I took up cycling really on a challenge from my husband who said I either had to start playing tennis again, take up golf or cycle. He kind of snorted out the third alternative and I’m quite sure he never expected me to take up cycling. It wasn’t even a case of reverse psychology.
I had just gotten back from working as a volunteer at the World Road Race Championships in Salzburg. One of the few occasions when the guys, the gals and the youngsters all take part and one gets to see six races in a few days. I had originally intended just to go and watch but when I went on the site to buy tickets, I noted that they were looking for volunteers, so I volunteered.
I had said that I was happy to do anything and, given my relative availability the organisers asked me to turn up a week before the racing started. I found myself a small, family-run, B&B just outside of Salzburg and set off into the unknown on what turned out to be the first of many solo, cycling-related, road trips.
I spent my time in Salzburg largely looking after the volunteers. Firstly, I sorted and handed out the uniforms. These had been made in China and the sizing was all over the place. For example, I wore an XL t-shirt, a small jacket and medium trousers. Caps and bum-bags were thankfully all one-size. Thereafter, my new-found friend Valeria and I were in charge of distributing the packed lunches each day to the 2,000 volunteers. Yes, an army of volunteers does march on its stomach.
Fortunately, our billet was round the back of the podium, next to all the TV wagons and their chow truck. Needless to say we were sitting pretty with refreshments on tap all day long.
We ensured that the packed lunches were distributed well before any racing started and then settled down in our ringside seats to enjoy the action.
During the podium ceremonies we were entrusted with the handbag of the Lady Governor of the province of Salzburg. This was our equivalent of a backstage pass and, as a consequence, got to meet and have our photos taken with some of the winners.
On the last day, after presenting the medals in the men’s road race, the presentation party left the podium via the back stairs. We were standing at the foot of the stairs, undertaking our bag guarding duties, and we duly shook hands and were thanked in turn by the afore-mentioned Governor, the Mayor of Salzburg and the President of Austria.
The best thing about this event wasn’t meeting the riders, or even seeing all the cycling up close and personal, it’s all the people that you meet along the way that make it such fun. Like this gentleman in the photo, Super Mario Cipolini.
He’d retired before my interest in cycling was borne and was therefore fairly ambivalent until I met him – what a charmer!
I’m looking forward to meeting up with some of the people I met at Salzburg at this year’s Le Grand Depart in Monaco, where I’ll be a volunteer and they’ll be spectators.