Monday, October 3, 2011


Moving around the European scene these past 15 years has meant that I have had to cut corners with my living expenses since there have been very few earning opportunities . Certainly in the winter months in past years I have worked as a Ski Instructor which as you may know is “ Basic Wage “ with the Ski Schools finding every which way to avoid paying you a living wage for any longer than it suits their purposes . Usually as a client you will pay the ski school an hourly fee or join a ski group class which in many cases for the beginner are led by a “ Student ” , recently having passed the “ two week training course” . Get lucky , you might get someone with an idea of what the beginner is suffering and is able to accommodate their needs and fears . You still pay the same hourly fee regardless of the competence of the instructor provided . No one likes complaining but when they do they perhaps get a change of class or instructor but rarely a refund ! With riding the “ Pro Tour Cycle Races ” I would put all my possessions in storage in March or April of each year and head off with a two kilo sack sitting on the tri bars of the bike ! Yes , that’s right a sack I was given at the 2001 Vuelta , and still use sits in my room fully loaded for the next outing . In 1998 when I first did the Tour de France I was supposed to be travelling with a camper Van but the owner broke down in Pau and expected me to pedal back to the van and give up the TDF because he did some faulty work on the wheel bearings before leaving the UK ! Apparently just replacing the outside bearings was good enough for him , but it was not good enough for the full trip . Suffice to say I continued riding the TDF by buying a tooth brush and soap and other items on a daily basis . Caught up with this thief at has home in Sheffield , UK , with the Police in order to recover my possessions that he had claimed to have left in France . Had to give him money for the petrol used whilst not with the heap he called a camper but still did not get all my possessions , could not prove the missing items were ever in the camper . Since the season of 1999 I have relied on what the bike will carry in the bag on the hadle bars and if I got the odd lift from “ Ville Arrivee “ to “ Ville Depart ” it was by hitch hiking . So many of the Pro Tour Racers have seen me by the side of the road as they have been transported to their Hotel after the race has finished over the years that they must wonder how I survive when the weather turns foul . On the Giro d’Italia one year I was heading towards Rimini about 1900hrs and a team car passed heading south to their hotel . Well you can imagine the shouted conversation as they waited for the lights to change . Two hours later I found the YHA closed so eventually found another place for the night . Certainly there have been places where I have pitched up at a hotel that was accommodating a team or two , which has offered me cheaper prices for the accommodation than the price the teams were paying but even then I have had to eat elsewhere because the dining prices were beyond my budget . In the mountains there are many Hotels which have “ staff accom. ” for which I have negotiated a reduction , walk in a 4star hotel and find the staff rooms are one star , but I am not buying “ ambiance ” , just a bed for the night ! Whilst on the road until 2009 I would have only storage from March/ April until October each year and this suited me fine since getting back to any room / flat for a few days was just not worthwhile and filling in between the Giro Trentino and Giro d’Italia usually was easy enough and in the past there were several options available between the Tour de France and the Vuelta Espana . Madrid in” 2005 had the Vuelta finish and the World Road races follow on as an example . 2004 was a particularly busy year since I was at the Tour de France then in Athens for the Olympic Games and got talked into making a visit to the Vuelta before returning to the Paralympic Games . After the Tour de France of 2009 I suffered Pneumonia which caused the Embolisms to be discovered and so I have had to revise my accommodation situation and keep a room all year . The 2010 tours started with me using a car but I abandoned that car in Belgium at the start of the Tour de France from Rotterdam returning to collect it after Paris . Seemed like it was the best decision since there were so many problems with using the car this year . So many Etappes I had to drive the car down that day’s course and ride back to the Ville Depart , ride most of the course and then ride back to where the car was parked . In 2009 I had the car with drivers but in the last week one of the drivers left the car in Martigny and I discovered this when I finished that day’s Etappe in Bourg St Maurice , that meant another 180km via Albertville and Chamonix to arrive at 2200hrs and then drive it towards Grand Bornand so as to ride the next day’s Etappe . Luckily I still made the connection with Nico Sarkozy that night ! Next day was the Time trial in Annecy so there was a slight chance to recover with only riding about a metric ton that day .
Accommodation these days is as cheap as I can find and thus a “ shoe box ” with cooking facilities is the current situation . The two photos are views over thehouses to the west and over the garden to the south so on a fine day such as this morning i can't complain ! Beats living in the centre of a city looking at bricks and mortar ! Not speaking " dialect Austrian " makes communication difficult but since I am into fitness , with rides twice a day and the internet to amuse me at night , there is really not much I have in common with people who stagger around looking for a “ ciggie ” , as they swallow the next can of the local beverage that helps solve their problems . Lets say that not needing to have a girl friend in my life means that I don’t have to keep up appearances ! Over the years I have enjoyed being “ Jack the Lad ” and those who knew me as a Single in Sydney and London would be amazed with the “ Monk like ” existence I now lead . Guess it is the price I have to pay since there is no income these days and wine at a euro a litre mixed with soda water tastes almost as good as the St Honore , Chateau Tablik and other Aussie Wines I used to savour . Regrettably the only time I get a decent wine these days are when a Sponsor is kind enough to pass me a bottle to share with the Household who offer me accommodation during that particular day of the Cycle Tour .
Food for me is as varied as I can make it since I shop far and wide when out on my bike each day , it is simply a matter of picking up the 50% priced items which go in the fridge and get used as and when I get to them . Chicken Ratatouille is a favourite since a whole chicken can be stored in the fridge and mixed up with other dishes in the course of the week . Currently I will add cheese , Greek yogurt and a rice pudding to the main course and starter of Corn on the cob before coffee , cake and grapes later tonight . Beer is not something I drink often as it bulks up the waistline meaning more time on the bike to stay in the 80kg region with which I feel most comfortable . Past years I have had the rowing machine set up in the room but this shoebox has a balcony with mountain views but I can’t imagine using the rowing machine out there in the winter . Well all of the above is a far cry from the life I was leading in Sydney which during the early nineties included several years in Longueville with a rented five bed roomed house shared with others . Facilities included a Tennis court , swimming pool and lawns running down to the bay frontage where my 7m yacht was moored . Each day was up at 5.30 to go swimming summer and winter , over the “ Coat Hanger before 7.15 or otherwise it would be a parking station situation and return to the house several afternoons each week to either play Tennis or go sailing out into the harbour . Wind would generally dictate choice unless a tennis game was already organised . Who can say what is the best lifestyle but at least with the bike I do not have to rely on others to get on with enjoying the available time . When using a larger Yacht than I had you would invariably have to rely on others as you would with Tennis , so whilst I have fond memories of those times , I am content with my current situation .

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