It’s way too early to be awake, but my host dad had an early flight to that tour in New Mexico where you get homestayed by men who sit on the porch in a rocker with a shotgun and shoot you if you don’t win the stage.
When I say ‘host dad’ I mean the generous male half of the couple I’ve been living with here in NorCal. The other kittens call their families ‘host mom/dad,’ and just because mine are the same age as me, I don’t see why I can’t have another set of parents.
Sadly, I’m the worst climber in the house, seeing as these two are none other than Mr & Mrs James & Katheryn Mattis – with a garage of bikes, wheels and two decades of Webcor kit to prove it.
I was a bit bummed not to go to the Tour of the (Blue) Heeler, but I hear there aren’t any Aussie cattle dogs there at all. Just armadillos, wind, desert, and people trying to cope with lesser-power meter numbers at altitude.
Anyhow, we had my 21st Birthday to celebrate, and what with the glorious weather, the smashfest hill session I did in the morning, and the totally fun BBQ that evening, it stood out as my all-time-best-overseas Birthday.
Being 19 hours behind New Zealand, the Birthday started early here, with well wishes from a wonderful mechanic friend of mine in Wellington. If I had more friends in Hawaii, the party could have stretched on for a full 48 hours, Monsoon Wedding style, but alas, there was no man arriving in a sari on a white horse, and with all the great Mexican food around, it would seem insulting to eat chicken tikka masala.
Still, the day was always going to be better than the past two Birthdays abroad. 2010 has to go down in the annals as the anecdote that sums up my entire first season in a Pro Italian Team.
I was racing the Souvenir Magali Pache in Switzerland, an invitational time trial held on the same day as the men’s Tour of Romandie stage. The day before (my Birthday) was spent sitting in the back seat of the car from Toscana to Lausanne while my Director and our partially bilingual soignie Francesco barked at each other in Italian in the front seat.
When we got to the race village, I wanted to ride the course to see what I was in for, and Giancarlo begrudgingly agreed. He followed me in the car while I tried to turn over my legs that had been cramped in a car for eight hours… I felt completely sheise.
When we reached the narrow, convoluted cobbled streets of the final kilometre, things got confusing. Roads were closed (naturally, the Tour de Romanidie was coming through in less than 24 hours) and ol man Montedori was distracted.
This was one of his four available states of mind. The others were ‘furious,’ ‘cajoling,’ and ‘endearing.’ The final mood was reserved solely for the team sprinter with whom he was having an affair. He was over 50, married, and with two children. She was 26 and clearly not in it for his good looks, physique or driving skills.
As we tried to determine the finishing route for the following day’s important event, he was yelling into his phone to my teammate. Who knows what they were discussing, but all I head was “no, amore! Queste é impossibile! Si, ho capito…. Ho capito… NO, ´E IMPOSSIBILE AMORE, CREDIMI!!”
We often had to listen to him and her bickering in this same highly inappropriate (but undoubtedly arousing, adulterous, possibly romantic, from their point of view) way over the radio during races. It’s one of the reasons I lobbied Mr McQuaid on the UCI decision to ban race radios… sorry, everyone. My bad.
But I digress. All alone with a raving, puppy-loved-up lunatic, I made a decision. Let’s get the hell out of here, go back to the hotel, put my legs up and prepare for the race *
Once Francesco finally bothered to inquire into the dozens of calls and texts I’d received in the car trip and discovered it was my Birthday, he brought a bottle of champagne to the table over dinner.
I got an egg-cup full “ti ricordi tua gambe, Breediié” and then it disappeared with the two blokes to another location where cigars could be smoked and paramours berated for hours in stage whispers.
2011 was marginally better. My team was driving north again, this time from Bergamo to Luxembourg, to race a short, fast night Teams Time Trial in the city centre once we arrived.
We spent nine hours in a van that had no seatbelts and I imagined all sorts of death fantasies on the way up, hurtling along the autostrade at 160km/h. In one of them, I was the only survivor. No points for analysing that one.
The highlight of the day was stopping for lunch in France and finding every staff member at the restaurant completely transfixed to the television: it was the Royal Wedding! Wills and Kate were tying the knot and I could ignore my eight Italian companions and join in the fervour. For the record, I LOVED her dress more than Princess Diana’s, but seeing as how no one in my team was alive when she got married, I kept that to myself.
Now, in the USA in 2012, it’s a world away from death fantasies and bitter tears after races. Now, my wonderful teammates smile when they see me in the morning and graciously protest that I “DON’T EVEN LOOK THAT OLD! I MEAN IT!”
Sure, it hurt a little in my heart when three of them looked blankly when I made a reference to Jane Fonda. “Who’s she?” asked Jazzy. I shook my head disapprovingly as only an old bird can and replied “ask your host Mom.”
* * * * *
*This was one of the more foolish decisions I’ve made. On race day, I took a wrong turn with 500m to go and missed the finish. There was no race marshall on the turn and I heard later than dozens of men in the tour made the same mistake. I was horrified to DNF an important time trial and wanted to strangle myself AND Montedori.