Mornings come fast and furious here at the Tour of Taiwan. In reality, “slow and lethargically” is a more apt description with jet-lag still lingering, having come from 14 hours of plane rides away just a few days ago. So just when I feel like I’m settling into a righteous slumber, there’s a knock on my door and it’s time to get going for the race. 5:50am was this morning’s wake up knock. I had just visited the bathroom (neither just a hole in the ground nor a massaging toilet seat) and was certain I had now tallied an hour of tossing and turning and that it was now approaching ten PM. Nope, game time!
Anyway, yesterday was stage four which featured the characteristic relentless attacks. Teams of five make for very animated racing since virtually every one of the twenty teams here are told to go for the breakaway. Therefore teammates chase down teammates, bragging rights are up for grabs as “Best (___insert your nationality here___) Rider” will earn you a pat on the back at dinner, plus there is coveted TV time on FOX Sports Asia.
Alas we are down to four riders since Guillaume arrived feeling under the weather and pulled the plug the day before on the supa’ dupa’ fast KOM just 14km into the stage. And now two of us from Cannondale are are on breakaway patrol, Frenchman Jean Marc Marino and myself, thereby saving the legs of Aussie legend Cameron Wurf and the hilarious Italian wunderkind, David Formolo. (I’ll add that this team lineup, albeit small, is an outstanding United Nations of Cannondale. A truly great crew!)
Blah blah blah bike racing occurred, an hour of attacks, finally a group of three got away, I rotated the front garnering another day of excellent training for the upcoming Belgian classics, then we ripped the front tearing the race to smitherines and I JUUUUst came off the back of the lead group of maybe 30 dudes over the final KOM. Ugg. That’s frustrating since I was keen to rip the finale for Wurf and FormoloUno. But having just pulled the peloton for the previous few hours, I suppose that was expected. Good to see the form coming along after a very light early season of racing! Then Wurf and Formolo lit it up but the yellow jersey Frenchman Di Gregorio (whose name I think I just misspelled) maintained his lead and we then ended up at the race finish which was within a stone’s throw of the race hotel. Which is FANTASTIC since the other stages feature a finish, then up to two more hours of stinky, sardine-like racers packed into a bus travel time to the subsequent hotel.
Yonder bike race is featured here:
Which leads to episode three (or four, I forget) of Out of the Saddle News:
Avoiding the bus whenever possible is a good thing because among other things, buses here have a blarringly loud bell/siren that is sounded on the loudspeakers throughout the bus whenever the blinker is on. I’m a fan of the environment and take municipal means of travel periodically. So American or Italian or Spanish, I’ve tested out various global bus systems and have never experienced such a cacophony on a bus. Changing lanes? Sound the horn! Getting off the highway? Wake everyone up! In the sage words of Homestar Runner, “Not necessary!”
Also strange, there are televisions throughout the bus, but video doesn’t work, only audio. So with blank screens and only Chinese coming through the speakers, we are watching, err… correction, listening to Taiwanese game shows and ninja movies complete with fast fist sounds and Batman like “BIFF” and “THUMP” noises. Riveting.
Perusing foreign grocery markets provides me endless entertainment. Look at this brilliant bit of Taiwanization of American snacks. They too apparently have late night munchies, and even advertise accordingly! Even down to the celery and blue cheese accompaniments, these lightning bolt shaped Doritos look aggressive.
And better yet is this gem. Wurf’s racing was very good yesterday. His discovery of these was downright heroic!
And yes, I checked. Maple syrup is a two word ingredient – no “artificial flavoring” nor “artificial maple flavor” here. Yumyumyumyumyummmm recovery food.
Keeping along the genre of maple, I had a fun conversation with the lovely chief podium lady who is also the English and Taiwanese announcer of the Tour de (not “of”) Taiwan. She has exceptional schoolbook English, and truly hats off to her for that as I plead ignorance having expanded my Chinese to “Hello”, “Thank you”, “Yes”, and “No”. Which is to say, her’s is great, just a little bit clunky. So our conversation, verbatim, went like this:
Me: Hello, my name is Ted. What’s your name?
Her: Nice to meet you! My name is Jo. What is your name?
Me: Hi Jo! Ahh, I just said, my name is Ted. Pleasure to meet you too.
Jo: Oh many sorrys! What is your second name?
Me: Umm, my last name is King. My name is Ted King.
Jo: (Very excited) Ooh! You enjoy, umm,… (Pause) maple!
Me: (Also very excited) Yes! Wow, word gets around eh? Weird, how did you know that?
Jo: I do not know. We tried to get you maple but we do not have any in the south here in Taiwan. I really want to try!
Me: Yes. You. Do! It’s delicious and has a really unique flavor. You’d love it.
(This is where the conversation veered entertainingly astray as something was clearly lost in translation)
Jo: I am very hungry.
Me: (We had just finished a stage. And I was assuming she was saying she is hungry, maybe for maple syrup…? I don’t know.) Yeah, me too. I would love some maple right now.
Jo: From Europe?
Me: Ahh, huh? No maple syrup is only made in North America.
Jo: No no, Hungary. Like Budapest.
Jo: I just say “Hungary”. That is where Budapest is!
(Then we exchanged several dozen bows and said nice to meet you and went in search of food.)
Endless entertainment I tell you.
Well this entry came from the bus as we’ve been truckin’ along since 7am en route to the final stage. “ZOOM ZOOM!”