So, it's the end of May, but my calendar still shows April.
There's a good reason for that. My Graham Watson cycling calendar. Appropriately, the month of April (the month of spring classics) features the man that dominated last year's Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The Brad Pitt of cycling, Fabian Cancellara.
KKB saw what was coming. When I opened up to April, he quipped straight away, "looks like it's going to be April 2011 for a while".
My admiration of Fabian, which, by the way, is not purely physical, has grown over the last year or two. Let's face it, what's not to like? He's the current Olympic champion, four time and current reigning world time trial champion, has worn yellow at the Tour de France, and is feared by the peleton when he lines up for one day races.
He won my heart last year when riding solo to the finish line of the Tour of Flanders. With the camera focused on him, he reached into his jersey pocket and pulled out a small gold angel charm, turned to the camera and kissed it, looking straight down the barrel to the TV audience. The commentator explained the significance of this.
The story goes that his daughter had asked him what he puts in his pockets when he rides. Fabian's answer wasn't very satisfactory to his toddler, and not long after she presented him with this charm so he had something to carry with him.
While part of me was just a little disappointed that his smile a few Ks out from the finish line wasn't just for me, most of me saw this gesture to his little girl was a sign of a good man. So, when we headed off to France just a few months later to follow the Tour de France, Fabian was on a very short list of cyclists I was keen to prioritise in those rare times when you can get up close to the circus.
Jens Voigt was also on my list of course, and the fact that they both rode for Saxobank would even make my stalking more manageable, particularly on the most convenient of stalking days, the time trial. We were in Bordeaux for the penultimate stage of the tour. The time trials are a good chance to get photos and watch the teams in action, as at the start the team buses set up warm up areas for the cyclists, and the mechanics set to work in preparing the bikes for the showiest of stages.
We arrived early to see just a handful of teams already set up. No surprise that the teams that looked most ready to go were the teams at the top of the race - BMC, Radio Shack, and of course, Saxobank. (Interestingly Contador's team, Astana, were conspicuously absent early on.)
The setups are amazing. Buses with laundries where the cargo hold usually is. Trailers filled with bikes and wheels which, when emptied of their precious cargo, transform into mechanic workshops. We even heard that one of the teams has converted a truck into a commercial kitchen, so they can prepare their own food whereever they are.
While some of the teams were easing into their day, the Saxobank bus was a hive of activity. The Schleck bikes were on display (Andy's of course the most blingy) as well as Fabian's time trial rig also on show, complete with the Olympic rings emblazoned on the saddle. The team had a lot to get ready for, being the team of both a general classification contender and the current world time trial champion.
Fabian arrived first. He was surrounded by team staff. He cruised on in, and greeted the team staff on his way up the steps of the bus. Soon after, it was back down the steps in cycling kit, iPod in. Also inserted were those bud things that you put up your nose to clear nasal passages. OK, so that took a few points off the hotness stakes. Quick, Fabian, get on the bike and start pedaling so I can see those thighs in action!
He got the royal treatment, with physios checking his posture, mechanics checking every detail of his bike, and support staff fussing over every other detail. After a good, long warmup, he was off - a whirlwind of support staff in tow and his pilot car in pursuit.
Not long after, along came Jens. He was all ready to go in his speed suit. After a few hellos he got straight on his bike on the trainer, circled his legs for just five minutes or so. Quite unceremoniously, he jumped on his time trial bike and rode away to his start.
As we were stationed at the start at Bordeaux, we had to rely on TV screens to find out that Fabian won the day, as expected.
I don't know where Jens came. It doesn't matter. It wasn't his job to do much more than ride the course within the cutoff time.
Phil's right, it might be April 2011 for a while. Unless of course he can find a Fabian Cancellara calendar.