GP Midtbank (May 5)/ GP Arhus (May 6)
By Sabine Sunderland*
Take three women: one gorgeous blonde twenty-one year old Norwegian girl, one tall very sporty twenty-seven year young Swedish belle and a thirty-one year old Belgian mum, who's married to an Australian and who gets away from a five year old for the first time; put them together in one hotel, let them get their hands on a camera and put them on the VIP bus during two days of racing...what do you get? Believe me, you get an interesting mixture of laughter, exchanging of ideas and experiences and of course, hours of chatting, quite cynical remarks and all this with one major subject: male cyclists!
As you would have guessed, I'm the one married to the Australian and
a very proud mum to Saen, the five-year-old powerpack. Scott told me
a few weeks ago that he had thought about me joining him for the GP
Midtbank and the GP Arhus, 2 races in Denmark. He spoke to Kim Andersen,
his director, about it and Kim was fine with the idea of having a little
get-together with the other riders and their girlfriends or wives on
that occasion. It would be an understatement to tell you that came as
The experiences I have had during the last eight years of sharing my
life with a professional cyclist have not been what you would call positive
when it comes to being present during the hours before and after races.
Most directors don't want any girlfriends or wives in close vicinity
of their boys during competition. Only a couple of weeks ago I spoke
to the wife of a successful sprinter who told me she was getting that
message only too well from her husband's director sportive. So, I was
kind of hesitant to stay at the same hotel as Scott during the weekend
racing in Denmark. Scott told me it would be no problem at all.
When Peter Meinert picked us up at the airport in Billund on Thursday, the 3rd of May, I was already put at ease by his casual greeting and the relaxed chat on the way to the hotel.
Vestøl (Nor) Team Fakta showing his teeth in the GP Midtbank
The Comfort Hotel in Arhus was nicely situated in the harbour and in the lobby we found Kurt Asle Arvesen, his girlfriend Nina and Marcus Ljungqvist just hanging out in an armchair while Kim Andersen arranged our accommodation at the reception. We went out for diner with Kurt, Nina and Marcus, who was now looking forward even more to his girlfriend arriving the next day. Marcus had not been home for 7 weeks and the weekend was something he had been anticipating. Friday morning, Nina and I went into town and the guys went training. Although Arhus has a great shopping centre, we resisted the urge to splash out and Kurt and Scott could not believe we didn't spend one kroner! Lunch was enjoyed in an Italian restaurant and afterwards, Scott decided to have a rest before having a massage and attending the team meeting.
I slept for almost two hours, immensely enjoying not being woken up
by little fingers poking my face, squeezing my arms and other body parts
or not getting the usual rough wake-up signal by simply being jumped
on! At the dinner table, I met Carina, Marcus' girlfriend and although
we women were all a bit uncomfortable sitting in the same room with
all this male testosterone perfuming the air, we quietly made arrangements
for the next day.
Team Fakta had two important races on the schedule - the GP Midtbank
on Saturday, May 5, and the GP Arhus on May 6. Although they were only
1.4, publicity-wise these races are of importance to the sponsors. The
Fakta stores can be found everywhere in Denmark and the guys understood
the pressure that was on them to ride a good race. CSC also took this
race very seriously and had the publicity crew working their tails off.
They even replaced two riders the second day to have "fresh" legs to
do the work.
The first race (GP Midtbank) was a mini Paris-Roubaix. Instead of the kilometres of cobbles, they got 24 km of gravel and sand roads. If the rain would come, it promised to be quite a dirty situation. Luckily, it stayed dry. The wind was so immensely strong though that Nina, Carine and myself were happy to get on one of the VIP buses and be chauffeured from point to point, hop out, take a few pics, cheer on our team and hop back on the bus again. This was the first time in eight years I had followed a race like this and I can assure you, it is great. While we were undergoing the "hard life of a cyclist's wife", drinking a couple of beers and having lunch served to us by the Fakta and CSC people, our men were out on the parcours, fighting in the wind and riding a very hard race.
The result did not at all reflect the work that had been done during the race itself. Tactically, the race went very well for Fakta, but the boys weren't able to put one of the team on the podium. Kurt finished 7th, Marcus 10th. Kim was happy, though, with how his team rode and could only regret the situation in the finale of the race. As the Fakta boys say, "c'est la vie!".
Scandinavian version of
That evening, I stayed in my room; ordered a big Super Nordic Hamburger with fries. The previous evening, I hadn't enjoyed the cyclists' menu (pasta/meat/salad). As I knew it was probably going to be a similar thing that evening, I chickened out. Scott says that was some of the better food they get - gee, now I understand why he is always dying for a good steak with creamy mushroom sauce when he gets home after a period of racing. Sunday morning and the sun greeted me as I opened the curtains. I couldn't open them too far by the way, as underneath my window, which didn't have mirrored glass, the team trucks were being prepared and the soigneurs and mechanics of different teams were rushing back and forth with different chores to be done. I got dressed and met up with the girls.
Thomas Glud, our "guardian angel" from the Fakta headquarters made
sure we got a spot on the VIP bus again and this time it was really
crowded. Norwegian, Swedish and Danish are quite similar languages but
it was hard for Nina and Carine to understand what the, mainly male,
supporters were saying on the bus. We had a good spot and were well
looked after by Thomas, who brought us refreshments and translated most
of the comments. We had a lot of fun! At the last point of passage,
we got back on the bus in very good spirits. Every time we saw the cyclists
pass, we noticed our Fakta team jerseys in the front. Scott and Roberto
especially looked like they were powering on the major climb of the
day. Kurt and Marcus looked comfortable as well and we were sure they
were going to be there for the finale.
So, we arrived back in Arhus and we were guided to the VIP tent where a buffet was waiting for us. As we were getting some food, the race commentator announced the first group. We looked up, saw three jerseys flashing past but realized quickly there weren't any Fakta shirts in there. The race became dull after that. The three CSC boys weren't chased and the fact that they didn't sprint for the victory made it all pretty boring to watch. There was more excitement seeing Marcus win the sprint of the second group! Kurt finished eighth. Roberto Lochowski won the sprint classification. Scott rolled in, looking a little disappointed, in 21st position.
Team Fakta had, again, been very active from the start of the race but got taken by surprise when the break with three CSC guys went. None of the other teams was able to do the work to get them back; the windy conditions made it an impossible mission. Nina, Carine and I had been quite disappointed with the whole development. I mean, one moment they were there, the next moment, nowhere to be seen. We were very harsh with our comments while the strung out peloton passed the finish line and were enormously critical, until we heard what the race had been like and what happened while we were driving to the finish.
The strict "No partying or going out tonight!" punishments were quickly hidden in our handbags and we were once again very supportive as we sat together in the lobby of the hotel, waiting for the men to finish showering. Peter Sejer Nielsen, his partner Jo-Anne and Kim Andersen took us out for dinner and we had a great evening with some fantastic team. We all enjoyed the laughs and the atmosphere with "just a few" shots of flamin' sambuccas to kickstart the night.
The next morning, well, let's say we were present at the breakfast table at 9 am, refreshed and ready to tackle some more racing in the coming weeks and months...I won't say any more. Scott is leaving for the Peace Race tomorrow; a race he will mainly ride for training. Scott hasn't ridden a stage race since the Tour of Langkawi. He kept his form high until he got sick just before the Amstel Gold Race. After that his condition went rapidly downhill. He had been pushing things to get through the weekend in Denmark, where he wanted to be part of things for the Danish fans he has gained since he joined Fakta. His disappointment was touching but again "c'est la vie". What Scott says he needs now is another building-up period. The Peace Race fits that schedule.
At this stage, most of the teams are having a break but Fakta is keeping up the pace by doing five stage races and seven one day races in the coming two months. Scott will be riding GP Wallonie on the 24th of May, followed by the Tour of Germany (29th of may to the 4th of June). I'm sure Scott will find some time to give you a report on the nine stages of the Peace Race himself. If it is as hard as what the organising of this trip was, it will be a very interesting read! To obtain his visas for both Polen and Tschechia we spent two half days in the car, a few hours in waiting rooms and the visas cost the price of a plane ticket to fly there!
Till some other time!
*Sabine Sunderland is married to Scott Sunderland, who rides for Team Fakta
Race results: GP Midtbank, GP Arhus