The team at the jumping off point in the gardens of Liege
Apologies for that intermission. The unrelenting transfers, poor connectivity and the shear overhead of this adventure have been daunting so far. Dave Christenson and I have been pitching in with bike cleaning, tuning and laundry to keep the team spinning on the road and Jennifer, our photo assistant, has been improving her high-speed euro driving.
It was a week ago when my fill up with gasoline (instead of GAZ/Diesel) put the photo car out of commission for most of the day. It was really miraculous that we found a service that would pump out the tank and fuel lines on a Belgian Sunday when everything is closed. A pat on the back from the mechanic and a walk to the rear of the garage confirmed the service does a brisk business in this common mistake.
The team roaring along with the big Dutch peloton
Our rest day finds us monopolizing our little hotel... the parking lot is strewn with bikes in various states of cleaning and reassembly. Kym's husband Glenn Fant is hard at work switching out our ZIPP 101s for ZIPP's latest carbon wheelset. Having Levi Leipheimer's mechanic working on our team bikes is a special attraction that has one or two Dutch riders perpetually mesmerized at his speed and efficiency. He stops periodically to answer questions or look at their bikes when they have problems.
The EVO cockpit, SRAM RED, FSA bars and stem, Quarq mount for the Garmin 500s
Laundry hangs from the balconies and everyone tries to find a little shade from the afternoon sun. We had a brief team meeting after lunch to talk about the big mountains ahead and team strategy. They'll wait for each other at the top if the weather is warm. You can't ride the big cols like the Tourmalet and not capture a team photo at the summit unless the weather is bad in which case they'll descend to a better spot and regroup. The photo car will descend a few minutes ahead of the group and set up for our one shot at them descending. When they pass we'll bring up the rear to make sure they all get down safely.
Kym Fant's Hair isn't just for beauty... as Maria demonstrates
There were a few days out in the wind where the team enjoyed the shelter of the bigger Dutch group, but now it's just the team against the mountains and whatever inner questions remain about climbing or descending in the heads of each rider. All of the Cannondale Women's SuperSix EVO's are now running SRAM WiFLi giving the women a lowest gear of 34/32. Our CAPO clothing is working well... the team are so comfortable in their custom team kit that they are wearing it every second day. All of the work done by Giro to give them perfect shoes seems to have paid off, I've not heard any complaints of sore feet.
Bananas, melons, apricots, nectarines, baguettes, quiches, biscuits, bars, all consumed each day.
The team car has worked out well and is now sporting a big Osmo on the hood to reflect the major role that Osmo hydration plays each day. Our Belgian-made custom roof rack holds seven bikes (three fork clamped and four seatpost clamped with both wheels) and it makes for quick bike loading and unloading. They even anticipated us having to shoot out the back with the rear hatch open so the rear bike channels kick outwards to clear the hatch. Very cool.
Osmo Nutrition front and center on the team car
We have some promising early footage from our camera bike which Dave rides with a full DSLR rig. We nearly tested our safety cable when vibrations backed out the baseplate screw but we just need some locktite to ensure that doesn't happen again and we should get some spectacular descending footage.
Cars have been our nemesis (what's new for cycling photography on open roads) but some of our footage shows just how fast they close on the riders and swing by. Not for the faint of heart.
Cars and Trucks approach at high speed
Waiting for teammates at the top is a Rêve tradition. Kristen earned the day's team award for dropping back down to see if Maria's flat was fixed
That's it, having broken the connectivity shutout I'm hoping I'll be able to post each night, but there's no guarantee with our crazy schedule. Tomorrow we leave the hotel at 6:30 am for a one hour transfer to a tough stage. We plan to get riding 20 minutes before the Dutch group to ensure we get to lunch on time.
Kym reunited with her two-year-old son Axl last Friday
Dutch Tour leader Pascal (sans helmet always) always at the head of the fast group out front
Heidi enjoying her Osmo Recovery
The 110% Dance team
Jennifer's big scrape