Sunday, May 13, 2012
Monday, April 23, 2012
Monday, December 5, 2011
Thanks to Craig at Richmond Cycling Corps and the great folks at Road Holland for helping those of us on Altius stay on the crest of the cycling fashion wave. We may not take racing seriously, but how we look is another story completely. Richmond Cycling Corp started carrying Road Holland a couple of months ago and those of us that saw their items at the RCC opening were blown away by the style and attention to detail. A few phone calls and emails later and the fine folks at RH were willing to do some custom embroidery to add the Altius logo to their sweet Arnhem jersey. We can continue to look good either at the back of the pack or the front of the beer line.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
This is it the longest short trip I have been on. The last day sneaks up on most of us. From a race standpoint – we have been in the lead wire to wire so far. This has allowed me to be closer to the action than in almost any other race. The guys have raced hard and smart. The mechanic and soigner have been great keeping everything running smoothly. One last stage and most racers are looking tired. The flurry of attacks that were going on earlier in the week have trailed off. Gabon’s entire team has been eliminated on time-cuts. Teams are running out of supplies and coming to us for help. Only the Euros and TT1 throw away our bottles – every other team gives a bottle back when they take them and most squads are actually using 2010 issue TT1 bottles. We will probably leave behind 100 more this time too. Our hope is that every team today will be tired enough that we can just ride wheels to the finish.
Today I was back in the team car for the final stage – it’s often like the co-pilot in a rally car. Keeping track of the race, looking up rider numbers, there are things to do to help the process which I like. From the beginning the race moves at a sane pace and although there was a lot of terrain change this keeps until 15 K to go when a Rwandan rider takes a flier. In the 3 years of this event no Rwandan has ever won a stage so this poor guy had a lot on his shoulders. He timed his break perfectly and got out as far as 37 seconds before the time started coming down. In the car there was a nervous silence, anything could happen; a flat, a crash, a goat on the course so as the K ticked down we kept waiting and hoping. With 1 K to go Kiel went for it. As the yellow jersey wearer he wasn’t just going to coast in. The Rwandan won but only by 50 meters over Kiel but to the untrained eye it was great for Rwanda. They won a stage and beat the yellow jersey. The streets were packed the last few K so the noise was great and the Rwandan people were thrilled. Kiel was first and Joey was second overall but on the final day a Rwandan won the KOM jersey, the stage jersey, and best overall team. It was a huge day for cycling in their country and certainly one they can build on. Kiel and Joey also won two motorcycles for their stage wins which they are donating to the Rwandan Diabetes Foundation. Alex Bowden was the one diabetic racer on the squad and he finished this year over 2 hours ahead of his finishing place last year showing continued development for him. We would have popped champagne if we could find any, instead it was large bottles of Mutzig (Budweiser of Rwanda) We thought we had brought a strong squad but the cycling gods smiled on us as well this year.
The other group that came with us rode every stage ahead of the race and did at least seven clinic visits. They had the opportunity to interact, educate, and be educated by Rwandans with diabetes. Money and resources are so limited in Rwanda that this will continue to be an uphill battle but through the Rwandan Diabetes Foundation they have targeted and enrolled 680 children with type 1 diabetes who are guaranteed access to diabetes medication and testing supplies. A few years ago these children most likely would have died from this disease and now due to a very charismatic leader of their diabetes foundation and the contacts with TT1 there is hope for them. This week we also set up diabetes stations at every finish so we could test anyone who wanted to know if they have diabetes. This part of the trip was a great success.
From my standpoint, I really wasn’t terribly useful in my opinion. We lost 2 riders from the team but there wasn’t much I could do on either. About half the people in the group had some sort of intestinal issue but having seen them all, I had the worst version of any of them. It’s good in many respects not to be needed in my role, I just feel like I’m taking up space though at times.
As I sit in the Brussels Airport at a Starbucks writing the last entry and reflecting, I feel the trip was a great success. The team reached goals on multiple levels so I hope the sponsors are very happy with the work that Phil is doing. Rwanda was a beautifully lush country that was far more developed than I had imagined. The people were fantastic – friendly and eager to show their country. They were understandably frustrated that all the outside world knows of them is the genocide and not the amazing 16 years that have followed. Would I go back, I’m not sure on that at this point, I’ll have to think on that a little more when I’m not so tired.
Murakozie (Rwandan for thank you) for reading.
Stage 7 We weren't too sure how today would go. Plenty of climbing but lots of tired legs as well. As usual there were tons of hills so we expected folks to try to get away. About 10 k in Alex gets a flat which was horrible timing as the speed was starting to kick up a bit. He had to spend the next 25 minutes chasing back on. Jack, being the resourceful director that he is told our photographer on his motorbike to go back and "take some close-ups" so he motor paced him for a few K until the refs figured out what was going on. He fought like heck but finally caught on. Then it got crazy for me. An Ethiopian rider crashed and since I was in the medical car again we stopped. It was quite the scene. There was our car, the ambulance, the other medical car with lots of shouting and screaming. It was 180 from how I like to do things. Despite all these vehicles we still ended up using mostly the medical stuff out of my fanny pack which cracked me up. Dr Albert was really wanting this guy to have a broken wrist I think. He was eager to get an X-ray so we left the race which was odd protocol. Normally the ambulance leaves but the race doc stays with the race. Anyhow this gave me the chance to visit a hospital though. The X-ray machine was probably as old as me but did the trick and no fracture. At this point the racers were only 10 k out so no real need to go back and we got lucky no one else got hurt. It certainly made me realize that although Albert was a nice guy, his form of medicine and how I want my riders treated is a bit different. We stayed in yellow again and the guys were healthy so all is good there. We were back to another hotel on Lake Kivu and whereas our first place at the lake was tranquil, this one was more of a party spot. We were told we have a nightclub at our place as well if we were interested. The furnishings were a bit rough but we did have hot water, at this point I take most things on a scale and hot water and recognizable food are 2 of the biggest items.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Today was going to be the easy day. It’s not unusual in the race to have a short stage midway through. Today was only 70 K and not much significant elevation. A break should get up the road and we can rest. Unfortunately at 1 AM though, Will came to the door feeling horrible. He had the stomach bug and there was not much I was going to be able to do. I tried a few things but Will just looked horrible in the morning so we pulled him before anything worse could happen to him. A funny part though was when he came to the door at 1 AM, the first thing he said was “ I feel horrible” quickly followed by “Wait, you guys are sharing a bed?” Yep…
Because of Will not riding, he took my spot in the team car and I had to go find a ride. I hooked up with the Doctor for the race, Dr. Albert. This was pretty cool. Apparently in Rwanda med school it is 6 years and they all come out trained in general practice. He is now 2 years into his general surgery training and 2 more to go and then he wants to do orthopedics which is 2 years. All of his training is here in Rwanda and he seemed to one smart dude. His training is obviously very Western based. He tells me that Rwandan health care is sort of run like a co-op. You pay 3100 francs ($5.00) per year and you are given a government insurance card. If you get sick in your village you present to the local clinic where they determine what else you need. The clinics are run by nurses and doctors come at least 3 days a week. If the issue is complex they may need to take you to the hospital and all provinces are required to have at least 5 ambulances per province. Dr. Albert was quite proud of their system and it sounds far superior to surrounding countries where tribal bush medicine is still mainly practiced. I asked him how these same medical beliefs had been removed here and it sounds like there was a very robust education program in the past 10 years reaching out to the countryside to teach them that “witching” was not medicine. There still are pockets where witching is practiced but traditional medicine is much more accepted here which may be why our diabetes talks are so well received.
The stage was short and uneventful and finished in a town that seems the least developed of any we have seen so far, however we are staying at a pretty nice hotel. It’s about 2 K away from town and in a compound with an armed guard but it’s all run by nuns. As with any good nun establishment it has a nice bar within the compound and the food is quite good. We all get own rooms and each shower has a hot water heater above the shower you have to plug in a little ahead of time. Our photographer, John, described the furnishings as “1985 Ohio Motel” and as I have a point of reference on this, I think he is pretty close – lots of light tans fluorescent lights and a tiny TV. Again the people are very helpful and friendly but it’s been raining pretty hard and the town itself was sketchy so I think I am going to celebrate Thanksgiving at the nun encampment. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you back home.
I really have no idea what day it is anymore. After the race gets going everything simply becomes stage numbers and the rest of the world sort of ceases to exist. This is further impacted by the fact that we are off the grid here and can’t get any internet so we really are in our own little world. Our hotel near the Congo was very interesting. From the outside it looked like some nice little place you might see at the Outer Banks, and even the inside looked nice. Someone had spent a lot of money to get nice materials however the assembly was horrible. Most fixtures did not work, electrical outltets did not work, TV’s did not work, toilets flooded and there was no hot water. This made for an interesting evening. This was also the first room without a mosquito net. There was this cozzing arounstant high pitched buzzing around my head all night long followed by the occasional “I took my malaria med tonight, right?!” In the morning though, it was business as usual.
Stage 5 was going to be a hard one. A 25 K climb right from the gun and lots of hard climbs and technical descents. Racing here has also been a bit unorthodox as the African teams are not highly schooled in cycling strategy and therefore they try some crazy things that make us scratch our head and then figure out if we need to respond or not. Today’s race was more chess with Kiel getting up the road with 2 South Africans an Ethiopian and a Rwandan. They made their break on a downhill and got up to 3 minutes and then the negotiating started. We were going back and forth with the South African squad trying to explain that we would work with them and they could move their riders up to second and third on GC however their team director wasn’t interested so Keil rode tempo to the end and buried them for the stage win. Joey rolled through a couple of minutes later and stayed in yellow with Keil now moving to second. 5 wins in 5 stages. Not bad considering we only had 2 wins all year long as a team before this.
The hotel was a real adventure. Very nice people but a light bulb from the ceiling, one bed, no running water on the top floor- pressure couldn’t get it up there. Door handles had been removed and the doors themselves were paper thin however the walls were 12” thick concrete. 2 amusing items – Jack and I would get to share a bed and the toilet faced a floor to ceiling window 3 feet away that would open from the 6th floor overlooking the entire city. It was quite a view and others from the team would visit us just to use the toilet. While in there at one point I hear Jack exclaim “My People!” I’m not sure who looked up but it was pretty funny. Dinner was ok 2 Guinness and an orange but fortunately had scored Nutella and crackers earlier in the day so it certainly wasn’t the most nutritious meal but I won’t get scurvy.
My med count is dwindling – people are loving the pepto and I have been giving it out like candy. I have gone through 60 in 5 days. Basically almost everyone has had some stomach issues to this point. I had to go to a Rwandan pharmacy to try to find more. It’s very much like a European one here you have ask the pharmacist what you want and they help you out. I asked for “pink tablets to aid digestion” and bam, they had some. Looks like it might just be and antacid but I will go with what I can get. I have given out a bunch of ibuprofen, some cipro, phenergan, Benadryl… I don’t leave the room anymore without carrying my bag of meds as invariably I will see someone who will ask me for something and I have to return to the room.