The journey part two
Another day, another flat stage, another opportunity for a Bird win, another possibility to equal the amount of stagewins the Bankgiroloterij-riders reached last year. The two racers most fit for this job are Gerben Löwik and Rudie Kemna. This last one, his chances are jinxed while not being able to win when certain persons present, the leader in overall with all the eyes focussed on him and the jersey he wears. Once again the same scenery as the day before, other riders of other teams wandering about, searching their way on their own through the starting area. Much different to this the Bankgiro-boys close to their nest, enjoying their time before they have a job to do, joking about and getting visited by known riders from other teams. The friendly atmosphere hanging around the grey bus attracts racers like Axa's Paul van Schalen. This number three of the last held Dutch Championships time trial used to race for the same team and knows those Birds all to well. A clear blue sky hosts a shining sun, a sun who gets some severe competition in shining from the laughter of the happy birds.
Before the starting-gun pops, Rudie Kemna makes an arrangement with one of the policewomen accompanying the race. What it all is about, little do we know but all find out later. The stage takes the riders through the south-eastern part of the province of Noord-Brabant to the town called Sint-Michielsgestel. This town is the home-town of Rabobankrider and cyclocrosser Richard Groenendaal, who reached successfully for the world-title in his own village some years ago. Way ahead of the fasted schedule planned the racers reach Sint-Michielsgestel for the resulting laps through its surroundings. No escapees make it all the way to the finishline, the chances of Bankgiro-sprinter Rudie Kemna increase by the minute, more of the kilometres to ride slide away under the zooming wheels. And not only before the start but also in working together for a stage-win the Birds turn out once again a very coherent flock. Coherent and successful when a happy Rudie Kemna crosses the line before the others. All of the Bankgiro-riders present in the first group ride all the way to the team-bus to join their soigneur. Being washed with eau de cologne the race is re-raced, events are told, victory is celebrated. Rudie Kemna talks and talks, declares the jinx not able to win to be
broken when the one appears to congratulate him on the win. Team-manager Arend Scheppink and director Johan Capiot join their team, congratulate not only the winner, but all riders. One of the riders arriving later is the unfortunate yellow jersey wearer Gerben Löwik. He tells he made some less fun contact with the street-stones in the last kilometre and hurt his hip and knee. Luck with this bad luck is, the fall happened in the last K. and no time is lost.
When the victory ceremony commences and a still smiling a thousand smiles Rudie Kemna is being interviewed on the podium all of the sudden a big policecar stops and a policewoman gets out. She gets all the attention of the winner, the arrangements of earlier that day at the start result in Kemna receiving a lot of winning kisses, from the original miss and the policewoman who counts her luck and takes advantage in kissing the man from Deurningen about 12 times. The sprinter gets flowers, gets a present representing what the village of Sint-Michielsgestel stands for, a joined town of 4 others. Gerben Löwik receives a fresh yellow jersey and a new bouquet of flowers, which makes him forget some of his hurt. A few later the birds sit happily together in the BirdsBus and cruise the highway on their way back to their hotel near the departure-city from the day before.
Friday flight in the south.
When a race has to be really a good race in the Netherlands it has to be a race with at least one stage in the hillier part in the southern regions of the country. And since the Ster Elektro Toer wants to be such a race it visits this region too. Legendary in the world of cycling is the town called Valkenburg. The small town lying hidden in the hills between Maastricht and Heerlen hosted up till now various big races like world championships and nationals and in last year's too, a stage-arrival of the Ster Elektro Toer. Blue skies and sunny sun shines over the picturesque centre. A bit out of the central squares and streets the starting-line is drawn. Two parking-lots are divided by a street. One parking lot is not to be reached for vehicles higher than one metre and ninety centimetres. Miraculously though the Bankgiro truck is parked here, even though the thing is higher than the 1.90 metres. Seems that a piece of grass and a sidewalk just were wide enough to pass by.
One parking-guard who really really really enjoys his work tries to persuade the both men from Bankgiroloterij working to prepare the bikes to either buy a parkingticket or either move their vehicles. The parkingguard tries and tries but neither Maarten Reussink nor Piet Hoekstra gives in. Few moments later a very disappointed parkingguard decides to try and take his luck in persuading elsewhere and leaves the lot.
The birds arrive in their teambus. While most of the other riders of the other teams cycle around, talking here, preparing there the ones from Bankgiroloterij sit unquietly together on the parkingbench and some campingseats. The three bottles of wine for a victory one setted the trend last season is generously received by the stagewinner of the day before, Rudie Kemna. The others re-pre-join their drink of some glasses of this spiritual fluid later on that day.
Sitting on the hood of the car enjoying his part of the sunshine mechanic Maarten Reussink tells he today is the mascot of the team. He will disguise as a big lucky bird if the sponsor gives him the costume, has asked them already but they told him he better not do that, because the ones they already had put in the costume has suffered some suffocation.
The startinggun guns. Before the action really hits off some riders and one team receive once again a nice bouquet of flowers. Since they are all ranked high in the overall qualification it is obvious the best team flowers go to them boys of Bankgiroloterij. Amongst others Rudie Kemna once again receives graciously the three kisses from the misses and with the same grace a little later decides to hand over the bouquet to one present there instead of taking it with him along the ride throughout south-Limburg.
The riders ride their ride, climb their climbs, escape the escapes and come back to Valkenburg some hours later. Even though Bobbie Traksel has read in his horoscope of the day this morning should be his, it's a breakawaygroup without him that heads for the finishline. To all's surprise and even to surprise of the man himself, Bart Voskamp is able to win the sprint of the twentysome riders. Once again the same scene as has been seen the day before; all of the Bankgiro-riders present in the first group ride all the way to the team-bus to join their soigneur. Being washed with eau de cologne the race is re-raced, events are told, victory is celebrated. This time it's mostly Bart Voskamp who does the talking, reliving the sprint band win with his teammates. And once again Arend Scheppink and Johan Capiot join their team, congratulate not only the winner, but all riders. Capiot asks himself and his team, “Which jersey we do NOT have in the team so far?” Bert Hiemsta smilingly notices the fact this win means another some bottles of wine and probably some champagne too. The bunchsprint turns out to be a playing battle between Rudie Kemna and Bobbie Traksel, won by the last one. At Bankgiroloterij one does not win alone all by himself. As after every win every stage one joys the race with the others. When like today Voskamp crosses the line first, with him his teammates Remco van der Ven, Rik Reinerink, Bram Schmitz and Bert Hiemstra do too. And so does Kemna in his sprint of the bunch and the two injured birds Jan van Velzen and Gerben Löwik, who too did do their part of the job and join the others near the teambus and in their joying for the win.
Both Bart Voskamp and Gerben Löwik get to know the podium better every day. And every day they are joined by Kyrili Pospeyeyev from the other animal team in the peloton, the Acqua e Sapone squadra from bella Italia. And every time the Ukranian rider understands less of all the blabbering that goes on between all the Dutch there present. But he bravely keeps on smiling, same do the two lucky birds with their hands full of flowers, their jerseys hidden under another one (Löwik switches from yellow to white for the best younger rider and Voskamp sure will not catch a cold since he wears both green and yellow for best in bonussprints and overall). When the victory and flower ceremony is in full progress the birds not on the podium leave for their hotel, riding by on their bike, yelling “CHAMPAGNE!!!” when they pass by the podium. A loud laughter of all present fills the warm September-air. After one of the three bouquets the most experienced one in the Bankgiroloterij team has received is handed over to one, the two celebrated birds take off too on their bikes to their hotel to prepare for the timetrail later that day.