Started with breakfast at my Copenhagen hotel. Lots of nice things to choose from – great crusty, seeded bread that I dropped cheese, ham and egg onto. Glad to see I wasn’t the only one who poured yoghurt into a glass expecting it to be fruit juice… They were juice containers I tell you! Of course I kept filling up the glass to the top as though it were a perfectly normal thing to do in Australia. I grabbed a spoon to complete the illusion of projected normality.
Then off to the station to catch my train. No mention of Hobro on the departure screens but I did spot one for Frederickshavn which I knew was north of Hobro. I’d bought a ticket for me and the bike so the next thing was to figure out where we were both sitting. The tickets themselves weren’t a lot of help as there was stuff printed everywhere that I didn’t understand. So a quick chat to a guy in uniform on the platform sorted that out. Car 72, me in seat 72 and the bike in seat 55. I pictured my bike in its bag wedged into a seat next to some poor bugger. I didn’t know how this worked so my imagination ran a little wild. Maybe there were special ‘bike’ seats for bikes. Bikes got treated like royalty around here so maybe that was it.
Train arrived, I waited at the back so I didn’t hold up people who knew what they were doing and then went looking for our seats. It turned out the train had a pretty typical ‘open’ area with seats along the side and this is where my bike’s seat was. Only, it’s seat spanned about 3 actual fold up seats according to the numbering above. That seemed a little extravagant. What if an actual person needed to sit down? But I had paid for my bike to occupy these 3 seats it seemed. In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to consume seats I didn’t need so I put the bike up against a wall at the end of the carriage, taking up only one seat. I turned and found my seat in a group of 4 not far away.
A girl with a bike got on shortly after me and proceeded to not only park her bike across the 3 fold up seats adjacent to mine but then proceeded to wrap a seatbelt around her frame and buckle it in! That’s showing them! I immediately thought I should do the same with my bike but there was now a person taking advantage of my largesse and occupying one of he seats I had paid for. So I had to leave it alone for now.
The countryside rolled by, the odd wind farm appearing and then receding. The sunny morning I had left in Copenhagen was replaced by some light rain not far into the journey but this was then just as quickly replaced by bright sunshine again. Hmm now where had I seen that before? After a while it struck me that even though I had seen a couple of hours worth of farm houses and fields, I hadn’t seen any crops and not single animal. What the hell did these people do with their land then? Maybe nothing. Maybe they were just all IT nerds sitting in their houses building apps for large software corporations. Oh wait, there’s a cow! Yes! There’s still at least one cow producing milk in Denmark for Lance’s ‘Danske Cream’.
As we stopped at the stations, I saw that they were really small villages with the odd pensioner ambling along the road going god knows where and not the throbbing hubs of activity I had based my plans on. The line of taxis I had imagined at Hobro station started to look a little optimistic.
My fears were well founded as I found my way out of the station complex. There was simply nothing going on at all. There was a sign for ‘Taxi’ but for all I knew, there hadn’t been a taxi there since the 70’s. In any case, I didn’t have any plan B so I waited near the sign and tried to will one to appear. I didn’t get a taxi but I did make a bus appear. I spoke to the driver, who spoke perfect English (damn these bloody show offs!) and told me there was a bus stop right outside my hostel but it wasn’t on his route. He told me to get on and he’d transfer me to a different bus that went past my hostel. Nice!
This bus did actually do a loop of the town and go back to the train station which was a bit confusing but I decided to trust the universe and given that I had no alternative, I sat tight. I’d also been reading a new book about quantum theory so I simply assumed this bus route had a spin factor of one and a half or two. I was right! The transfer was done shortly after and after driving well away from town, the new driver indicated that this was my stop. I got off.
Yes, there it was, Danhostel Hobro. I trudged up the driveway and was beset with a reassuring sight – a guy messing around with an actual time trial bike. Until that moment, there had been no evidence at all in this quaint little town that there was a major international cycling event on within 24 hours.
I checked in, got my bike out of its bag and started putting the wheels back on. My plan was to ride down to the event area, recon the time trial course and then go to the rider briefing. A quick glance outside yielded a classic four seasons vista with the sunshine of 2 minutes ago now replaced with torrential rain and 45km/hr winds. Time for a rethink. My beautiful Australia kit is going to get seriously soiled if I go out in this shit and that won’t do at all. I could wear some other gear but my enthusiasm was waning badly. Realising that riding or not riding today wasn’t going to have to slightest effect on how it went tomorrow, I popped my puffy jacket on and started walking into town and towards the event area.
The sign-in tent was full of TT specialists and their over engineered steeds so it was good that I didn’t ride my humble roadie with its pathetic Tri bars. Oddly, the guy right behind me in the line had an Australian jacket on so I said hello and we got talking. He was from Melbourne as it turns out. “Whereabouts?” I ask. “Middle Brighton” he replies. Interest piqued, I pry further. “Where exactly?” trying not to sound like a stalker. “Male street”. For gods sake. I travel to the other side of the earth and the first cyclist I meet lives 30 seconds from my house. We both quickly get over the coincidence however and onto shared acquaintances. Yes we both know the same people. Reassured, we proceed through the sign-in process and out the tent heading towards the rider briefing tent. These tents are the red and white striped variety, typically used for travelling circuses in Australia so I expect to see hay and elephants when I walk in. Or maybe even that lazy good for nothing Maisie bird. But no, just bike obsessed humans listening to the briefing.
“No drafting” the guy says. Pfffffff. I’ll believe that when I see it. Riders are being sent off 30 seconds apart. There will be wildly differing abilities. There is going to see some serious drafting going on, of that I’m sure. There is nothing more desperate than an amateur cyclist trying to avoid being humiliated. They will do absolutely anything and I expect to see this in all it’s glory tomorrow.
After telling the riders not to draft, the one hour briefing is basically over in thirty seconds and after a few questions about how the hell you’re supposed to warm up properly on rollers for just five minutes, we exit the big top to find our country flag-bearer for the walk back into the town centre where the opening ceremony will kick off. Actually, I’m interested to see the carnage that unfolds when hordes of serious time triallers, given no other mechanised means, try desperately to warm up on rollers. Oh joy. It’s possibly worth getting down there well ahead of my start time just to see it. Common sense and caution will be completely overturned by the desperate need to warm their bodies up to fever pitch just prior to rolling down the start ramp.
At the Aussie sign, held by some bored Danish girl, I met a few other Aussies and exchanged names and locations. A nice German couple who had been living in Canberra for twenty years or so helped pass the time until the whole procession was ready to work its way towards town. So there we were, walking behind Austria and it’s one athlete with the town band marching in front, brass horns to their lips and bayonets over their shoulders. It was actually kind of fun and I almost felt like an athlete.
We ended up at the designated square in town where the stage was and each country flag-bearer walked on stage as the announcer introduced that country. As we watched and clapped each one, I noticed a very tanned chap from Cyprus whose bike was branded with “Ommonia”. It was bright green which I thought was fitting and I could only hope that tomorrow, this guy stayed the hell away from me.
After a nice bowl of pasta and a beer in the town, I headed back to the hostel with plans for a nice long sleep. My start time was 3:14:30 tomorrow afternoon.