Read this aloud: Tintinnabulation is the ringing of the bells. Notice anything? It’s poetic, the alternating high and low syllables, so that it glides effortlessly off your tongue. My father, the maestro poet that he is, sings this short ditty seemingly every time he hears bells ring – or at least often enough to have it tattooed in my memory from a young age.
It’s now two in the morning, I’m listlessly lying in bed, and this expression runs through my head time and again as the cathedral bells chime twice signaling the hour. Anyone who has visited Girona will likely remember this tintinnabulation, as it occurs with precise regularity every 15 minutes.
It’s been a whirlwind day. The team awoke early from our oddly castle-themed hotel in northwestern Spain to drive more than an hour to the final stage of Castilla y Leon. With the subsequent completion of nearly four hours of racing, one of the first thoughts for the majority of the racers – or at least the ones needing to fly to their next destination – was learning the latest news regarding airport closures.
Under normal circumstances, what follows at the conclusion of a bike race is a lesson in chaos theory; namely, finding order within disorder. Bikes are washed and loaded into the work truck at a frenetic pace, riders shower and change in the snug confines of team busses, while suitcases are thrown cavalierly from bus to car in order to zip riders to the airport for their flight that takes off in just 18 minutes. It truly is a fascinating site to see.
As of that Sunday morning, the Iberian Peninsula appeared to have safely escaped the ashy wrath of Eyjafjallajökull (pronounced just the way it appears). I was particularly pleased, as I merely had to fly from one end of Spain to the other once the race concluded, as opposed to those flying north toward the region of Europe currently shrouded in volcanic spew. Throughout the week we at Castilla y Leon read with a hint of entertainment about the travel tribulations of teams headed to Holland for the start of Amstel Gold. Our departure from Spain at week’s end was still many days away and certainly we would not be affected by the volcano.
That, unfortunately, was a poor assumption as we soon learned there were unanimous airport closures across the continent. Flying somewhere? Not today you’re not.
Cyclists and teams, however, are an improvisational sort, as witnessed by the immediate and creative reactions to this event. Seeing this potential cloud looming on the horizon as Castilla y Leon neared its conclusion, each teams’ logical gurus, the fine folks behind a desk who thanklessly take care of the dynamic travel arrangements for the fifty or so riders and staff that compose each team, were already doling out plans A through D in order to get each member of their team to each proper destination.
Moreover, the level of cross-mojination between teams, riders, sports directors, mechanics, and soigneurs is the perfect example of the inherent camaraderie found in cycling. While a European map with Monopoly pieces indicating teams’ cars, buses, and trucks would perhaps illustrate this point better (I call shotgun in the thimble!), perhaps never before have there been so many riders and staff from all throughout the peloton scattered among vehicles of other teams en route to locations all across Europe.
Within the past 24 hours, I have concluded a five-day race, raced 170 kilometers, and driven an additional 1,200. Both my body and mind ache with exhaustion and as I finally drift off to sleep, a sole bell rings indicating it’s now quarter past two in the morning. The expression runs once more through my mind, tintinnabulation is the ringing of the bells.
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This year Ted King is in his sophomore year with the Cervélo TestTeam. After getting a taste for the European peloton with the U.S. espoir national team in 2005, King returned to the United States for three successful years of domestic pro racing. The 27-year-old is a native of New Hampshire and despite his affinity for hearty servings of coffee, he is slowly adapting to the smaller European portions. Slowly. His diaries appear monthly on VeloNews.com; between the scanty portions we serve up, you can follow Ted at www.Cervelo.com/team and www.iamTedKing.MissingSaddle.com. Those of you content with 140 characters or less can track his activities at www.twitter.com/iamtedking.