A Dirty Day

The elevator situation in our hotel in Xi’an is a mess. Its a 28 story building with 2 main elevators and a third ‘sightseeing’ elevator. Perhaps 2 elevators are enough when its a normal day at the hotel but when everyone is basically on the same schedule, the elevator situation quickly goes downhill. Everyone knows that elevators have a weight limit but I have never been in one where that was a problem. Until China. When the weight limit is reached an embarrassing tone sounds and the doors won’t close until the offender, or offenders, remove themselves. Somehow this limit is reached really quickly here. Or the doors will open and everyone inside resembles a sardine can. In this case you have to wave the elevator on and wait for the next one. And the 16th flights of steps are just too far to go down. Or up. Its a major problem. My solution is to get onto the elevator on its way up. Most are not full and while you have to travel in the opposite direction, when the weight limit is reached, you are at the back of the elevator and cannot possibly get off. The elevator situation is terrible before races. Even leaving 15 minutes before I was supposed to be downstairs, I barely got there in time. Everyone was in rain jackets and knee warmers and as we made our way out of the underground garage, the air got cooler and you could hear the rain patter on the pavement. That undershirt was a good idea. So was putting a rain cap in my bag in some last minute packing. Each one of us got to the entrance of the garage and sat there for a moment knowing that a sketchy, wet day was ahead of us. We could have only guessed how dirty it would be. Right out of the hotel you could taste the dirt in the water being spit up from the wheel in front of you but it was when I looked at Ty and noticed that the drops of water on his rain jacket were not clear but a dirty brownish color, that I became fully aware of how filthy the water was. Once we arrived at the race, we headed to sign in which is a way to coax all the riders out of their tents and cars and onto a big stage where pictures and interviews can take place. Then back to the tent and out of the rain, if it can be called that.

The race started with a bang. For those first two laps I don’t think that the pace dropped below 35 mph. We were flying. Everyone was trying to get into the day’s breakaway and because of that, no one could. The 10 kilometers course was dead flat and looked like a hammer with a square at one end and a U-turn at the other. This U-turn, I should add, had more slippery white lines than a wet zebra, and was the final turn before the finish. After multiple unsuccessful attempts at a breakaway, I began drifting backwards in order to find Ty and see how he was faring. He was doing just fine and sitting at the back. Craven had told us to get together and start moving towards the front as a team with two laps to go to get ready for the speed to ramp up for the final sprint. As we were moving up, I heard my spoke break. Damn it. I threw my hand up in the air, universal sign for service, and moved to the right hand side of the road and drifted back into the caravan. All of a sudden I saw Thomas blast by in the car on the left hand side of the caravan, missing me completely. I waved my hand back and forth and finally got his attention. Casey jumped out and changed my wheel and I jumped back on the bike and into the caravan just as Michael Shumacher was coming by and together we worked our way back into the peleton just as we went by the start/finish with 2 laps to go. I had taken my glasses off for the wheel change but in the field there was so much grime and grit being thrown into them I put them back on. But with them on I could barely see in front of me. I gathered myself and moved up front in search of my team. The final two laps were hectic and we kept losing and finding each other again. We spent too much energy trying to be up there early though. With two kilometers left, I was up near Ty but got pushed back about 30 or 40 guys. I was still fresh so I decided to get back up there and see if I could try and get a result myself. Thats when I saw Ty. He was about 20 guys back and all alone, not what you want coming into the final kilometer. So I sprinted up to him just as we hit the flamme rouge. He got on my wheel and I rode as hard as I could for 500 meters before I pulled off. Ty ended up 11th. After the race, we headed back to the hotel and each took long, long showers even though it will take a week to pick all the dirt out from our eyes, ears, and hair.

I decided that I really needed to go to a market and find a USB-ethernet adapter for my computer since the wifi was unreliable. So myself, Blair, Joe, and Oscar exchanged some dollars for yuan and headed downstairs and out the hotel. First time leaving it without a bike. And without a translator. We knew from riding that there was a mall and Walmart about 2 kilometers down the road. So we began walking and tried hailing a taxi as we did. Wouldn’t you know that every single taxi was full. And the one that wasn’t full waved at me as I tried to stop it! Just grinned and waved. Unreal. So we ended up walking to the mall behind this little boy on rollerblades and his mother. Kid nearly ran into or nearly got nailed by about 10 cars crossing the street. Just practice for driving here I guess. Right inside the mall was an Apple store and luckily a girl there spoke a little English and I got what I needed quite easily. So we walked around and looked at stores.

Even contemplated getting some ice cream. Instead, we went into the Walmart and found ourselves in the food section. Large buckets with frogs and eels, fish heads on ice, random livers and other organs; the smell was overpowering. We moved into another section and there were piles of crackers and chips on tables, not covered, just sitting next to the raw meat section. I think the only thing I recognized in the Walmart was a can of Pringle chips.

The four of us swore that there was no way we were going to walk back to the hotel and because hailing a taxi had been such a failure, we approached two men who were driving these little three wheeled scooters with a carriage attached to the back. We showed them our hotel room keys (lesson learned) and Joe and I got into one followed by Blair and Oscar in another.

Quick, easy, not very fast, but quite fun, and it only cost 10 yuan which is about one and a half dollars US. The trip reminded me that while bike racing is lots of fun, its good to get out every now and then and experience the places around us.

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