Posted by Editor on 09/20/03
The end of season prognostications from Haro-Lee Dungarees pro Chris Sheppard.
Finally screwed my head back on after a taxi ride, three train transfers, a night in the Munich airport hotel, three connecting flights, 1.5 hours in customs and a shuttle ride home! What a way to end a four week romp in Euope. Started off doing a ten day training camp on Lake Garda . . . actually it was more like a stage race considering I was riding or trying to ride with ex-team mate Rasmussen (Michael, "Chicken" Rasmussen, who went on to win a stage of the Vuelta), Ryder, and Seamus. Those lads punch it on the climbs and made me suffer many days in a row. Thought I might be done like dinner but I recovered and had strong form for the following races.
First race we hit were the World Champs in Lugano Switz. I had heard the recon reports and couldn't believe the course when I rode it on Wednesday. Dry, loose, technical, rock drops, climbs that were no longer than two minutes and of course the 40,000 or so spectators didn't hurt either. Perfect for my mind set. What probably helped me the most was the UCI official who attacked me. As I was cutting behind an ambulance backing up this guy starts freaking on me and grabs my bars. I clip out and fall onto my top tube and push the guy off of me while he's yelling in Swiss. I mean this guy is freaking so he grabs my jersey then boots me in the shin. I attempted to get at him when three Swiss soldiers herded me away . . . .I was so choked. Got a major adrenaline rush which caused me to go psycho for most of the race. My shin still has a bump two weeks after the fact.
I lined up on the 6th row so I crossed my fingers that the bunch would make it through the maze of bridges and underpasses on the dash to the first single track. One rider hit a bridge pillar at about 40 km hr . . . .he didn't get up but it did open up a gap that I shot through. Hit the single track in the 40's and moved up to 34th by the end of the lap. Up front Naef had a slight advantage over Ryder who would attack on the next hill creating a gap that would stretch to 30 sec by the third of eight. Chasing were the likes of Green, Seamus, Paulison (Paulissen), Saucer (Sauser) and Meirhagre (Meirhaeghe) while Hermida and Absalon worked together to catch the freight train. Towards the end of this lap Seamus punctured, fixed it, then rolled the tire off the rim thus ending his World's early while Meirhagre climbed past the front group and pursued Ryder.
By lap 5 five Ryder's gap had come down to 15 sec's over the Belgian bull with Paulison down by another 25. Frishy (Thomas Frischknecht) cracked off the group then Saucer flatted. I had climbed steadily and sat in 14th moving into 12th by the end of 6. Unfortunately a bolt that held my rear brake onto my frame came unthreaded thus semi-seizing my wheel. I ended up fading from this point to 16th by the end. Ouch! Rolland had an off day and wasn't able to keep pace at the front. Turns out he got a nasty virus over the weekend and skipped World Cup finals to recoup. Onto the last lap Meirhagre kept on the gas with Ryder digging deep in an attempt to chase but the bull took the gold, Ryder silver and Pauilson the bronze.
Monday we took off to Austria with dreams of sunny skies, pleasant temperatures and long rides in the alps. We must have inhaled too many diesel fumes on that portion of the trip because it ended up raining every day. Joined up with fellow Canadians Kabush, Wedge, and Toulouse for a week of boredom that included getting excited about Euro Sports coverage of women's 90-kilo Judo World Champs and doing laundry. A lot of coffee and chocolate were consumed each morning to get enough motivation for the day's river romp. The course was completely squashed by the onslaught of precipitation. Seeing how the course wasn't technical, the organizer decided to cut out all the roots and rocks on the descents then remove the one section that was slightly difficult. 22 minutes of climbing in peanut butter and 2 minutes of descending. What a way to end the year.
Once again my start position licked ass so I resorted to staying upright versus trying to move forward on the first lap. I don't even know what was going on at the front other than the fact that Meirhagre was once again slaying all. Ryder had picked up a lung infection over the five days of swimming and was off of his game. Good on him for not dropping out to get some points for Canada. Bottom line on this race is that there was no recovery what so ever so if you were hurting you just had to imagine that everyone else was too. On the second lap I went from 42nd to 19th and I wanted to pull the plug! My rate of progress slowed when I hit 14th then I fell to 16th by the finish. Seamus chased the whole day in the 7-10th spot but hit the wall hard on the last lap and fell to 19th. We tried to give each other the what's up with 15 min to go but the only words to come out were slurred and incoherent! Frishy attacked the chase group (Absalon, Saucer, Paulison) on the last lap and that's the way it finished.
So the season is done! Just want to thank the entire Haro Lee Dungarees staff (Ed, Billy, Brian, Max, Mike) for keeping my head on straight, legs loose and bike buff. Also our product support from Adidas, Manitou, Shimano, Maxxis, Met-RX, Sun, Titec, Bell helmets, Sella Italia, Chris King, ATI, Squadra, No Fear, Oakley, Troy Lee Designs, and of course Jim, Jill, Mike and Wayne at the head office.
Also a big thank you for entire National team staff who babysat and helped deal with the major logistical nightmare in Lugano. Looking forward to 2004!
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