Giro di PEZ: Meet The Masseur
I knew they would come, they always do, those post-big-race withdrawal symptoms. Usually there’s a kermesse and a pils somewhere to take the edge off, but I had a flight in the morning and there was no time for that.
As I drove to my Etap Hotel near Charleroi Airport on Monday night after stage three, my nerves jangling, I did a double take, T-Mobile and Francaise des Jeux; buses, trucks, cars, the lot, outside the Aero 44 hotel. – Yes!
My buddy Aldis is on the Giro with T-Mobile as a masseur, I was on that cellular telephone pronto.
“Ed! Yes, yes, just come up to the room, 109.” It was almost dark by now, but the T-Mobile and F des J mechanics were still hard at it in the car park, jet-washing the team vehicles.
NOT An Interview
Aldis is from the Baltic port of Riga, Latvia and his “day job” is as a masseur with the Latvian Olympic team but he does freelance work too – like this Giro for T-Mobile. I know him from us working together on the winter six day races.
After telling me that us Scottish guys are always so pale because of the lack of sunlight, he says; “Remember Ed, this is not an interview, it is just a chat, we are not allowed to give interviews; all journalists must go through the T-Mobile press officer. And before you ask, we are all under contract not to discuss Jan’s condition.”
“Eh, yeah, OK Aldis,” I stammer in reply.
Face down on the massage table is a lean, body with tanned and shapely legs; “who do have we here?” I ask.
Aldis works on some famous feet – of the 2000 World TT Champ Sergiy Honchar.
“It’s the top man in the squad, all the way from the Ukraine.”
He rattles off something in Russian and a smiling face turns to greet me and extends a big hand towards me – “Serhiy Honchar, world elite time trial champion at Plouay in 2000.”
“Does he speak English?” I ask Aldis.
“No, no, Russian; Ukrainian which is a little different from Russian and Italian, he lives in Italy now, he rides the Giro to prepare for Le Tour.”
I ask if the wet weather which plagued stages two and three caused problems. “No, not so much unless it is really cold; before the race we oil their legs and the clothing nowadays is so good, also in the finale they work the muscles so hard they don’t get cold. It’s the neck and shoulders where they maybe get sore and stiff with the wet.”
I say that I know we’re not allowed to mention a certain large red, red haired gent, but does Aldis rub his legs? “No, there are nine riders on the team and five masseurs, me and another three guys do two each, but Jan has a personal masseur. The riders spend maybe one hour each on the table, then they go and see the physiotherapist.”
I ask if he does any massage before the race. “No, just at night, in the morning we oil the legs, but this is done in the team bus; it is our mobile house, private with no visitors allowed.”
The quintessential masseur’s box of tools, and source for cool race news… .
And will Aldis be on Le Tour?
“I don’t know yet, it’s just like it is for the riders, the personnel are selected depending on how good a job they are doing, remember that T-Mobile can have teams at three different races at any one time.
When I meet Aldis I always ask how Latvia’s most famous cycling son, Romans Vainsteins, elite world champion at Plouay in 2000, is doing.
“I met him around Christmas time at the Latvian sportsman of the year awards, he was there as a VIP, he was looking fit. He is in the wine business now – he married one of his sponsors at the Vini Caldirola (wine producers) team who he used to ride for. I think that after he won the Worlds his motivation was finished, what could he do next that was better than that?”
It just remained for me to add PEZ to his “favourites” then drink some of his Scotch before we shake hands, we agree to meet again at the Tour, or maybe the Sixes?
Yeah, I felt better after that – until they cancelled my flight the next