to proceed to stage 6

Stage 4 - Rudy's last stand

for Jun 5, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

After almost 600km, rough roads, cobblestones, merciless attacks, crazy chases, a worsening cold and some serious saddle soreness I was debating whether or not to start stage 4.  I was already pretty satisfied with my experience to date. But I was not about to bow out with a whimper, especially not with my throng of supporters :-p

The night before, I laid out my plans for the stage with my coach and teammates.  I was finding the stop and go pace to be very uncomfortable on my blisters and soreness so if today's stage was going to turn that way, I was planning on just rolling out the front of the peleton and tempoing at my own pace until I either finished the stage or got caught and dropped and pulled out of the race.

 

The start of the stage was in a different city than the one we were staying in, so we started riding there since we didn't have enough room in the car for all 7 of us. But then we realized the city was a bit further away than we realized, so we hopped on behind the team car for some motor-pacing. 

So much for a nice, easy warm up!!

We got to the start line a bit ahead of time, so we just chilled out with the other teams while waiting. 

Today's stage featured a nice, long, steady climb in the last 20km, with a short but steep kick into the finish line over cobblestones.

 

The pace picked up right off the gun, with a couple of teams sending off their riders on the attack with hopes of a breakaway.  I had a bit of trouble in some of the crosswind sections but was doing fine otherwise.  But then the ringer on our team, Olympic hopeful Dawid Krupa, flatted.  I stopped to give him my wheel and waited for the team car to pull up with the spare one.  Unfortunately our wheel exchange was not that fast, and we had to motor-pace back behind the car to bridge back to the peleton.  With speeds cracking 65km/hr, the pace was a bit too rich for me and I dropped off after about 10 minutes.  I gestured to the team car to keep going to bring Dawid back up.  It's a long way to solo to the finish, but there's no point in slowing him down.  Especially with the comforting thought of the sweeper behind.

 

 Just when I started considering hopping into the sweeper, I saw the team car parked on the side.  Apparently the team director had a softening of heart since I had stopped and gave my wheel to Dawid, so they waited for me after pulling him back. 

And so ensued another high speed chase. 

With my front wheel right up against the car's bumper, a speed of 60km/hr, a curvy road with tight corners, major snot from my cold blowing out of my nose, and my head down from the effort, I have no idea how I didn't end up flying  through the  windshield  or crashing into the ditch...

After what felt like an hour but was more likely 10 or 15 minutes, there it was again!  The heart warming sight of the car convoy!!  Ooops  and of the sweeper too.  I guess it was not behind me after all...

And so it is that Rudy made his way through the convoy amongst the cheers of the teams' entourage and finally rejoined the peleton. As I later found out, I was quite a site to behold.  I was drenched in sweat and covered in mucus from head to toe.  Which would explain why the other riders thought I was feeling sick and were asking me if I had puked all over myself...


A little lull in the pace allowed me to recover and recharge for a bit, but then it was back to a stop and go.  Barely able to sit  on the saddle anymore, Rudy decided it was time to make his mark on the european peleton...

And so I pulled to the left away from the head of the arrow and rolled off the front without really attacking.

There was a bit of hesitation before any of the leading teams decided to chase, as the riders looked at each other wondering what the hell was going on.  This was either an incredible show of force or sheer stupidity.

And then one of the teams gave chase.  By then I had a gap of 200-300 meters.  I later found out from my teammates that the leading teams were a bit frantic trying to figure out what to do.  This was like no strategy they had ever seen before...  Apparently our team director had told the other teams that I would attack today so no one really knew whether to take this seriously or not...  Eventually they realized that sitting 15 minutes behind in the GC standings,  this was a complete joke.  And so they let me have my 20 minutes of fame!! 

 

It was actually pretty exciting coming through the towns in first (actually second as I later found out one of the Ukranian riders had broken away very early in the race and would not get caught until the 130km mark), with the crowds cheering me on. But then I hit the first of several cobblestone sections which I had to ride standing up due to my saddle soreness. Hopping from cobble to cobble like an amateur rider, the crew in the neutral car behind me must have been wondering how the hell did a rookie manage to break away from the peleton.

2 cobblestone sections later and with a gap reaching 2 minutes, the peleton finally decided to give chase and eventually caught me as we neared yet another cobblestone road.

Unable to sit, I was quickly dropped, but then attempted to latch back on. I valiantly tried  to make  my way up the convoy again, and was greatly encouraged as people were pushing me along and encouraging me from the cars, but eventually the day's efforts did me in, and after spilling a coke that was handed to me as we hit the cobbles, I gave up the chase and decided to just ride at my own pace.

 

I managed to keep the gap to within 5 minutes with about 50km to go, and would probably have managed to make the cutoff time,  but after having to ride the last 10 minutes standing up and with the sweeper guys asking me every 5 minutes if I wanted to get in, I eventually caved in and threw in the towel.  Rudy was out, as were several other riders as we picked them up on the way to the finish.

 

I later received words of encouragements from some of the other team directors who thought that it was very ambitious to have attacked in my position.  Ambition, desperation, what's the difference? :-p

 

And so ended my excellent European adventures in the pro peleton.

 

 

 

 

The stage finish

 

 

 

 

Me looking completely, totally, absolutely  phased out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stage 3 - The betting pool...

for Jun 4, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

 I found out yesterday night that there’s been a betting pool amongst the teams on how many stages I would last.  After my dismal performance in the criteriums no one expected me to even finish the first stage.  I’ve now been nicknamed Rudy after the kid in the movie of the same name who persevered despite all odds to follow his dream and make the Notre Dame football team. His enthusiasm and never quit attitude got him the respect of his peers and he would eventually make the winning tackle in the last game of the season.

 

And so it was with that honor that I parked my ass at the start line of stage 3.  With the exception of more blisters (I’m in dire need of new cycling shoes) and a worsening saddle soreness, all is well.  My legs were still feeling pretty good and I was not feeling too much wear and tear from consecutive days of racing.

Stage 3 features a nice little climb at the 50km mark and a 3 loop circuit around Wolsztyn, the finish city for the stage.

The pace was pretty reasonable at the beginning, but with a crosswind rearing its ugly head again, one of the teams decided to string out the field and the pace picked up soon enough.

I managed to hang on for sheer life, made it through the climb despite almost getting popped off at the top and survived some more cobblestones.  But then the pace picked up again, and stuck in the gutter again and could not manage to hang on in the fierce crosswind.  And off the back I went.  There was at least one rider behind me, and I could see 2 riders in the distance ahead that had also been popped off.

I quickly regrouped and gave chase to the 2 in front hoping that we would work together in hope of catching the peleton in case they slowed down.  Otherwise, with about a 100km to go, it would have been a long ride home.

Luckily for us after giving chase for 30km or so we caught one of the feed trucks for the team of one of the guys in my group, and all 3 of us hoped on behind for some motorpacing.  Eventually the truck had to pull away but that allowed us to rest up for a bit and chase hard again.

 

And then, the sweet sight of the car convoy up ahead!!  We picked up a few more riders that had been dropped as we made our way to the back of the convoy and did some crafty maneuvering  and motorpacing to move up the convoy to regain the back of the peleton!!

I quickly grabbed some food and drinks from the team car as I passed it, and voila!! Back in the group again.

And so we entered Wolsztyn with the peleton more or less intact, which promised some fast bunch sprints and attacks before the end.

I managed to hang on until the last corner of the second last lap but then got dropped along with a few others by one of the surges.

I eventually made it to the finish line, cross-eyed from the effort, but well within the cutoff time again.  Not that it was much comfort as I was doubting my ability to start the next day with some seriously worsening saddle soreness and some lost skin that was making just sitting on the saddle a feat on its own.

But with the bets rolling, I wasn’t about to throw in the towel just yet…

Stage 2 - I'm a survivor

for Jun 3, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

I felt fairly recovered after yesterday!  My legs were actually not feeling too bad and I wasn’t feeling tired overall.  I’m sure it was partly because of Mariusz’s good work the previous night. 

Mariusz was our Polish speaking Soigneur and was also very knowledgeable about cycling as I’m guessing he has done this a few times before.  He also made us some jam stuffed waffles that he wrapped in tin foil for the race.  And I must say they went down much easier than any sport gels I’ve ever tried!!  Unfortunately they were fairly small, so after stage 1 I picked up some mega huge waffles and a jar of jam and dutifully prepared my food for the next stage.

  Tallying the damage from the previous day, I just had some blisters on my hands and feet and some saddle soreness.  Nothing to write home about but with another 175km stage looming ahead every little discomfort gradually gets magnified throughout the race.

 

The race started at a fairly civil pace again. Hovering between 30-40km/hr with the exception of a couple of early brake away attempts and the corresponding chases.

But then the fun started as we hit the first of many rough cobblestone sections in some if the old, small towns.  The first time we hit the cobblestone I was taken by surprise as I was not expecting it.  We were in hammer mode at that point, so I was pushing a fairly big gear. Everything went numb and by the end of the section I could barely hang on to my handlebars anymore!!  One of my full bottles flew off the cage but with the front of the peleton hammering I had to wait until the pace eased off before getting another bottle from the car.

 

After surviving more cobblestones, high speed chases in cross winds, hanging on for sheer life in the gutter (the tail end of the ‘arrow’ when the peleton reaches higher speed.  This is the last place you want to find yourself) a group of us got spit out the back with about 40km to go.  I was still feeling strong at that point so I helped do some work at the front, but with about 20km to go I cracked and had to drag my ass to the finish line by myself.  I thought I was in last place, but as I was nearing the finish line I heard some noise behind me and saw another rider from the German team about 1km behind with the sweeper in tow.

Although I lost 10 minutes to the winning group I was still well within the cut off time, and so I survived yet another day to tell the story.

There were two items of note for the day.  The first, which I did not realize at the time and which would come to haunt me in stage 4 was that the way to ride through cobblestones is to grind your way in a big gear.  If you try going through in an easy gear as you would on slippery terrain like sand you would find yourself going airborne from one cobble to the other.

The second was the comforting site of the sweeper!!  I was carrying my wallet, cell phone and a spare tire and tools in my pockets, valuable space that could be used for food and a water bottle, in case I was dropped and got lost.   Tomorrow I’m having mega waffles for lunch!!!

Stage 2 - I'm a survivor

for Jun 3, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

I felt fairly recovered after yesterday!  My legs were actually not feeling too bad and I wasn’t feeling tired overall.  I’m sure it was partly because of Mariusz’s good work the previous night. 

Mariusz was our Polish speaking Soigneur and was also very knowledgeable about cycling as I’m guessing he has done this a few times before.  He also made us some jam stuffed waffles that he wrapped in tin foil for the race.  And I must say they went down much easier than any sport gels I’ve ever tried!!  Unfortunately they were fairly small, so after stage 1 I picked up some mega huge waffles and a jar of jam and dutifully prepared my food for the next stage.

  Tallying the damage from the previous day, I just had some blisters on my hands and feet and some saddle soreness.  Nothing to write home about but with another 175km stage looming ahead every little discomfort gradually gets magnified throughout the race.

 

The race started at a fairly civil pace again. Hovering between 30-40km/hr with the exception of a couple of early brake away attempts and the corresponding chases.

But then the fun started as we hit the first of many rough cobblestone sections in some if the old, small towns.  The first time we hit the cobblestone I was taken by surprise as I was not expecting it.  We were in hammer mode at that point, so I was pushing a fairly big gear. Everything went numb and by the end of the section I could barely hang on to my handlebars anymore!!  One of my full bottles flew off the cage but with the front of the peleton hammering I had to wait until the pace eased off before getting another bottle from the car.

 

After surviving more cobblestones, high speed chases in cross winds, hanging on for sheer life in the gutter (the tail end of the ‘arrow’ when the peleton reaches higher speed.  This is the last place you want to find yourself) a group of us got spit out the back with about 40km to go.  I was still feeling strong at that point so I helped do some work at the front, but with about 20km to go I cracked and had to drag my ass to the finish line by myself.  I thought I was in last place, but as I was nearing the finish line I heard some noise behind me and saw another rider from the German team about 1km behind with the sweeper in tow.

Although I lost 10 minutes to the winning group I was still well within the cut off time, and so I survived yet another day to tell the story.

There were two items of note for the day.  The first, which I did not realize at the time and which would come to haunt me in stage 4 was that the way to ride through cobblestones is to grind your way in a big gear.  If you try going through in an easy gear as you would on slippery terrain like sand you would find yourself going airborne from one cobble to the other.

The second was the comforting site of the sweeper!!  I was carrying my wallet, cell phone and a spare tire and tools in my pockets, valuable space that could be used for food and a water bottle, in case I was dropped and got lost.   Tomorrow I’m having mega waffles for lunch!!!

Stage 1 -The daunting task ahead

for Jun 2, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

After 3 disappointing crits I was having doubts about even bothering to start the stage.  Stage 1 was a staggering 217km under a blue sky and 30C temperature.  The distance by itself is a fair bit more than I have ever raced before, notwithstanding the fact that most of the teams here are comprised of national riders, Olympic hopefuls and former Pro tour riders. But that’s never stopped me before :-p 

Thankfully the pace started out relatively easy with the speed fluctuating between 32 and 45km/hr until the feed zone at 130km.  Then things started heating up with a few attacks and teams chasing at speeds reaching over 50km/hr.  The good thing is that at that point the road was mostly heading south and there were no crosswinds.  With 4km to go we got stopped at a train track, and foolishly enough I was waiting at the back of the field behind the race officials’ car with 2 of my teammates.  As soon as the gates went up, the riders hammered hard and before we could start chasing, we had to get around a couple of cars in the convoy.  As I later found out from my other teammates who did not get caught unaware, the group was hitting surges in excess of 60km/hr.  With only 3 of us chasing and with a 200 meter gap that was quickly growing, our goal was to limit the damage until the finish line.  We managed to finish with only 1:15 minutes behind the leaders. The field was strung out over the last 2 km with several groups forming after being dropped by the high speeds.

 

So I survived day 1 despite having no drinks left for the last 50km.  We didn’t have enough water bottles and were getting thirsty enough to try to bum drinks off the other riders… My heart would skip a beat everytime I saw a rider dispensing of their bottles into the field. 

I must have gone through my body's weight of water at the finish before starting to feel a bit better.  Mind you at that point I must have only  weighed 5 or 6 pounds :-p

 

 

Although the stage profile looked fairly flat, the bike computer registered a total 2400m of climbing but also 2375m of descending.

 

Stage 0 - The unoffical start

for Jun 1, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

Well here I am starting the race!!  This will be one of the most challenging sporting events I have attempted to date.

Today is just a crit, but with a fast descent, curvy sections with tight corners, some cross wind and a climb back to the finish line, I’m not quite looking forward to it after the experience from the last 2 crits.  But what the heck.  The crit does not count for GC time, only decides the jerseys.  The pace was balls-out again off the gun. I managed to hang on for a few laps before getting dropped off one of the corners again.  With speeds breaking 50km/hr I could only close the gap so many times before starting to crack after only 3 laps.  I hung on for another 2 laps and then followed the lead of a bunch of other riders that had been dropped too and pulled out again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letting out some steam :-p and waiting for the start with the podium girls

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The team presentations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Waiting for the start

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the gun goes off

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobbed by the local kids for autographs and water bottles after the race

The need for speed

for May 31, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

We’re driving to Nowogard today.  It’s about 400km from Gdansk, but Poland doesn’t have any major highways so the drive is supposed to take about 4.5-5hrs.  We have an entire convoy of cars, vans and trucks to haul the bikes, tools, luggage, teams and the team entourage including the team directors, soigneurs, mechanics, and drivers. 

So much for the speed limit!  Our car was following one of the team vans and we were doing over twice the limit at times to keep up!!!

After several hours of high speed chasing, tight corners, driving into oncoming traffic and only 1 pee break we arrived at our destination, the town of Nowogard, where we had another criterium race on the schedule later in the day.  We got there a bit earlier than planned , about 1hr earlier than expected, thanks to the crazy driving, grabbed lunch and went to the hotel to unload our stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can't quite see it but the speedometer was over 150... in a 70 zone...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The crit was just around the corner, so we biked over and had plenty of time to get ready and warm up.

The start was again fast and furious, with a small group of riders managing to brake away early on.  The course was fairly technical with several tight corners and some rough road conditions in some sections.  The loop went through a residential area, so people were sitting on their porch watching and cheering.

I got dropped again out of one of the corners after a couple of laps but stuck it out and started catching a couple of other riders that popped off the back after a few more laps.  Most of them dropped out after a little while, but I kept going for another ½ hour until I got caught by the breakaway.  At this point their speed had slowed down to something sustainable and I managed to stay a little distance off the back with the gap staying fairly consistent for a few laps.  One of the guys from the group ended up getting dropped and I worked with him for a few laps but I couldn’t get him back to the front.  He ended up dropping out and so did I 1 lap later.  It was good enough of a workout for the day. I felt pretty good and started entertaining the idea of at least starting the stage race the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went back for showers and dinner afterwards, and I went to check out the adjacent park and lake across the street.

Time to strech the legs

for May 30, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

Today’s the first day of racing.  We are doing a Criterium in downtown Gdansk.  One of the teams racing in the stage race with us is organizing the crit and our team director accepted to support their race as they will be assisting us with transportation and logistics support during the tour.  These races are setup as showcases for the teams’ sponsors, and there’s an unwritten rule that the winner should from the organizing team.  But it still makes for exciting entertainment for the unaware spectators.

 The location is pretty cool as the old down is blocked off and the finish line is right in the middle of the city, surrounded by old buildings. 

The crit is 65km long, with each loop about 1.3km in length.  There’s a couple of tight corners and lots of cobblestones.  The road is in pretty bad condition so you need to pick your line pretty carefully.

We were told that the first 10 laps are exhibition laps, with the captain of each team breaking away for a lap and being introduced by the announcer, but our team director told us right before the start to keep an eye open as things may not develop that way.

Sure enough, as the gun went off there was a mad sprint into the first corner that completely caught me off guard.  By the time I managed to clip my foot into the pedal I was already 15 meters off the back.  With speeds reaching over 50km/hr on the backstretch, I could not close the gap and eventually made the decision to drop out after 5 laps.  No point in burning out at this point.

The loop

for May 28, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

After a solid breakfast we jumped on our bikes and met up with Piotr, the former pro rider who now coaches the Polish national team. 

 

We took the one road we missed on the previous days’ ride.  It was a nice little climb for the first part, but the road was in better condition and the traffic lighter than the roads we rode on yesterday. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 We ended up doing a couple of laps of a nice loop out in the countryside at a fairly brisk pace but had to cut the ride short after one of the riders had a double flat after hitting a pothole.

The rest of the day was spent chilling out.  Some of the guys got a ride into town to exchange some money and try to find a bike shop.  Some went riding again for a couple of hours after lunch.

 

Some pictures from the loop

Poking around

for May 27, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

 

We were supposed to meet up with a former pro rider and Polish national champion for our ride but after some miscommunication we ended up missing him by an hour.  With no preplanned routes, we just went as the roads took us.  Which meant a lot of dead ends, rough roads and dirt paths. 

 

We finished the ride in a café in downtown Gdansk before riding back home. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last few kilometers to and from the resort are sand roads so we got to put our bike handling skills to the test. 

There were a few good tumbles and lots of sand in our teeth until we got used to it.

Poland, ready or not here I am!

for May 26, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

Well, I finally had time to sit down and write about the trip and my incredible experience in the European pro peleton.  Here it goes...

Packing for the trip was pretty fast.   I was taking the team’s spare bike with me and it was already dismantled since it was a brand new frame.  The rest of my luggage consisted of cycling clothes for different weather conditions, bike tools, bottles, energy drinks, bars and gels.

I met up with 4 of my teammates at the airport.  One other teammate left the day before and our coach took a different flight to arrive a couple of hours before us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The flight from Toronto to Warsaw was fairly painless as I slept through most of it although we did have the customary crying babies and the take-off and landing were a bit on the rough side.

Unfortunately we did not have time to see Warsaw as our connecting flight was less than an hour away, which barely gave us time to go through customs and security.  The flight from Warsaw to Gdansk was fairly short (45 minutes).

Gdansk is a relatively small town in the north of Poland and is know for being the location where Germany build the famed Bismark during WWII.  It’s now mostly a resort area as it sits on the shores of the Baltic sea.

 

 

 

 

 

We were picked up at the airport by the director of another team , Mrose, also racing in the Tour and he drove us to the ‘resort’ we were staying at for the first few days, just west of Gdansk.  The ‘resort’ consisted of several wood cabins with fairly Spartan accommodations and the main building where we had our meals.  It was nice to have the meals prepared for us as going grocery shopping from our location was a bit inconvenient and we did not have a kitchen or any appliances in the cabins.  On the downside having meals prepared for you means you don’t have much control over what you eat. 

For the most part we were getting fairly traditional Polish dishes: Perogies laced in melted butter, smoked sausages, some very tasty soups with ingredients freshly picked off the surrounding forests (which also meant some surprise proteins), cabbage rolls, veal scallops drenched in oil, pasta in creamy sauces and melted cheese and lots of cheeses and crepes for breakfast. Very tasty but much higher in fat than what I normally consume.  And not much in the vegetable and fruit departments with the exception of a green salad and some coleslaw. But as the saying goes: When in Poland do as the Polish do.

I'm off!!

for May 25, 2008 by Badih Schoueri

There is still some packing to do, but the bike is in the box.  My plane leaves later in the day, so I still have a bit of time to do some last minute errands.

Training has been going pretty well in the last 2 weeks.  I'm not quite in racing shape yet but I'm feeling pretty strong.  Let's see  how long I can hang in for in the European races.

Bring it on!!!!!!!