1.18.2015

Majorca Reportage: 4.Reporting reporters, and interviews

Round table with Dave Brailsford
It doesn't work like that usually, it isn't what you expect, is it? you expect questions and answers with some mixed up commentary. You can find it everywhere given that I wasn't the only one doing interviews with Team Sky riders (but probably the only one with completely plugged ears). 
There were many tv reporters doing video interviews, the most of them had filmed also the team traing while interviewers (or speakers if you prefer) had arrived for lunch as well as the most of the writers.
...and with Rod Ellingworth
It always stricke me the difference between people working with images - cameramen and photographers - and people working with words: the first ones look like manual workers, technicians while the second ones behave more like intellectuals. You could think they are but considering it a little it's obvious that both need to know their 'media' manually and intellectually: a cameraman or a photographer aren't just a camera, they need to know who to handle their machine but also to have ideas about what and - moreover - how they should shoot or film. By the other side a writer works with a computer and at least an e-mail even in the case he just uses a penn to write down his /her interview.
Rod Ellingworth
It also trike me the fact that I tend to gang up with photographers and cameramen in spite I'm a writer - that's why they forgive me my poor camera. Photographers and cameramen work often as a team, are often playful and joking, while writers look lonely and introvert. Exceptions exist. In my experience, though, writers put on airs a little.
Did I already tell you that I was - once again - the only woman amongh the press? Lets go back to that afternoon, when I was siting in the hotel lobby, season highlights were passing on the screan and video crews were already at work....
Ben Swift got interviewed
Team Sky press officer Ellie Brownless comes and sits next to me, her pad on her lap:
"So you have 30' one-one with Viviani at 5 pm, at 5.30 round table with Swifty and at 6 round table with Chris [Froome]",
"What about Kiryenka?",
"He doesn't do interviews"
"Can I send you some written questions for him? is that possible?"
"Yes, sure. Use the media e-mail address, I manage that."
"Ok. Thank you."
Ellie is a nice young woman with a plasant full face. She looks exhausted now and it's going to get worse: tens of people talking at the same time make a lot of noise, organising and managing such a complex puzzle of interviews and round tables requires a stressful mental effort and she has to stand up almost all the time. She shortly smiles and moves to another writer waiting for his schedule. 
Wout Poels
Writers are all already typing on their laptop, preparing introduction, conclusion and general part of their interviews because, unlike me, they have to send them straight away. I prefer to write at home, to have the time to taste my memories, to let them sediment. At the moment I'm exhausted too and sick because of this awful cold, I just watch and listen, trying to go as close as possible.
Elia Viviani is late, I'm not interested in a second speech by Dave Brailsford and listen distractly to a round table with Rod Ellingworth. "Where is my man?" I ask press officer Rob Jorgensen, he asks Ellie, both calls Viviani who finally arrives, and is happy to speak Italian. I'm going to post his interview a part, he's a cleaver guy, serious, profesional and I know. I'm sure he's going to fit in very well by Team Sky. - ..."To fit in"... I can't help to remember my ex, who's now standing few meters away, telling how busy he is: "You don't fit in"...  Yeah, I seldom fit in. 
Chris Froome laughts at a jurno's joke
With Viviani we talk about his role in the team, his goals, differences and similarities with Ben Swift but also, and that's what I especially like, about his feelings, his thoughts and his life. I'm interested in persons and that's why I prefer written questions but I also like to be face to face. "Last question" Ellie says: "If you weren't a rider, what would you be?".
Riders are used to be in the spot light, some like it, some don't. Some riders go to sign or to pick their bike as if they are blind, concentrated on the race, seeing nothing outside, others are curious, looking around, smiling or waving. A press day is work for them too and usually a part they would rather avoid. Press officers place them here or there, they sit and wait, they answer as they can questions very often banal. To give a personal, authentic answer you need the time to reflect, to feel it. Banal, authomatic answers are easier, you say what you are suuposed to say, they got what they expected to got. Everybody is happy. Intense characters like Bradley Wiggins have got the rare quality of being authentic on the spot. Andy Schleck used to be the same, though in a different way: he very often sounded out of topic or politically uncorrect, naive sometimes. But after 2010 he didn't like to talk, he was disappointed.
Round table with Chris Froome is crowded
Ben Swift is intruiguing. He's a rider I like so I use to go after him at races and I remember his peculiar way to deal with the fact to be watched: I wouldn't say he's shy, he looks pretty confortable in front us, five or more recorders on the table, still not a 'prima donna' and not even such an extrovert guy. At races and also this morning during the team training he made eye contact a few times, cracked a smile, posed for a picture when others had carried on with their business. He's 27 but looks younger, he's riding for Team Sky since the begining in 2011, when he left Team Katusha for the British project. His face is cute, refined, steady. He looks very much upper class, gentle but reserved.
Waiting for Julio to finish the work
Swift had a terrific season last year, an impressive series of podium places but few victories. He says transforming podiums in victories is his main goal for 2015 and that a solid winter, injury free, gives him a good confidence.
I'll post his interview a part, be patient.
Now it's time to listen a little to Wout Poels explaining in his awkward way the joy to be back on bike and to his top level after the awful crash he sufferend in Tour de France 2012: "It has been hard but cycling is my life, I didn't want to stop. And now I'm a rider at Team Sky" he proudly says. Few later I'm still waiting in the lobby - Chris Froome this time - a stunning sunset is reddening the beach just outside the hotel veranda, and I note a way breezier Poels chattering in Dutch with some mechanics. He looks a good guy.
By  biliard. Note the jerseys...
I wonder how I am looking. A disaster probably, giving my mix of fatigue, cold and headache. "I'd like to go to bed now" Ellie says checking her pad. Chris Froome, finally released by the last video crew, arrives to face a larger crowd, so large that the round tables with him will be shared in two. I feel for him but he didn't loose his smile. Lets have it started!
"Don't ask stupid question!" a journalist says. Round tables are often like that: there are one or two reporters from important media who are leading the conversation, they are more prepared and more assertive. The others listen and now and then are allowed to ask a question. It isn't a rule, it isn't a formal arrangement, it's just how it goes. They all have to bring home an interview so it's fine to get a commun background of mainstream questions.
Chris Froome looks very happy and relaxed, very skinny already and he confirms he's 66 kg. He got married, has no more to share Team Sky leadership with Bradley Wiggins, feels settled. Is that going to have an effect on his global performing? of course it is. He says is more motivated than ever and has less pressure. But I'll post his interview a part. His eyes are bright, intense: "Promoting clean cycling, that's my goal. The UCI itself must be more coherent, Team Astana's case didn't send the right message. Not to me to decide, still we are all involved, it's about the sport." He accepts jokes with a smile of true amusement, not worried, not really touched. At ease.
Almost 8 pm and the press day is over. Journalists leave in dribs and drabs, somebody is still typing bent on his laptop, riders are in their rooms waiting for dinner while staff are still working, checking, organising. My ex is siting just in front of me, pretending I'm invisible: what a coward... 
The last bus for Palma started hours ago, outside is dark. I go looking for the Spanish collegues who should give me a lift and find them by the ping-pongThe elder is in his late 50 and speaks a fluent English, we talked a little during the day and he has got opinions. He's from Valencia, a biologist and used to collaborate with popular magazines. Now he lives in Majorca, works for Reuters and is in cycling. He's a witty man. "Carlos and I are on motorbike" he says leaning to the bilard table "but Julio will give you a lift. He has to work an hour yet, uploading videos." Carlos is the speaker, he's playing tennis table with Xavi, the cameraman, while Julio is working on his laptop. The players aren't serious though and often send the ball dangerously close to the worker: "Hey! watch it!" Julio cries out "that's money!", "It's fine. I'll see you guys, in one hour."
Ben Swift and Dan Guillemette (Team Sky’s lead physiotherapist) are playing chess. I stop and watch for a long while. Beside the chessboard there are many pieces already and the game isn't far from the end. Swift is quick to move while Guillemette needs more time to decide. "You look both good" I say, "No" Swift sharply replies "I'm good, he isn't". A few more moves, the game is still undecided. I give a look to my watch. "It's almost time to go..." Swift says turning toward the veranda: "Shit! we have to go now!" He stands up, then looks at the chessboard "I won!... or do you want to keep on later?" Guillemette is resigned and they are gone.
Night briefing over, I learn that Ben Swift is also good at playing biliard. My Spanish friends are still by the ping-pong, Julio playing with Carlos and the uploading almost finished. Ellie is in the lobby, I go saying good-bye. "We go!" Julio says, his stuff on his hand, heading out.
And leaving I think I'm lucky.

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