I woke up early to finish writing some training programs where the WiFi was still semi reliable. WiFi in race hotels is reliably unreliable. Walking back from the kitchen I noticed the door to the other bedroom was open and Mario was lying face up like a sarcophagus in his bed, eyes wide open. It struck me as strange because their door was never open while people still slept. But my attention darted to an even stranger phenom. There was a stranger, wrapped in a blanket, on the living room floor, snoring. I told you, expect the unexpected.
Our apartment sputtered to life, waking the snoring stranger on the floor in the process. The man, Hank, was from the Chinese side of the Attaque company. He was here to help us move from our apartment to the race hotel in Duoba. Bikes and luggage needed to be moved downstairs. There, we would load them into trucks and vans from the race organization. That’s when I saw Mario get up.
He race walked to the bathroom door, only to find Al inside. There was a panicked look on his face. Swiftly, wordlessly, he grabbed for one of the empty 5L water containers, put his mouth over the opening, and violently vomited clear liquid into it. My stomach lurched but not from the scene. My sense of security vanished. Mario had food poisoning. We all ate the exact same thing every day for the past week and yet here he was, gaunt, panting, and white. Qinghai hit back and mercilessly.
A week earlier I told Al “You gotta stay sharp here.’ Al and I had almost missed our flight from Beijing to Xining. The airport had changed the flight’s gate number and not announced it in English on the loudspeakers. ‘Never let your guard down.’ My own advice replayed in my head. We had gotten comfortable, complacent, and Qinghai was quick to take advantage.
The Slovenian staff arrived downstairs and together, we piled everything in the parking lot to wait for the vehicles to arrive. This brings up Rule #2: There’s a lot of waiting around. When the cars did arrive, an hour late, we were lounging in varying positions of comfort on the nearby cement playground.
Quick! Load everything then wait for a second car. All ready? Drive to the race accommodation and wait in the lobby of the hotel. What are we waiting for? No one knows. Ben went looking for a bathroom and came back. “They’ve got our rooms already marked.” I shrugged. Rule #2. At least the WiFi kind of worked.
After many rounds of Temple Run because the WiFi didn’t work, Tomaz, our DS, appeared with Rosie, our translator. Most Asian races provide teams with one. They are usually female, studying English, and massive sticklers for rules. Great translators become immortalized. The members of the Aussie National and BMC-Hincapie teams during Tour of China 2012 will always remember Linda and Olivia. Unfortunately, great translators are few and far between. Only time will tell with Rosie but she has already made it clear she follows the rules like hounds follow a scent.
I should explain. The organizer sits all the translators down and says ok, ‘We need all the teams to arrive at the team presentation at 630’. Then the translators go to the DS’s and say, all the riders must be at the team presentation at 630. The DS looks at his race book and says, Woah now! The presentation doesn’t start until 715! The riders can get there at 7, they already do enough of Rule #2. No one is trying to be a bad person. The translators are on the side of the race organization and the DS is on the side of the riders.
We got our room keys, went to lunch, and I took a nap afterward. I spent the rest of my day trying to watch Netflix, which is impossible with and without a VPN. At least the start of this race is close.