Swiss National MTB Team train on Gran Canaria
As sure as night follows day, for the last 30 years from Nov to Feb, the cycling pros come to visit Gran Canaria for training, the warm weather never disappoints in only the rarest of occasions. A local restaurant here used to be the venue for Pantani, Delgado, Miguel Indurain, their photos adorned the walls for anyone to peruse.
When Cycle Gran Canaria started on 2008, I was aware of people like Bennatti, whom I've met nearly every year on some road somewhere. The last time was when I was following a group inc Landa and Danillo and he said hello to me, to be honest, I was surprised, I said I kn0w you, but do you know me, he said yes you're Ray with the bike company! I'll freely admit that was a very nice moment for me. In the photos below, you'll see the two Telefonica riders Landa and Bennatti, that was the moment, those guys are perfection.
So I downloaded on my FB photos and sifted out all of the ones where I met or seen, the cycling heroes of the last 10 years. There's no Cancellara, but he practically lived here. Physically apart from Miguel Induráin, he's the biggest presence in any group. And I've seen him at full chat and he can move! There are lots of others where I was unable to snatch a photo too.
What's amazing is that these guys and girls are perfect ambassadors for their sport, always polite and always without exception, willing to have a quick shot, it's good for them, good for you, good for the sport. The etiquette is, if I can offer advice, is don't hover and gawp, go and say hello, ask how is the training and wish them well in their goals, get a selfie and leave it there. They'll remember you the next time I can tell you.
Quite often the pro training pattern is intervals or a 4 hour steady ride, starting from Cespa at Melonares,up Soria, up to Ayacata and down to Santa Lucia and the coast road home. The meet time is 10am and if you can do a steady 35/40kph, you're welcome to hang on!!
One of my most abiding memories of a brush with fame, was with Lizzie Armistead before she was Duignan. I watched her get on her bike in Mogan and clip in and move off in one seamless movement, like letting a wet trout slide back into a millpond, I was mesmerized by her grace, and have patented my own slightly own clunky version of said trout.
Another memory was one night when I was working, my Skype phone rang and a photo with a name saying Ryder was flashing away. I logged in and this Nth American burr introduced himself as Ryder Hesdejal, ( I was vaguely aware of the name and suspected a joke, but he wanted to know if I could show him some routes, as he had just arrived. We arranged to meet at his hotel the next morning at 830am and who should roll out but the very same. I took him up Soria and we talked kilojoules etc and all the while pinching myself. Now he had just won the Giro and at the top of Soria, a large group of Italian cycling tourists were milling about and in seconds we were mobbed, for autographs and photos! Ryder took it all in good grace, who would have thought, a 100 Italian cyclists hiding in the bushes in Gran Canaria. Some girls asked for a photo with me, which I graciously obliged, I wonder was it deleted later when they worked out I was a nobody!
I had a run in with Team Ineos this year, a friend in Ireland asked me to say hello to Eddie Dunbar, after a chase with the Swiss MTB team on the GC 500, I managed to get alongside Eddie and like all Irishmen, instant connection, have achieved my objective and started to roll back, the moto tried to shoulder me into the barrier, and another rider said get out of here, well I'm not bothered, I was elated just to be nailing it in at 45plus. The team car came alongside while I was taking photos one-handed and they seemed relaxed enough, therefore so was I. But you have to agree, Team Ineos and Team Sky before them, just have to be that one notch up the remote ladder than almost any other team!
With my favorite rider based on pure unique style Alberto Contador, I've lucky enough to ride with him more than once, the last time on full chat as he was doing some winnowing with the Polaris Traning Team I think, he came past like a bouncer on his way to sort out acid dealers in the toilets, and I tried to stay with him, the moto camera guy egging me on, the Strava data later just shows why my throat was rasping for days afterward.
I'm always surprised too at the sheer power the young cycling girls can put out, starting the Soria flat home 16km, a tiny blonde rider whipped past, I could hear her tires grind the road. Right let's play ball!!. I kept alongside no wheel sucker I, and shouted to her, "to the end", she nodded with a smile, I have to say I had to dig real deep to stay with her, 16km is a long sprint but we did it! Turns out met her many many times since, even fixed her bike, waved across the roads and all the while her star rising to double Nat Champ level. That was Lotta Lepisto/Henttala and just checking her stats, she would have been 18 at the time of our "race"!
So in any cycling holiday with Cycle Gran Canaria, if there be pros about, I'll be more than willing to get us all together for an hello and a selfie, it's all about great memories, isn't it!?
I hope you've enjoyed my little trip down memory lane!!