By Tim Butler – Workboot free adventures
Second stage of the International season see us jetting to Hamburg in Germany then to Lourdes in France then back home.
We caught the train to Sydney international Airport on the 19th of April, lacking a bike this time made it so much easier to get around. Stressing a bit about trying to find check in for the airline, got to the top of the lift and there it was right in front of us, no lineup or anything, checked in and made our way to the gate. Lucky, it was quick because Work Wife tried to make me come back to work because she had three broken toilets in the men’s. What a shame the bags had gone.
Our first flight was to Abu Dhabi, 14 hours of boredom, got a little sleep but not much, landed in Abu Dhabi round 11:30 at night, it was around 30 degrees. We boarded the plane to Munich at 2.30 so it wasn’t much of a wait. About 2 hours into the flight I’d had enough, couldn’t handle to watch anymore television and couldn’t go to sleep, not like Pat who fell asleep even before we took off, then woke up half an hour later with a stunned look on his face and asked if we had taken off yet.
We landed in Munich at 7am in the morning after a 6-hour flight, we had a 7 hour wait for the next flight. we looked outside and saw it was snowing but not settling. Not seeing snow in about 25 years and looking like tourist we headed outside to stand in the snow. Me in my shorts and t-shirt I was getting some funny looks from the locals.
We decided to catch a taxi in Munich city to have look around with a cabby who couldn’t understand English which made it more of a challenge, 70 Euros later he dropped us off, but explained where to train station was a telling us it would be much cheaper.
So, glad we did that instead of sitting in an airport for seven hours, the Architecture was amazing, it was cold and still snowing on and off. Lucky, I had my jacket in my carry-on bag, but I still had shorts on and the looks I was getting was priceless, we caught the train back to the airport which only cost us 20 Euros. I was fun buying the ticket on an electric ticket machine, not being to understand a single word and just guessing.
We had an hour and a half flight to Hamburg, which I actually slept most of it, typical I had a window seat too. We met Mathius, the Bergamont team boss, as well as Reece, Pats Team mate from Scotland at the airport and made our way to the Bergamont Warehouse to meet up with Eddie and Kurt. Absolutely wrecked we had tea and crashed in the Hostel.
Hamburg – Bergamont HQ
The next morning, we had a meeting at the Bergamont headquarters at 10am, I woke up at 4am laid in bed for a couple of hours then decided to go for an explore around the Streets and up to the Port. It was just like the movies on SBS, very cold, Graffiti everywhere and not much for kids to do. Got lost a few times lucky I put a pin point on the hostel, otherwise id be stuffed because I couldn’t even pronounce the name of the street we staying on.
We went to the team meeting and had a look around the headquarters, The R&D department was quite interesting, Tommy the engineer was a great person to talk to, he showed us the prototype frames that they 3D print full size, then showed the different stages of Hydroforming the tubes, no one else seemed to be as excited as me about all these. The boys and Morgane had some photos taken, then they wanted to take more photos at a pub next door, what a shame, with nothing else to do, I had to sample some beer. We headed back to the hostel for a nana nap before going back to HQ for a BBQ, something that Germans really need some practice in, and more beers.
The next morning, I woke up at 2am, one good thing about having 8-hour time difference, I can annoy my wife, Jane first thing in the morning and she’s been up for hours. I headed off for another walk around to take some Photos, we had breakfast and headed to the warehouse to pack the Van and trailer for the long drive to Lourdes the next morning, for the First World Cup race of the season and Pats first one ever.
After the van was packed we headed out of Hamburg to a Dirt Jump track where they were having a party. It was funny getting out of the van and everything stops and people are staring at you whispering, it must have been my shorts, not the fact they Idealize Eddie. It was freezing the boys had a few runs of the dirt jumps, Pats a bit like me and struggles riding in the cold. I sat down with a couple of locals for a chat, they wanted photos with me, really weird, all the kids asked Pat to sign his helmet and we all had to sign a blokes Van. I wasn’t going to have a beer, but they twisted my arm and had one, then that was it, even before the it was finished, the top was off the next. Bloody Euros.
We had a 1600km Drive to Lourdes ahead of us, we decided to make a stop at Orleans which is south of Paris which was just over 1000kms. This took us though Belgium and into France all on motorways. The landscape was flat nearly the whole way. I love the style of houses here with the high slopey roofs and attics. There were little villages scattered everywhere, all seemed to have a church.
Driving through Belgium the trailer seemed to be a bit unstable. Didn’t seem to slow Eddie down though. We stopped at a servo and I did my usual trailer check to find that we had a flat rear tyre. No problems, we had two spares. we had to try and locate the jack and wheel brace. Looking though the van we found the compartment where they were kept, the only problem was they weren’t in there, so we found a socket and ratchet to loosen the nuts and drove the trailer onto a curb to lift the back wheel off the ground so we could pull it off. The trailer towed so much better after that. We drove through the Valley of Sommes, where one of the greatest battles of World War 2 was fought, over a million soldiers die, including Anzacs, quite fitting for the day before Anzac Day.
We arrived into Paris in peak hour traffic, I managed to see the top of the Eiffel tower, which is a bonus because I was able to see it before my other son, Drew, who is going over there in June to see it. It was very slow going, so Eddie took the chance of exposer for his Instagram account by making up sign and hanging out the window trying to get drivers and passengers attention. It worked and managed to get a few takers and entertained us for a bit.
We finally freed ourselves from the traffic and back in the country, Eddie was starting to get stir crazy and started singing and making up singing games. It was a relief to get to Orleans to get out the car. We had tea at Buffalo Grills, funny being in France and eating American food, but I did have a Creame Bulla for dessert which was delicious. We got into the Hotel to find that Pat and I had to share a double bed, so we built a pillow fort and fell asleep.
I was awoken at 2am by a thud and a yell from the room next door where Eddie, Kurt and Tommy were sleeping, apparently Eddie had a nightmare, stood on his bed jumped, hit his head on the ceiling then woke up. This was good for me because about two minutes later work texted me with a major water issue, that I managed to talk them through to get them going again.
I was the next driver up, as no one else wanted to reverse the trailer out. Driving on the wrong side of the road was very nerve racking, the first truck I overtook I nearly side swiped because I wasn’t in my lane enough, I slowly got use to it, but not confident. It was a 6-hour drive to Toulouse, where we were picking up Reece and Jordy from the airport. Jordy was a privateer rider from Perth who needed a lift to Lourdes and shared our accommodation. We arrived early so we went to a shopping center to the supermarket, man it was the biggest supermarket I’d ever seen, it had everything. we stocked up on some fruit, because I was craving it and headed off to pick up the boys. So, we had 7 of us in a six-seater van. It reminded me of the old days when I was a kid in the old Ford Falcon, were one of us used to have to stand up in the back while 3 sat in the seat, and then we would swap after a while. It was a long hour and a half, but we made it.
The accommodation was really good, it had its own cooking facilities, back to cooking for ourselves. I got up early the next day and went for a walk to find a coffee and try and catch up with Anne-Marie, on the way I went to a massive church with all these people in wheelchairs around it getting water from taps. the church was amazing, I went inside to check out the architecture, the problem was my boots were really squeaky and all the people praying were giving me the death stare, so I decided to squeak back out and went for a walk around a hill that had the stations of the cross on it. It was quite odd seeing people walking up to each station kneeling and praying, some even sang walking to each station. Each to their own I suppose. I went into town to find a coffee, man, nearly all the shops sold God stuff, with mainly cloggers (old people) buying stuff. Talk about profiteering from a religion, I found it quite disturbing. It was hard to find a place to get a takeaway cappuccino, but I finally found one, but they put whipped cream in it, it was horrible. Anne- Marie contacted me and I met her at her hotel. She had just received a massive gear bag full of promotional clothing that she was supposed to wear around the circuit, she was totally overwhelmed with the quantity that covered her whole double bed. We decided to see if we could find a decent coffee and headed up the street. It was really good being with her because I could have a normal adult conversation with someone, I was having massive separation anxiety from Jane, we found a cafe, and had the only good coffee I had in France, trust me, I tried so many places, it wasn’t funny, the French don’t know how to make good coffee, I really thought it would be different.
The other thing I noticed was how arrogant the French were, they would basically push you out of the way, or walk straight out in front of you, they drive like absolute lunatics, and pedestrian crossings mean nothing, when they walk down the street two abreast they won’t move over for you, and the streets are really narrow with cars speeding past you. So, I learnt to be just like them and basically had to push them out of the way.
I took Anne-Marie back to her hotel and headed back to see what the team were up to. When I arrived back at the apartment the boys had set up a workshop in the carpark and were building the bikes ready for racing, they were all brand new, but they stripped them down to check everything and a few part changes as well. Even the forks got rebuilt, new brakes, wheels, handlebars, each bike was custom fitted to each rider, Pat sat there wanting to help but Kurt and Tommy were in their element. They had a little motor scooter that wasn’t running so I pulled it apart to see if I could fix, with no luck, even with a mouth full of fuel. It started to rain, so we went into doors and prepared a nice home cooked meal of bangers mess, while Kurt and Tommy rebuilt wheels.
It was raining the next morning, but I still got out for an explore around the narrow streets Lourdes. It does have interesting architecture. Then it was up to the Pits to set up the Pit tent. Still cool and raining it wasn’t the most pleasant, but with the 7 of us it didn’t take long at all, it was built around the trailer. we made a few mistakes here and there but we got it there in the end, we will know what we are doing next time, Jack Moirs team, The Intense Factory Team, were setting up right next to us, and were struggling with theirs being a new one with heaps of bits. They started before us, but by the time we had finished ours, they only just had half the frame up.
There was some pretty big setup there, Mondraker, Trek, Polygon, and Specialized were massive. Met up with Anne-Marie again she was working in the Specialized Pits. She showed me around, it was a semi-trailer that had a massive enclosed awning off the side, there was a kitchen, dining room and sleeping quarters up the top. It had workshop out the back and storage above that.
Track walk was on Thursday, so we all met at the Pits and headed up the Death Train, a name given to the shuttle train that makes it way up the mountain face being drawn by a cable. Last year the brakes mustn’t had attached properly up the top and it rolled back a bit when it was full of riders and bikes, Reece was one of those. He said it was pretty scary, especially when the driver looked worried.
It was a typical scenery for a top of a DH track, an amazing view of the Pyrenees one way and back across Lourdes the other, it was cold, earlier that morning there was an inch of snow on the start ramp. The track wound under the Death Train track through some brick arches, then into a technical rock garden, down the track a bit further was the notorious Wall feature, where everyone was crashing in the rain there last year. It was steep, again reminding me why I don’t do this anymore. There were a few new sections that were basically racked off grass. We caught up to Mik Hannah, An Aussie DH Legend, he showed Pat a few lines then asked me to come over and check out the Polygon Pits. So, I continued down to the bottom through some tricky fast rock sections down to a massive step down to the finish arch. We went bike to the pits where Tommy and Kurt were still working on Pats and Morgan’s bikes.
Decided to take up Miks offer and headed to the Polygon Pits. Mik’s sister, Tracey, was there as well as Muddie. Mik showed me around his pits, it also a semi-trailer, then made me a cuppa tea and sat down and chatted for a while. Muddie was keen for me to have a look at his setup which was much the same, its pretty amazing to be able to push through the crowds and just waltz into these areas and being treated as one of the boys, Gee Atherton, Muddie’s team mate and another legend of the sport, was in there and had a chat. He was a lot nicer than everyone seems to portray him.
Pat had enough UCI points to give him the No#9 plate which allowed him to practice in the Group A, which meant he could practice with the top elite riders as well. So, Eddie was able to run him into jumps and show him what speed he had to do to get through things, which is really handy. On the second run Pat wrecked his back wheel, I warned Tommy he was a rim destroyer, and now he finally believed me, Tommy made it last the day and changed it ready for Qualifying. Other than that, the day went well, Pat was happy with his bike and felt confident. He got a timed training run of 3:29, and said he had time to make up.
Pat qualified in the morning, on another prefect day, Only the top 20 qualify, so after a few practice runs we headed up to the top for his start. I took a warmup bike so Pat could warm up his legs before his run. The view was amazing and warm enough for just a tee shirt. After warming up Pat headed off to the start line, I followed behind, when I got there they were running right on time. But I couldn’t see Pat, thinking that he decided to go to the toilet, so I went back to see if he was there but he wasn’t. then I turned around and saw him lined up in the gate, few.
I watched him leave the gate and headed back down the bottom, I was lucky to have Anne-Marie down the bottom to tell me he had finished. Once I was at the bottom I race over to the finish bowl to find out that he did a 3:14, which qualified him in 12th. I was relieved, he got to ride another ride day, makes it a little more worthwhile after travelling that far. This made Pat happy too, all but Reece qualified for racing.
The Juniors were down first, so with a couple more practice runs and Tommy going over the bike with fresh tyres we headed up the top early. Again, a perfect view and warm morning, I wasn’t stressing as much today because he had made the top 20. He was calm as always, so we warmed up and headed over to the start, I’m glad we headed up early the death train was chockers and people were stressing that they weren’t going to make their start time. I saw Pat to the gate and wished him luck and to be safe, and went down the track a bit to take some photos, which I am getting better at. Once he was pasted I quickly made it back to the Death Train for the long trip down with the other coach’s and mechanics for the other riders, the live timing wasn’t working so nobody knew what was going on.
Anne-Marie sent me the text I was waiting for “down safe”, It’s amazing the relief those two words can give you. Got to the bottom to find out he bettered his Qualifying time by 3 seconds giving him 9th spot. He achieved his goal. The team was wrapped.
Pat and I went up to the finish bowl to watch the men’s finals, the crowd there was amazing, horns, bells, chainsaws with no chains and other contraptions for making noise. The biggest problem we had was the amount of people smoking, everywhere we sat someone would light up a smoke, it was revolting. Makes you really appreciate the smoking laws in Australia. We watched Eddie, Muddie come down, then waited for Jack, all of a sudden, the temperature dropped and it began to rain. I had a rain coat but it was freezing. We watched Jack finish then went back to the pits to get warm and watch the rest on the Internet.
Morgane had a good run as well coming in at 9th, Eddie smashed his chain ring at the top and couldn’t pedal, but still came 58th.
After racing had finished we packed up the pits in the rain, it was freezing. Didn’t take long to do even though we couldn’t feel our hands, we deiced to go out for tea, so we headed to the local Chinese all you can eat. We all piled into Rupert Chapmans hire car, which was a Panda, a tiny little hatch back about the same size as a Ford Festiva, we managed to fit 7 of us in but it was a squeeze. At the restaurant they had snails, not garden ones, but sea snails, so the dare was put out that everyone had to try one, I wanted to anyway, it wasn’t too bad. We had a good feed and headed back to the apartments where Rupert had decided to have a pajama party, so he bought 120 Euros worth of alcohol and invited everyone around. I went for one beer then decided that I was too old for that and headed for bed. Glad I did, Jordy got home at 5:30 the next morning with no wallet, Kurt had to be carried home, and Eddie and Tommy weren’t in much of a state to drive.
I had to drive back to Toulouse so we could catch the Plane back home the next morning. I was so excited to be going back home to see Jane, Jess and Drew. We found a cheap motel near the Airport so we could walk there in the morning. With hours to spare I decided to go for a walk to see if I could find that massive supermarket we went to on the way to Lourdes, once I found it, it was closed and only 3pm on a Monday, weird French, so I just went for a walk around the streets, nothing exciting just new houses much like home, I walked to the airport to check out were to go and how long it would take. Jordy was staying with us and was on the same flight and he had a bike in a box as well, it was a fair walk with a bike box but doable, all good if it didn’t rain.
We woke up in the morning to head down the road to the airport, it was raining. I managed Jordy’s bag and Pat had his helmet while Jordy carried his bike. It was a couple of kms but he managed it. It was smooth sailing as I had found our check-in area the day before. We went in through the security and had breakfast. We had half an hour till boarding at 7 o’clock, we made our way to the gate only to realize that we had to go through a passport check and there was a massive line up. I was starting to stress because it was so slow, I didn’t want to miss this flight and delay seeing Jane and the kids. We made it through in the nick of time and headed to Brussels. We only had a short stop over and had to go through another Passport check which took forever. We got through that and jumped on the plane to Abu Dhabi, I had a plan not sleep till we got on the plane to Sydney, being a fourteen-hour flight I thought if I sleep through 8 hrs. it would be better. It worked I had tea then had a couple of sleeping tablets and slept for about 8 hours.
We landed in Sydney got through customs, walked out into the main area to find mum and dad and my aunty and uncle waiting for me, it was great, I was really tired and wanted to see Jane, so I was probably not the best company. I had organized to meet Jane at Hornsby station, which is about half way home, we jumped off the train just as She, Jess and Drew arrive, perfect timing. It was so good to see them, I drove home and after 40 hours of travelling I was keen to get into my own bed,
I woke up the next day at 6 o’clock fresh as a daisy, no jet lag, and spent the day with Jane. The next day I went to work, before Jane was sick of me, to see how Work Wife, Kyra, was handling things while I was away. As always had things under control. Managed to get boat out the next weekend to have a ski with my little girl, it was so nice to be home.
So I get a week and a half at home before heading to the Gold Coast for the Aussie Champs then another week before heading to Fort William in Scotland.
Photos: Tim Butler