venerdì 9 dicembre 2011

Calpe training camp reportage 1.


That's  the first part of 5 - plus pic spams maybe. Enjoy :) 
The team heads to Denia goulf
Dicember, the 5th Alicante harbour. The docks cranes draw black silhouettes against the compact orange sky. Walking again to the bus terminal I feel exhausted and lost: if I can't find a bus to Calpe I have to spend the night here. I just ate a shitty pizza – something they called 'pizza' – and it was the first warm meal since yesterday dinner. Ok I'm not going to scketch it as a drama but that is the lowest moment in my travel: when I go I always feel out of place, wasting money and time, facing an umpredictable risk or simply the frustration of an empty box. What am I doing here? What am I looking for? I'm going to the training camp of RadioShack Nissan Trek, the – more or less – new team of a rider I write about since 2008 or so. That makes sense.
It was misty, humid and cold in Italy when I left, in Valencia at noon the sun was shining like in an early springtime. Talgo fast train was late and anyway it had taken more then two hours to reach Alicante: a bald rocky mountain range separes the railway from the seaside and I, half asleep, watched like in a dream its weird, evocative shapes. There was a deep silence in the train. Finally we passed through a cut violently open in the rock and we were in the city: bright, busy, bordering a dark blue sea.
My hotel :)
I'm safe: there is a bus for Denia at 7pm and it stops in Calpe. The city has disapeared now, it's definitely cold, passengers are pressed in the bus open yard, the night – vaguely menacing - all around, tickets in a hand, suitcase in the other. Spanish old people, some candidly sexy 16ies, some tourists, all admistrated by a grump fat driver: "Baggages for Calpe by the other side!" Just my backlpack and two big bags: everybody go to Benidorm or Denia.
One hour, I could close my eyes and sleep but keep watching through the window the obscure villages and roads passing one by one just announced by a neon sign or by nothing: raws and raws of holydays houses, white and closed, disturbing towns of deads all made of high anonymous buildings. Benidorm. In the summer here there is a lively night life, you see the clubs, the DJ posters, discoloured on the walls. Now, few people in the few open bars. People get in and off the bus in the middle of nothing and I'm rassured by the chattering of two English ladies in the seats behinde me. "Calpe!" Nothing at all. A suburban bridge over our heads, no city lights in sight, one taxi.
Their hotel ;)
Maybe I didn't see the best of Calpe. My hotel, Sh Ifach, takes its name from a rock called 'penon de Ifach' high on the sea just at the edge of Calpe cape. I couldn't detect it in the night but barely see it in the morning from the balcony of my room surrounded by high soulless buildings. Neverthless it's close. Swimming pools, artificial gardens, natural palms, a large road bordering the coast: that's the view. The team is supposed to leave for training at 10 am from Spa Hotel AR Diamante Beach but I still ignore where that is. Better: I know it is in the same street as my hotel but exactly like the 'penon de Ifach' it looks... somewhere near here.
My lucky star was shining few inch away from the moon last night. I stand up from my breakfast table and a friend enters the room: "Moien!" I say. He's Serge Waldbillig, photographer at Luxemburger Wort and member of the Schleck Fan Club. "I'm here with a collegue" he explains in French. "And how did you arrive here?" I enquire "By plane to Valencia, then we rent a car. And how are you here?", "A pieds", "Pas de problemes: tu viens avec nous". Thanks god! All is easier now: I feel grateful and relieved.
The press at work
So there we go. Joe, Serge's collegue and Wort reporter, is a very good driver and a nice guy. Three teams cars and trucks are parked at hotel Diamante Beach when we arrive: Astana, AG2R and RadioShack Nissan Trek. The last one has got two RS cars, a RS truck and a Leopard Trek van. The parking place is in the shadow yet, so it's cold: 18 degrees. Mechanics – Rune and Frank – and staff – Sabine Lüber, Josue Aran Garcia etc are already busy with bikes and food. "You made it" Danny In T Van tells me. "Yes. I always make it" I smile. Passion is all. Then there are reporters, cameramen and photographers. Everybody know everybody and say Hi, somebody know me too. The most of them think I'm Luxembourger and that's funny. Anyway we are few: RTL with Nico Keiffer and the cameraman Brice, somebody by L'Equipe... It isn't the Tour de France fortunately. I'm the only woman and sofar the only Italian.
Climbing
DS and team manager arrive talking each others, everybody looks ready and relaxed. Riders arrive one by one, wearing sleppers, their cycling shoes in a hand, the helmet in the other they look lazy and even a little sleepy. It's one of the first training of the new season and they need an easy start. But I'll tell more later. Back to me. I'm eagerly watching to the hotel gate looking forward to see Andy Schleck. Ok, I'm nervous now. The first Schleck to arrive thought is Frank: he goes to the food table out the track and picks up something to keep in the back pocket of his jersey. In few minutes they are all there, testing their bikes in short rides, fixing the sadle, stretching, eating a banana. Ready. We start.
Here I am
The training takes two hours today, on the mountains between Calpe and Denia. Joe drives the car behinde or in front of the small peloton of mixed kits, Serge is siting in the open boot taking pictures, I try my best juting out from the window. It's amusing and moreover it works. Thanks guys that you gave me the opportunity to be a serious journalist for one day! And like serious journalists we don't eat nor drink and don't go to the toilet till the riders stop to pee in a narrow street amongh the fields: "Photo! Photo!" Joe jokes. But don't hope – or worry – We took no pictures of that! Sometimes it's embarrasing to be the only woman, not because I care – I don't – but for them I guess...
The hard life of cameramen
It's a long day – more in my next post. We follow the team back to the hotel and assist to a special training session by home trainers and pc. At 3pm we are siting at a café table: Serge and Joe working on their pictures and articles, I eating finally a piece of cake. At 4pm there is a press conference: Baffi introduces the new Leopard Trek Continental team: 18 talented young guys and amongh them some old friends of mine like Pit Schlechter and Bob Jungels. Yes, we like! But the top in the menu is the interview with Andy and Frank Schleck. You'll read about that... when I'll write it! Finally, Bruyneel speech: yeah, it was a speech, a lesson, for sure not a press conference and absolutely not an interview. That also deserves a post: I didn't agree with one word he said but I think I fell in love for him! I had many thoughts in my head when I went to sleep, after a sumptuous dinner in my hotel restaurant. So many I am not sure I slept but I know I dreamt.
Frankie and Co.
The winter morning light is slow to come also in Spain especially when you went to bed early and at 7am you are almost awake. In a certain way the bussiness is over for me: today Serge wants to go to take pictures of Ben Gastauer by AG2R and follow them training if he can, then they drive back to Valencia and that's the point. I follow, keeping the hope to see Andy Schleck a last time before he goes training as well. What a small, reasonable hope! He's there indead. I have a short talk with Daniele Bennati and Baffi says: "Ah but here somebody speacks Italian!", "I'm Italian" I am "...but live in Luxembourg", "No no, I live in Italy, in Florence...".
Andy and Jakob chattering all the time
It isn't that easy to find a cycling team training in the Spanish mountain. We didn't find it actually. But after one hour of vain wandering up and down around Oliva and Denia we bump in the Radio Shack guys again and almost hit them. It's the 'second group', no Schleck(s) in it, but there are, amongh the others, Bennati and Laurent Didier. Mission accomplished, we head to Valencia.

In next posts: 2. A Training Day (all about the training on the road and indoor plus rich pics spam).
Then: 3. The Young Guns of Baffi (Leopard Trek Continental team)
  1. "I wanna win the Tour" (Interview with the Schleck(s) )
  2. I fell in love for Bruyneel (Public and face to face talk: don't worry, it's about cycling!)
Serge in the boot
I try my best
...but we curve right! adios chicos!

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