Sunday, October 3, 2010

Patience Pays Off

Patience Pays Off

I did not file yesterday as I had to head right the start of the men’s race.
By now you probably know that Georgina Bronzini of Italy and Thor Hushovd of Norway each won their respective world road titles. The coverage should indicate the ferocity with which each successive field raced. But this course rewarded patience. The rider we mentioned the least would be the favorite.

My job was to simply start ‘em on time. But there is considerable fanfare before each event, all of which is subject to the regimen imposed by the UCI. But it works.

The women’s race was held entirely in Geelong. At noon I start the team
introductions one hour before start. Then you do it all again at the start line, calling every rider to the line. A real pro, Rik did a great job of either speeding it up or slowing it down according to the schedule.

The women raced very negatively at first but finished with utter savagery on the road circuit. What we learned on this difficult circuit was that patience paid off. The rider who waits would win. Emma Pooley destroyed herself, only to see her compatriot Nicole Cooke leave with Germany’s Judith Arndt with 6 km to go. They would be caught on the homestretch by the bunch to be swarmed by the field led by an Italian leadout train. Bronzini came through, with Dutchwoman Marianne Vos winning her fourth consecutive silver medal ahead of Emily Johannsen of Sweden, whose helmet bounced off a spectator leaning over the fences with 50 meters to go.

But the bigger victory was the event itself. The rematch of the AFL Grand Final drew most of the attention with the Magpies crushing the Saints. Regardless there was easily 50,000 spectators out for the event.

I finished off the day, as always, alone. I got a beer at a bar surrounded by Magpie fans resplendent in black-and-white attire. I then opted for a quiet sushi bar for a snack.

I had an 8 p.m. dinner meeting with the marketing department of the UCI. I waited in the bar, alone, until drawn to a table where the other UCI staff gathered. They all spoke French until I found a guy from South Africa.

I finally got out to dinner with Middat, Nicole and Tobias. We spoke English. Although there were a lot of discussion topics, the outcome is this: they booked me for the ‘Cross Worlds in Germany AND the 2011 Road Worlds in Copenhagen. Cool, huh?
I finally stayed awake until 11 p.m.!

Towards all that stuff, I must say that patience pays off. I have never tried to sell myself to promoters. I have never tried to undercut another announcer or take a job from my brothers or sisters in this profession. I've been patient. I'm prouder of that than I am of actually securing such prestigious gigs as these.

When I woke, I found Rik in the lobby. He would join me at the start in Melbourne. We made the drive to Melbourne, a beautiful, gritty city with amazing architecture. It’s a blend of Victorian charm and Bauhaus zeal.

When we arrived there were maybe a few thousand people bounding about like charged electrons. We figured out what we had to do and went to work. We were at Federation Square. There would be a team presentation on a stage followed by the start about 300 meters away on a bridge.

I did comedy and Rik and I tried to do some race handicapping to fill the 15 minutes before the teams were to arrive. Just having the PA running drew in the crowds. The number probably crested at 1,000, and that was just for the presentation. About 5,000 people were on the bridge for the start.

Per usual, the teams fail to arrive on time and when they do, confusion reigns. The Americans were one of the first to arrive. I enjoyed seeing the guys I knew, Ted King and Christian Vande Velde are two of the nicest pros you could ever meet. They were relaxed and at ease. We got a few teams up and down and then waited a painful three or four minute between teams. Then they ALL came at us, Latvians, Poles, Colombians, Swedes….

Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, and especially the Aussies with Cadel Evans drew
At one point Michael Albassini of Switzerland stormed up on the stage, stammering, “There is no rule zat we have to do these. We have no time. Thees is stupid….”

Rik, myself and the official said nothing, nothing.

“FUCK off,” he said… Running up during another team’s photo op and signing the board …and continuing to curse us as he left the stage and he rode away.

Then Fabian Cancellara rolled up, with a sheepish Albassini in tow. The man they called Spartacus, a true class act, made this donkey return to the stage for the photo. He said nothing this time when he passed by me on the stage.

Sports are show business. The sooner riders realize that, the better. And patience is typically rewarded.

We rolled them up again for the start, where the great Phil Anderson helped Pat McQuaid do the start duties.

The riders would go over the massive West Gate Bridge and roll 85 k to Geelong to start 10 laps on the circuit.

We drove to the circuit, turned up the hi-fi, and worked the finish stretch. In short, we signaled the start of the race for these fans who had staked out fence-side seats hours earlier.

Read the coverage. A great race unfolded with underdogs, local heroes, Rocky Balboas and Apollo Creeds all racing brilliantly.

Despite unbelievable heroics from Cadel Evans, a late breakaway was caught by the 40-rider field, survivors of unbelievable savagery that sent most of the sprinters to the DNF list. Save for one: Thor Hushovd, who never felt the wind in his face until 100 meters to go.

Boom. Done.

The Americans were dreadful. But if you study the event you’ll realize that Italy sent riders and directors to Australia twice to profile the circuit and study the event. Although unsuccessful, they were in every major move with big numbers. They were able to select the right time for the job. They finished with several riders.

Other teams show up as an afterthought and the results show.

And then it’s done. I walked back, actually stopping to have my picture taken with fans and even signing two autographs. What fun and flattery.

Headed home I young lady from Geelong named Bethany intercepted me. She ran a local community radio program on cycling. I had gotten her into the media box to get an interview with Cancellara.

She owed me a beer so I took her up on it. From there I would encounter other UCI folks in the lobby.

I never got out. No sites. No tourism. No clubbing.

But I did fasten down some friendships with some important folks. And I’ll improve the relations when I travel to Germany and Denmark in 2011. But I hope to have some family along next time.

Game over. Thanks for reading.


  1. Richard,

    You don't post often but whoo boy when you do...congrats. Fun hearing your voice on teh Utube video of cross worlds while watching on the trainer, and will gt to do the same this year...

  2. Bravo Bravo Bravo! Gary and I are just so pleased for you and have been thinking about you and telling our friends about your gig in Geelong! Wow - and to hear your news about Germany and Copenhagen is fabulous....just keep writing and get it published! You're brilliant and we miss you - all of you! xo Kate & Gary

  3. Wow.

    That's about all anybody needs to say. What a great run you've got going.

    When you get back, I'll buy the first beer round. And probably the second. But I want to hear all the stories behind the stories above.

  4. Sounded sorta like the UCI has some understanding of the fact that professional sports is entertainment & some have yet to come to that realization. Thanks for recognizing that. Safe travels home and see you in a couple of days.