Our Germanic dealer tour wrapped up late Thursday afternoon and my fellow Srammie traveling companions kicked me to the curb in Aarou, Switzerland. They were on their way back to Germany with a rental car to be returned and flights to catch. I grabbed a train ticket to Geneva and enjoyed a very punctual 2.5 hour journey through some potentially beautiful countryside but was well hidden behind clouds and fog. Thursday evening was spent solo and I was bit spun what with starting the day in the German speaking area of the country, moving into the Western French speaking section and deciding on an Italian restaurant with a full Italian staff that spoke Italian and a menu written in Italian (and French ).
Jen arrived in Geneva midday Friday and we grabbed our rental car and struck out bound for Leysin, a small ski resort on the Eastern side of Lake Geneva. It's situated about 18K Northwest of Aigle up some super fun twisty, narrow roads that start low among wine vineyards and wind their way up into an alpine environment. No sooner had we pulled into town, found our hotel and dropped our bags, I heard "Hey!, can you work on some brakes ?" Turned around to find Mark Legg-Compton and Katie who were directly across from us through a small courtyard at the same hotel. The global cyclocross community remains a small one,when you travel to another continent and coincidentally, those from your hometown are sharing the same hotel.
Saturday was spent dodging rain drops and snow and Jen and I explored town, hid from the weather in a cafe enjoying some amazing coffee and pastries. Both of us, desperate for exercise finally committed and suited up for a 3 hour hike up to an alpine hut through some very heavy snowfall ( the first of the season for this area ). There was a cog train that ran from Leysin to Aigle so in the evening we jumped on for the steep descent down to Aigle and went full native, enjoying some escargot, fondue and sampling the wine from grapes grown in the region. While working off the meal before catching our train back, we strolled around Aigle and started spotted riders campers pulling into town, just returning from a 2 hour aftrenoon time slot to do reconnaissance on the race course.
Sunday arrived looking a little less bleak, the clouds had lifted just enough to show off all the new snow that had arrived. There was a pretty stiff breeze but temps were rising nicely. One quick stop at the bakery to load up on all things tasty and made with real butter from happy Swiss cows and then we came down into town prior to the women's start. I'll say it now, my wife is a saint for having the patience to deal with me and the cyclocross OCD. I was barely functioning on Sunday with all thoughts on witnessing what about to go down. The race was held on the grounds of the UCI. It's a pretty impressive building with the Alps as a backdrop and a portion of the building jutting out to a sharp corner mimicking the bow of a huge ship. Cross in Switzerland is not a huge draw and crowds were pretty sparse. This was actually a benefit as it was very easy to move around the course and visit riders. We parked and immediately found Zdenek Stybars camper. I had pre-arranged a meeting through his Belgie mechanic, Gilbert so as not to disturb the pre-race routine(too much). Both Zdenek and Gilbert were extremely accommodating and we stuck around long enough to grab some photographs, have some rider cards signed and talk product for a bit. I'm super thankful that even as long as I've been around bikes and bike racing I'm still not jaded by being in the presence of, or meeting those who have risen to the pinnacle of the sport. This was a huge opportunity and I couldn't have been happier to partake. After letting Stybar get back to prepping, we wandered down through the rows of riders campers from Page, Wellens, Pauwels, Nys, Albert. Also on hand were the Cannondale/Cyclocrossworld.com contingent of Stu Thorne,Tim Johnson, James Driscoll and Jeremy Powers who were looking to get some international competition under their belts after becoming bored and tired by climbing podium steps relentlessly in the States.
I won't go into a blow by blow of the race as anyone who reads this has most likely already absorbed all the digital media published from the weekend. But it was pure joy watching Katie get the season off to a sucessful start by completely dominating the womens event followed by Stybie crushing the field in the mens race. After watching countless hours of streaming video from my computer at home early in the morning, it's still hasn't sunk in that I was standing along the tape witnessing these riders race by me. At the end of the day and final podium appreance in which the announcer mistakingly though that they would be playing the French national anthem for the Czech born Stybar, we derbied our way back up to Leysin just as the sun was breaking through and got off some great shots of the area. To top off an already great weekend, we were invited to join the Cannondale crew of Tim, J-Pow, Stu and his wife Emily for a Feldschlosschen lubricated dinner out before packing up for the next days flights.
So there you have it, no this summary from the weekend still doesn't read the way I envisioned
it when this trip came together.What I can say is if you care about this sport enough,you owe it to yourself to witness these events. I'm going to commit to return at some point ( hopefully Belgium, just for the crowd factor ). You're more than welcome to join along.
Thanks for reading
Here's just a few of the pics I came back with:
The curent World Champion and some dork on the right
Stu Thorne , enjoying some fine Italian leather
Tim, tweaking that the course was drying out
James and J-Pow, Peanut Butter Jelly Time
walk in the park for KFC