|Palais de Chine hotel suite, office and bathroom|
Mark Villegas in crowded Palais
lobby, kindly manning my bags,
while pro team-people watching.
The frenzy that followed the breakfast was comical. There were hoards of cyclists trying to fit into a limited number of elevators, cramming in not only themselves, but their bike boxes and luggage. During this mass chaos, we somehow found ourselves consistently in the same place as most of the Giant Asia Team, including one smiling Iranian pro rider - Daryo. An adorable, lean, taller than average for a pro - and entertaining (he wanted to hang with us (having some smitten eyes for a certain tall lean athletic girl in our group, likely), and it was a blast to see him throughout the rest of our trip in random situations and hotels).
We all awaited our guides (or their managers) to lead us to our buses that would take us to attend the same press conference in a train station a short trip away. The lower lobby was a gridlock of bike boxes and luggage. It was pouring outside, so the space was filled by riders trying to stay dry. Imagine all this in the small ground-floor space, and now add a life size sculpture of a horse. It was hilarious.
Our clever and well-spoken MC ran the show again, helping translate and making sure to include us English-speaking media. He did an excellent job of marketing Taiwan and made clear their mission to promote cycling and tourism. Having the Taiwanese government, the world’s largest bicycle manufacturer (Giant), and Giant's founder’s “Cycling Lifestyle Foundation” all working together, you can see how in another year, this will be much larger, more publicized, and on it’s way to becoming a serious cycling destination. It was nice to be here at its birth, and nice to see the coordinated effort.
Friere (and his Rabobank team) are sponsored by Giant Bicycles, clearly the headliner for the event. He was genuine in his appreciation for the country’s hospitality, and complimented its potential in joining the pro circuit. He was a real pro: he knew he was the big name they needed to get eyebrows raised, and clearly wasn’t his first press conference.
|Teams pose with Sponsors and Dignitaries (photo by Mark Blacknell)|
Chatted with the New Zealand chap in front.
He was just selected to go pro, and
excited to train in Europe, but not
to be away from his girlfriend.
Robbie Hunter and I steal a moment during
the photo frenzy. Lighting was terrible for my
inferior photography equipment.
|Óscar Freire's wife in background, Bev Garrity|
and Erik Dekker at press conference before
heading to the trains