Saturday, May 26, 2012

Exergy Tour: Through the Windshield

Posted By on Sat, May 26, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Two team cars plastered with logos and vinyl wraps drove next to each other. A motorcycle sped to the left of them, a photographer hanging off the end, and a cyclist squeezed in between. All of this takes place at a little under 40 mph during the first stage of the Exergy race on Friday, May 25.

The group is followed by another 15 team cars, mostly Subarus, each sporting several bikes on roof racks. In front, three commissaire (referee) cars and a neutral mechanic car followed a pack of 80 female cyclists, racing on a 76.7 mile-long course through Canyon County’s farmlands and vineyards.

The cars all honked at each other and at the cyclists, attempting to pass each other and speed up to their teams. In the background, a voice over a walkie talkie gave information on the race, first in English and then in French.

Angela van Smoorenburg drove the California-based Team TIBCO Volvo, speeding up to her cyclists, rolling down the window and shouting words of encouragement and tactics at them in a heavy Dutch accent.

She has been director of the team for a year now. It’s her first year directing in America, after coaching teams in Europe for seven years, and cycling herself 20 years before that.

“I call it the cycling disease,” Smoorenburg said. Her job entails explaining the layout of the courses to her riders, handling logistics of transporting them, creating tactics, and coaching. It’s not always easy since the women live all over the United States, and one in Canada.

“I live in my car,” she said. “Well, I don’t sleep in it.” After the Exergy race this weekend, the women will race in Philadelphia. “All the girls fly, but the cars have to get there somehow.”

As she’s driving, Smoorenburg is surprised to see sprinklers in Nampa’s fields. “What, do they have to bring extra water to the land?” she asked. “It looks so funny.”

In the backseat, Chris Kreidl continuously pushed away extra bike tires as they fell toward him at every turn. He’s been a bike race mechanic for seven years now.

“If I take more than 10 seconds to change a tire,” Kreidl said, “I’ve screwed up.”

Kreidl only had to get out of the car once, when a multi-bike crash hit less than a mile from the finish. Georgia Bronzini of team Diadora from Italy, laid on the asphalt screaming and sobbing, holding her chest. Kreidl helped the TIBCO girls back up and jumped in the car, which sped off to see the finish.

Kreidl was the one who discovered TIBCO’s stolen bikes on May 23rd. He said it made him, along with most of the racers, sick to their stomachs.

“This is our living,” he said. “We’re here to do a job. I take pride in what I do, and for someone to take it all away in the middle of the night,” he said, shaking his head. But Kreidl said he was humbled by the support the Boise community and Exergy gave the team.

“The CEO of Exergy offered to send his private jet to pick up anything we needed,” Kreidl said. “And the community crime stoppers threw in money for a reward.”

The cyclists got up to 42 mph in the course of the race, with the TIBCO and 16 other team cars close behind, sometimes right beside them. Each time a rider took off her rain jacket or needed a bottle of water, the cars sped up, and helped however they could.

“We’re all really friendly,” Smoorenburg said. “We’re like a little circus that travels around.”

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