All done with a two week training camp in Calpe, Spain. A lot of teams find Calpe to be a good place to come and train. We saw Astana and a few of the other teams down there doing their thing.
In fact, my first training camp as a pro rider was in Calpe. It was 2001 and I was on the United States Postal Service Team. During that camp I kept asking the team for help with finding me a place to live. It was my first year in Europe on a pro team and I struggled to find a place to live.
Spain was where most of the cyclists seemed to live due to the formidable climate and terrain. I did not speak Spanish, but thought it would be best to live in Spain like the rest of my teammates. I was quite young and more than a bit intimidated by the whole living in Europe alone thing.
The bosses seemed a little too busy to help me out with my request for help as they were too busy trying to sign an important rider. They kept telling me not to worry. That is hard for me. I love to worry.
When the Postal Service camp was over the Big Boss told Julian Dean to take me with him and help me find a place to live. Matt White also needed a place to live so Matt and I ended up moving in with Julian Dean in a town called Piles. I remember being worried about food so I took as many Clif Bars with me from camp as I could.
The first morning I was up pretty early. I liked to get a hold of my then girlfriend, and now wife, Randi, before she went to bed in America. J.D. and Matt were really getting their sleep-in on. There were no supplies in the house as we had just gotten there the night before from camp. After many hours and a few Clif Bars, I decided to knock on J.D’s door.
I knocked quietly and said something like, “You want to go get some groceries?” I remember J.D. giving some sort of bearish grumble – he had really long hair back then and seemed very bearish. Actually, I have even seen him grab a kid off the back of a scooter from the bike – that’s bear- like, isn’t it?
Anyway, they got up and we went shopping. They told me to get as much water as possible so I filled a whole cart with water. Julian did most of the cooking. Looking back he was a good cook and extremely generous to take me in with him. I did the dishes. I remember I was going to let the dishes air dry because of what I was taught when I got my food handlers permit back when I was in the dishwashing business, but J.D and Matt insisted I wipe them down with a towel so that is what I did.
It was mainly Matt and I that did the training together as J.D. was battling an injury. I know how that goes. Whitey loved to stop for coffee every couple of hours. He would say, “I’m down mate” and we would find the nearest café and load up on his favorite, which was called a café bon bon.
One day Matt and I drove J.D.’s car back to the hotel where camp had been. We knew that some of the staff were still there so we took the opportunity to get over there and get ourselves a massage. I’m not so sure Matt knew how to shift the gears and he got really excited when he made the car go faster than that poor little car should’ve gone so I offered to drive back. I wasn’t on the highway for that long before our car completely shut down. I looked back and all I could see was white smoke. I nursed it to the next exit and we had to leave the car next to a bull- fighting arena and took a cab home. I don’t think J.D was too happy about his car being broken, although, eventually it got repaired.
We watched our fair share of music videos. If I remember correctly, J.D had the music videos recorded on VHS. Two of the movies we watched were The Doors and Silence of the Lambs. The three of us went through a good Doors phase together. After Silence of the Lambs, I was playing a song from the movie in my room and Matt came in and did a perfect impression of Buffalo Bill’s dance.
After awhile Matt and J.D. took me around a few other towns trying to help me find my own place. We were looking in big apartment buildings. But being from Utah and only knowing of houses, the thought of living in a big apartment complex felt strange to me. We finally found a place right in the center of a town called Gandia. I was on the top floor and it seemed perfect for me at that moment. But now I know to look for things like built in gas lines (no propane tanks), elevators and air conditioning.
I think J.D was more then ready for me to have my independence. I really upset him once when we were going to a race together. He was supposed to pick me up and we were to drive to the airport together, but he was running a little late. I couldn’t get a hold of him so I worried myself into taking a taxi. After I was all checked in, I see him walking into the airport. He was not too happy with me as he had spent time looking for me. Sorry about that one J.D.
That was a rough year for me in the races. There were a few other things going on and I wasn’t dealing well with the transition. The team kept taking me off of the race schedule and I thought that was great because then I could go home and spend more time with Randi, but they never really explained that it was a bad thing. I soon figured it out.
I also grew a little lonely in that apartment in Gandia. So one day on a ride with Matt White I made the decision to move to Girona. I cited my reasons and he said, ‘sounds good mate when you gonna go?’ to which I replied, ‘today!’ So I hurried back, rented a car, stuffed it full of my things, closed my bank acct., called someone from the team to help communicate with the landlord and hit the road. It was a liberating drive. I was having a good time. I was motivated again and ready to start over in a new place where more people from the team lived.
When I got Girona I moved in with Tony Cruz. I’ll save some Tony stories for next time. Well I’m still living in Girona, but now with my wife and son and there are more Americans here than ever before. You hear the occasional complaint like, ‘oh I can’t leave the house without seeing someone I know’, but I don’t mind it myself. I don’t try to avoid it, it’s nice knowing they’re all here, nothing wrong with a quick hello or a wave, otherwise it just gets lonely.