Wednesday, May 22, 2024

World Road Championships 2006 – Day 5: Elite Road Race – Paolo Bettini


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It’s Sunday now and Paolo Bettini is World Champion, here at the World Road Championships 2006.

Erik Zabel’s last chance of a rainbow jersey is surely gone, Valverde has another Worlds medal and I’d better try to get this diary up to date.

I left you yesterday as the women’s race was running its course.

 Phillip Deignan.
Phillip Deignan.

I was supposed to be doing interviews with young Irish riders Phillip Deignan and Nicholas Roche, son of legend, Stephen Roche yesterday afternoon, however it didn’t come off and it was back to the drawing board.

As I think I said, I installed myself in the photographer’s part of the press room so as I could go hard-wired instead of wi-fi (wee-fee as they call it over here).

Who sits down beside me? Photo-legend Graham Watson, that’s who. There’s my other story for the day, I thought to myself.

He was easy to talk and you can read the interview here this coming Tuesday.

Sitting beside him is an education, his pictures are amazing and his hands flash across the key board as he crops, edits and emails his shots.

Italian coach Franco Ballerini explains the win.
Italian coach Franco Ballerini explains the win.

Most of the photographers and many of the journalists use Apple Macs; I’ll need to look into that, they all seem to have a bigger screen too and I like that.

I heard one of the photographers say that it’s well nigh impossible to get viruses on a Mac. If anyone out there reading this can tell me if that’s true and what the other benefits of a Mac are, I would be most grateful.

It was another late one, I would have loved to have a good stroll round Salzburg’s bustling night life but I wanted to be on top of my game for the big one.

I did a real-time BlackBerry diary of Sunday so rather than me write and you read the same thing twice I’ll try to cover stuff that’s not up there.

Luxemburg fans back Frank Scelke.
Luxemburg fans back Frank Scelke.

I was up early and on the street for 8.00, I couldn’t face breakfast at the digs, I was high and didn’t want to be dragged down by the wax work dining room.

The streets were already hotching with fans and officials and I decided just to wander up and down the finishing straight, taking it all in and popping pics.

I decided to do the running diary thing plus settled on my two pieces for the day – who the cool guys are at the worlds and a photo-based piece on the various fans here.

There were Boonen fans everywhere plus a huge number of deranged Dutchmen who went absolutely bonkers after the Dutch girl won the ladies race. They have an oom-pah band who were giving it big licks after her win. There are flags from all over the world and I thought we could make a good piece if I got enough shots.

I got good shots of fans from Belgium (easy, there are thousands of them) Slovenia, Holland, Finland, Norway, Brittany and more I can’t remember just now.

From left: Italian coach Franco Ballerini explains the win, Luxemburg fans back Frank Scelke, Spectating in style.

Spectating in style.
Spectating in style.

Out of the blue the Belgian team just appeared and I managed to rattle-off a few shots; Boonen is just so charismatic.

After that I headed up to the sign-on and likewise got a load of good pics of the riders before the rabid guys with the big lenses appeared. It’s real paparazzi stuff, they just barge you out of the way.

They all shoot on motor-drive or whatever you call the digital equivalent, they’ll maybe shoot ten to get one and they edit down from hundreds of shots back at the press room.

Bjarne Riis was there saying hello to all his guys – he was surprisingly warm with them all, especially Zabriskie. I tried to pin him down to an interview about the success of his CSC riders in the Time Trial Champs (three of the first four) but he can fob-off better men than me with ease.

After a while I bolted up to the start and was right in among all the riders, nobody seemed unduly bothered and I was there right until the start snapping-away, which wasn’t quite as chaotic as the under 23 one.

Cipo - coolest man on the planet.
Cipo – coolest man on the planet.

I had a load of pics to edit, so it was back to press room and head-down. On the way back I practically walked-into Mario Cipollini.

The man has an aura, he looks as slim as he did when he raced and could have walked straight out of GQ Italia.

I managed to resist the temptation to touch him but rattled of a quick shot which fortunately turned-out fine.

Back at the press room you have to set-up shop then transfer your pictures from the camera to the laptop, ditch any bad ones, rotate any that need it then email them with a note of what they are, lots to do.

That done I was back on the street, like I said you can follow my progress round the circuit…

I have to say it was a wonderfully well organised event; despite a few volunteer officials being on a power-trip. The hilly part of the circuit was just one huge party-zone and it would have been great just to be a spectator, it was baking up there, with glorious views to the mountain.

I watched the finish on TV back in the press room and it was good to see Millar in the thick of the action; I think he’s a changed man – for the better.

I wasn’t surprised by the Italians win, sometimes they get it right for most of the race then lose control in the finale but Franco Ballerini, the team coach has done a great job of forging them into a cohesive unit. If you check-out my diary for today you’ll see that I reckoned it was going to be their day.

I had thought Paolo Bettini was the man; Cioni and Backstedt were both waxing lyrical about his form when I spoke to them during the Vuelta – watch for him in the late season classics though.

The first thing I did after the race was to just press send on the BlackBerry, I wasn’t sure if they would use it or not but it was on the site within minutes along with a lot of my pics. I had taken another batch of pics, mainly of fans on my travels so I had to do the needful with them and then write-up my cool article. I gave the award to Di Luca by the way, mainly for having his Bianchi colour-coded with his jersey, it looked the absolute biz. That done, it was VeloVeritas time.

It’s 9.00 pm now and most of the photographers have bolted. I obviously made a great impression on Graham Watson, he just got up and left without so much as a cheerio. Next-up I’m going to see if I can get you some pictures to go with these words.

Talk to you tomorrow and thanks for reading.