[editor's note, by chris] Copied from the Comments... Steve will be reporting live from Solvang on the ToC and his canoodling with the pros the next two weeks. But it doesn't get much better than this, right? Steve says:
I just finished a 4 hour training ride with CSC.
I was hanging around the hotel at about 10AM this morning and the team came out and assembled for the ride. The entire squad is here. Bjarne looks super fit, very trim, and kinda grumpy.
As the team rolled out, I hopped in behind and tried to look cool and not too dangerous. I think that today was the first day that the entire team was here. All had new bikes with SRM power meters and for the first 10 miles or so, riders were dropping back to get little adjustments made to their bikes. Bobby, Dave, Ivan, and Carlos were riding different frames - looked like last year's model, but I'm guessing that they had the extra secret goodies.
After about 15 or so miles, after one of his trips back to the car, Ivan Basso pinched my butt and winked at me. It's true - Ivan Basso pinched my butt.
Anyhow, we crossed a nasty little climb where we dropped a few of the riders who appeared to be suffering from the worst jet lag or were otherwise sick. I has hesitant to come around when the gap opened but figured that the most they could do was tell me to piss off. The riders were asking me how long the climb was and I warned them that the descent was nasty with bad pavement. Bad enough that I dropped a water bottle and had to go back and get it - had to chase like crazy to get back on.
Then there was the first of several "breaks." Last year when Discovery was in town, I had the honor of pissing next to Eki; today I pissed next to Sastre.
After a few more miles, the team broke into a couple of groups to do some interval work. Bjarne and the directors were following in a van (often pulling alongside the riders to film them, ask how they were doing, etc). At this point, Bjarne asked me to drop behind the following car while they did their intervals. So I went back and sucked on the back of the mechanics car. A speedplay rep was hanging out the window taking pictures of the team and talking to me about my bike, riding here, etc.
A team rider also dropped back to suck off the car as well. He told me that he had just returned for Quatar and was sick. I don't know who he was, but he got dropped pretty badly on each climb.
After about a half an hour riding behind the car, I snuck my way back up to ride with the team. We noodled along for another hour or so, but at one point they got excited and ramped things up to about 34mph for about 5 miles. This was another "behind the car" moment for me. And Jakob Piil.
There was another regrouping a few miles later where Bjarne told the group that they would split in half with one group going over the big-ass mountain and the other group doing something else or just going back to the hotel. He says "some of you are fucked" (which sounded like "faaked"). Bobby sez, "It's sick how great the riding is here." At this point, I'm nearly out of water. I had planned on a 2 hour ride, so I only had two small bottles and one Pria bar. So I decided to head back with the faaked group.
At one intersection, the faaked group split in half with some going straight back to Solvang and the other headed out for another short loop. I went with the group that was going to ride for awhile longer. Turns out that it was me, Lars Michaelsen, Jakob Piil, and Jens Voigt. I was sorta hanging in the back (still looking cool) and Lars motions me up to ride next to him (behind Piil). We start talking and he's asking me where they should go to get in another hour or so of riding. I give him some pointers and he asks if I'll come along to show them. I start whining about my lack of water and he asks for my bottle and pours some of his water into my bottle.
So the four of us start heading back out of town toward Michael Jackson's ranch (they were very excited to hear this). Jens asks me my name and would I mind pulling for awhile. He says, "I'll talk to Bjarne and we'll get you a contract." So Lars and I come through and pull for about the next 10 miles. Eventually, Jens asks how to get back to Solvang because he got in late last night and is "too faaked."
So we continue noodling along, me and Lars, with Piil sucking wheel. So I start talking to Lars about this year's classics and what it's like to race in Roubaix. He goes on and on about the pave and how great the race is. Then he starts complaining about Flecha last year and how he screwed up the last 20k of the race, etc., etc.
This whole time, I'm thinking "holy shit, this is Lars Michaelsen, who got 5th in Roubaix last year and he's just sitting here talking about it..."
Then we head back toward Solvang and I suggest an alternative route that they don't know about. He says that Barjne should talk to me to get more insider knowledge because he wasn't impressed with some of the places they had been the day before. We cruise back in to Solvang and I lead them in to their hotel where they drop their bikes off. I shake hands with Lars and he says "now you should go do another two hours." Piil limped off pretty quickly. He was looking extra faaked and we had "dropped" him a couple times on the way back.
Now I'm feeling a bit faaked myself, but it was pretty cool.
How did you react to this story?
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A good laugh
Felt like a wild ride
Began looking for a job in California
Wanted to kill Steve