Newbies Don’t Wait

Oh, just wait. That’s what media veterans of the Tour keep telling me. When I saw my first fleet of team vehicles: Oh, just wait, imagine 19 sets of those. When I lagged behind at breakfast, wanting to see a team sit down and eat: Oh, just wait, soon enough there will be so many, you won’t even notice anymore. When I caught my first glimpse of a rider: Oh, just wait, there are hundreds more. When our hotel room water and electricity shut off suddenly and without warning: Oh,  just wait, this often happens with teams at hotels. When our internet connection was slow, at best: Oh, just wait, you’ll see that we’re really lucky to have any internet, or even the mention of it.

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Team Euskaltel-Euskadi’s fleet of vehicles is one of the more difficult to miss.

The thing is, for me, there’s no waiting. Because waiting is what you do when you know what to expect. And as a first-time media person working my first Tour de France, how could I have expected anything similar to what I’ve experienced so far. Shaking Brian Holm’s hand. Watching Rolf Aldag try on my sunglasses. Listening to Steve Blick‘s stories of mountain biking with legends of the sport and skateboarding in the same places as Tony Hawk as a high schooler. Standing mere feet away from Christian Prudhomme as he spoke to the media, only to have Bernard Hinault walk in front of me.

2013 Tour de France - 27.06.13

Brian Holm: the man, the legend, the impressive facial hair.

2013 Tour de France - 27.06.13

Tom Steels, Joris Van Roy and Rolf Aldag (from L to R), part of the good crew of Omega Pharma-Quick-Step.

Standing between Omega Pharma-Quick-Step‘s team bus and team truck, watching the mechanics prep the bikes. Standing to the side watching as the riders prepared for their training ride. Observing a tennis match between a team doctor, the team bus driver and two soigneurs. Getting the hang of team routines, like just how much daily washing is done: the cars, the wheels, the shoes, the bikes, the clothing. Navigating the maze of picking up media credentials. Getting directions to a laundromat in broken English; directions that turn out to be from a speaker who confused the English words for right and left, and instructed that when I arrived, I would see three buildings where people live and in the middle one, I go in the alley and look for the sign. Going to the grocery store, which is, as anyone who’s lived or traveled abroad knows, an intensely disorienting experience.

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No detail is overlooked by the team mechanics.

2013 Tour de France - 27.06.13

The daily ritual of washing the team fleet of vehicles.

Each night, I try to recount the day, and am surprised at how difficult it is to recall the morning, and especially the previous day’s happenings. Just one morning has enough introductions, visuals, and observations to fill my head. The past three days have been a blur as we’ve made the rounds to shoot for various clients, organized pre-Tour logistics, attended mandatory race media gatherings and run unavoidable last-minute errands. And although I’m never one to easily forget a meal, eating is something that becomes another thing to do on the list of many daily activities.

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Press packets upon schedules upon press packets upon schedules.

I like to think I won’t be too starry-eyed for the entire time. I like to think that I’m learning as I go. That maybe instead of people asking me, Oh, are you the driver?, they might start asking me, How many Tours have you done? or, Are you staying for the whole Tour? Each day I get a little better at knowing what to do, and where to stand, and I try to pick up some pro tricks, like acting as though I’m supposed to be everywhere that I am. Also, I’m proud to report that each day, Iri and Jim wave me out of their shots less and less.

Behind the scenes, the saying is, hurry up and wait. But I’m still too green for that. So for now, I’ll just hurry up and…  remember.

2013 Tour de France - 27.06.13

The team presentation, with large crowds and significant media, could easily have been mistaken for a rock concert.