My pal Vik called me this morning; ‘the racing at the Grenoble Four Day can’t be very good if you’re spending so much time taking pictures of boys on the trapeze!’
If I could get him down here it would be different.
It’s not just a bike race; if he was here, eating the nice food, drinking champers with friends, with the race whizzing around him and the amazing shows, he’d see things in a new light.
He particularly hates the magic acts and the girl who does the balloon figures; I asked him if he wanted me to bring back a balloon puppy dog or a monkey – that got him off the line.
I managed to fit in a couple of interviews, today – Nolan Hoffman and our boy, Guy East.
Nolan is from South Africa, he was second to Ben Swift in the Worlds Scratch Race – it’s cool to see a black guy hurtling round the track; it reminded me of the ‘good old days’ when Maurice Burton was on the circuit.
Guy is an interesting character; he won the U23 UiV indoor track cup; was with Trek-Livestrong then Kelly Benefits – which is a very successful team in the US – but decided he needed space to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
He’s spent a lot of time helping those less fortunate than he is; but he just can’t stay away from the indoor tracks scene.
Meanwhile, Kenny De Ketele did what you’d expect any World Champion track rider to do the afternoon before an evening of fast indoor track – he climbed l’Alpe d’Huez.
l’Alpe is just a little over an hour away, along the valley – but make that four hours if the Tour de France is in town.
‘How did it go, Kenny?’ I enquired.
‘Not so bad, even though it rained all the way, I rode 39 x 25 just two minutes behind Contador’s time – I think maybe I can kick his ass up there, some time!’
But Kenny can be a bit of a joker.
Vik, if you’re reading, miss this next bit out.
The seafood buffet was amazing tonight, langoustines, oysters – the full bifta, with beautiful sweets to finish off.
One day I’m going to dine here then hang over the barriers annoying the guys in the ‘quartier coureurs.’
As I said in yesterday’s epistle, Laurent Biondi asked me to take some pictures of his boy in action in the youngsters’ races.
I was happy to oblige, Monsieur Biondi is a cool guy – it wouldn’t be the first time he’s helped us unload the camper.
Young Biondi is taller than his father and looks good on his track bike – but not as cool as Biondi senior en route the Worlds Professional Points Race title in 1990.
The band here might not be to my taste, but those boys earn their corn; playing from the start of the schoolboy races, through the presentations, all of the races, right to the bitter end – respect.
The opening 42 lap Points Race was fast; the boys were well warmed up by the end of that one.
Franco was back, but only briefly, to comply with the UCi rules and ride the first half of the points to keep Tristan in the race.
The 35 minute chase was quick – a nice race to watch with the French guys well involved.
But as Austin says; ‘when Keisse and De Ketele go, it’s like this’ … and he makes the gesture of opening the throttle on a motorbike.
And if you’re familiar with my descriptions of events in Grenoble in previous years, you’ll remember the horror that is ‘No limits.’
In other words, a standstill contest – this goes in the, ‘only in France’ file.
This year they held it on the track centre stage, rather than on the actual track.
Dirk held up trainer-wearing Jason Kenny as the speaker counted down to ‘let go’ time.
I didn’t time it, but it was nowhere near the 27 minutes we had to endure a few years ago from Arnaud Tournant.
As the minutes ticked by, Dirk whispered in my ear; ‘if this is Gent, they would be throwing stuff at us by now!’
Jason ‘won’ after Tournant did a good job of distracting Baugé.
The Team Time Trial whirled around us as I sneaked into the track centre to take some snaps – the magic guy and girl were working well.
But it was a tough call, watch the TTT or join the “cookie queue”?
I caught a few snaps of the Folies girls en route the stage before I spotted the security guy striding towards me and bolted back to the cabin.
Around this time, Guy decided he needed a ride on the back of the motorbike – it’s driven by a real live stunt rider who takes terrified punters for a couple of demented laps.
In honour of Guy being a speed merchant too, he even popped a couple of wheelies – mad!
The Golden Statues did their thing, then it was the sprinters again.
Kevin Sireau holds the world record with 9.572 in Moscow and is still only 25, but despite his speed and European titles, he’s never won the World Sprint Title.
He’s a tall man for a sprinter – whilst his build is untypical of the breed, he has the big personality one usually associates with sprinters.
Jason Kenny is an untypical sprinter too, whilst Baugé has an aura, Kenny is so low-key as to be invisible – and his build is unremarkable.
But he’s startlingly quick.
The final chase is only 20 minutes each night, but it’s by no means ‘soft’ – and when you see Iljo on the rollers before a chase you’d best fasten your seatbelt.
The Italians are pros, never spectacular but always thereabouts; and our guys rode well.
Kneisky was looking a wee bit tired tonight – he’s a thoroughbred, as is Bryan Coquard.
But Iljo Keisse and Kenny De Ketele are big old warhorses, 35 minute and 20 minute madison chases aren’t going to trouble them one bit.