What's Cool In Road Cycling

Interbike04: Backstage With PEZ

The post-Interbike fog is finally lifting – the voice is still scratchy, the body still feels like dead wood, but my body fluids have been replaced and the noggin’ throb gone. By now you’ve scoured the web for the latest and greatest from Vegas, but we saw some stuff you might have missed…

Here comes the marching band leading the way to the Shimano sponsored beer garden and battle of the industry bands. Is it 6 o’clock already…?

The first guy I see upon entering the show Wednesday AM is Eddy Merckx himself. Typically I’ve just stood in awe when I’ve seen him in the past, but this time I went over and introduced myself. I explained what I do, and asked if he’s seen PezCycling News. He said no. But he did agree to giving us a tour of his factory in November when we head to Ghent for the Six Days.

Later that night – about 15 hours later – I’m at the Hardrock and I bump into Axel Merckx – whom I’ve also never met. So I introduce myself and turns out Axel does know who we are. So I tell him the story of meeting his dad, and Axel starts chuckling – “yeah my dad, he’s pretty old fashioned, he doesn’t know much about the internet.”

SIMONI & CUNEGO: We’re Champions, Not Pals
We were hangin’ back stage at the Fizik booth for the Damiano Cunego/ Gilberto Simoni 1-hour Q & A hosted by Bob Roll – hoping to get in a few questions of our own, get a couple of things signed (hey – we’re fans too!) – and a more than a little curious see the two Giro winners together after last June’s broohaha.

The patient tifosi waited an hour for Simoni to arrive. The event was off to a rocky start when Simoni’s travel plans delayed him by a day – so the whole thing got pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday.

So there we are at the appointed time, cameras ready and waiting. Cunego was there too – looking bright-eyed and mullet-tailed. The striking thing about Damiano was his size and stature –he’s only 21, but dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, he appeared much younger. He doesn’t speak English, so he was understandably quiet.

But there was no sign of Simoni. The appointed hour arrived and passed. 15 minutes. 20 minutes. A half hour went by. A crowd of perhaps 200 was waiting patiently outside, but backstage it was quiet and kinda tense. The organizers were dialing the cell phones every few minutes checking on Gilberto’s whereabouts, and the mood wasn’t exactly jovial.

Finally Simoni cruises in the back way. He’s smiling, looking calm, hey no problem… dressed like a campione in a white dress shirt – collar open, black sports jacket, black slacks and some damn pointy Italian dress shoes. All of us in the booth get pretty quiet…

At this point, Cunego is sitting on a bench, and he looks up and watches Simoni enter. So here comes the big moment – sure – the buzz was how these two were going to react to each other –

The next 3 seconds unfolded like this…

Simoni walks towards Cunego – getting closer…closer – Cunego looks up at Simoni (but doesn’t stand) – Simoni gives him a glance and Cunego nods at Simoni – no smile – then Simoni walks straight past the young champ and turns his back.

Boom. No words. No hand shakes. Just some classic – and I mean classic – posturing and body language as only Italians can deliver.

A few seconds later Bob Roll broke the tension with a joke, and soon the stars were out front meeting the fans, answering questions, and smiling. People waited for 45 minutes to an hour, and everyone looked thrilled to finally see the two Giro campioni.

The thing about working Interbike, is that your days are non-stop – seriously non-stop. We started at 6:00 AM everyday, had our first meeting at 7:00 or 8:00, and went all day until closing at 6:00PM, (lunch was a couple of powerbar bites, a small cup of energy drink and an espresso) grabbed a beer or shower and dinner at 7:00, then out with clients and friends.

The smart ones pack it in by 11:00 and bag a few zzz’s, but there’s a darn large contingent of us who feel the pull of the Vegas nightlife vortex and leave it in the big ring well into the wee hours. I have one rule on this – that is – just get back to your hotel before the sun comes up. It’s a fine line – balancing the sleep hours, but even with just a couple of hours of sleep a night – there’s more than enough adrenaline at Interbike to keep you powered to the finish. Hey – you can always sleep on the plane!

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