Blog: Convoy …

Larry’s blog from an exciting day in the Endura RacingTeam Car on stage 1 of the Tour of DoonHame

I’m of an age to remember the song called Convoy, a truckers song but one that was going through my head as I sat in the Endura team car next to former Cervelo director sportif and now with Endura, Alex Vega. It was day 1 of the Tour of DoonHame in the borders of southern Scotland. I’d left home at 4.10am that morning and arrived at the Endura Racing team hotel at 7.30ish. In time to see the mechanics putting the Look bikes into the van and the riders rub the sleep from their eyes as they came into the kitchen for breakfast in the self catering cottages on a Castle estate. A ruin of a castle yes but when the sun hit it later that day, it still looked magnificent.

The morning though was wet and that was how the day stayed. In the breakfast room, the riders were given a briefing by their director sportif Alex Vega and given their ‘orders’ for the day while they ate their porridge or museli. They were there to do justice to the sponsors Endura et all said Vega and take the race to the others. No-one had a clue what was going to happen though, just as well really, and at 9am, with the start a good 45 minute drive away, the Endura ‘convoy’ rolled away, next stop Moffat.

I was in a hire car with the very animated Spanish soigneur Jose Teixeira, the life of the party it seemed and a photo op not to be missed! We did our best to communicate in pigeon English whilst Jack Bauer and Maarten de Jonge pinned numbers on their jerseys and then closed their eyes to chill. Eventually we arrived in Moffat and found the HQ and the riders piled out to get ready. It was raining still so the leg rub was done in the van out of the wet stuff faling from the sky. No fancy big team bus to shelter in for these lads even in a team as big as this. The riders then went to sign on as I kept a beady eye on the look out for photo opps.

Minute by minute, the time before we rolled out passed by and soon I was in the passenger seat of the team car. In all my years, I can’t remember having been in a team car but that doesn’t mean I haven’t, only I can’t remember! Soon we were rolling, car three in the convoy, and passing through the finish area. I actually expected to not see much that day but instead it was the most fantastic expereince at the expense of some dreadful luck to one other Aussie, Jack Anderson.

We have both lived in Brisbane (Australia), that’s where he’s from and where I studied photography at the Queensland College of Art. Only a few K had gone by and he came back to the car for some mechanical attention. No sooner had we got him underway, than over the radio came the call for team Endura, Jack Bauer had a front wheel puncture. Then double trouble as Jack Anderson crashed at high speed while Jack Bauer had a new front wheel.

Oh my god, I couldn’t help feel for poor Jack Anderson. In the wrong place at the wrong time and it was not for him his first crash this year. He carried on, chasing like a mad man and what a chase. By the time we had got going though, we were out of the race convoy, the marshal had gone from the next intersection and with no arrows, we went the wrong way. Sheesh. U-Turn, and more high speed chasing the race. It took forever for Jack Anderson to get back to the race and what was happening with Jack Bauer we had no idea.

He was fine though and after a long steady chase, he was back on.

The next three hours was  then filled with the sound of ‘puncture to so and so’ over the crackling race radio and riders were coming backwards just as quickly as they were chasing back. Team cars were all over the place, riders on both sides of the road and all this in the awesome scenery of the borders countryside spoilt only by the dark grey cloud and rain falling continously over it. Showers they had said … yeah right.

The course was brutal too. Lots of climbing early on and then Wanlockhead later on was the last straw for many. In the meantime. I had seen a lot of Dan Fleeman getting service, the Tanners, Jake and John (son and father), stopping too for a puncture, crashes as well and so much more. Familiar faces like that of Graham Briggs coming past the Endura car after having suffered a puncture or in some cases, a key rider with a helper to aid them get back to the peloton. Rapha, Motorpoint, Sigma, Corley Cycles and probably every other team in the race seemed to be suffering from the plague of punctures.

Alex Vega meanwhile was busy listening for the call of a puncture to an Endura rider and they had their share,.Alex Weatherall and Evan Oliphant both suffered that fate and poor Jack Anderson crashed again and this time needing a bike change after damaging a brake leaver. His moral was at rock bottom and what would have killed off the ambitions of many a rider, the Aussie gritted his teeth, literally in pain from a shoulder injury, and carried on to the finish. Chapeau I think the phrase is!

In the closing stages the race had blown apart on that final climb up the highest village in Scotland (remote, very!) but as we approached Moffat, the convoy was stopped to let the third group on the road join the second group on the road behind the leaders where Bauer had finished third behind Cronshaw and Dempster.

The race was over but not the suffering. Riders shivered uncontrollably, including the yellow jersey Cronshaw and some had to have medical attention they were so cold. The Endura riders went for the showers to get warm and whilst I hitched a lift back with the mechanics, the riders got into warm cars and back to the team’s digs.

After a few photos, I too headed for mine place of rest (well, work really) and a late night yet again. Twenty hours I’d been up and still I couldn’t sleep in the next morning. Oh well, maybe tomorrow!