Velogal's Blog

Friday, October 14, 2005

When I saw the news this morning that Sony Ericsson had quashed the sponsor deal for Giancarlo Ferretti’s new cycling team, I immediately thought about Mattie White, affectionately called Whitey. He has just had the crappiest cycling luck the past couple of years. He left Cofidis (as did Stuart O’Grady) to sign up with this new team for 2006. Now - kaput! At this late date, several of the new team members and staff, about four dozen people, are scrambling for jobs...

Bad luck - remember last year, that Whitey crashed and broke his collarbone just a few hours before he was to ride his dream: his first Tour de France. He was warming up for the Prologue in Liege, and took a digger. Away to the hospital and out of the Tour. And when Whitey left the Posties team in 2003, that was when the second wave of Cofidis drug stuff broke.... There he was, newly signed and all Hell broke loose. I emailed him at the time, and he was his usual up-beat self about it.

I remember Whitey’s first Postal training camp in 2001. I think we were in Tucson that year, not Scottsdale. I arrived at the airport and got soaked getting to my rental. Sunny Arizona was freezing cold and the rain was pouring down in buckets. I headed up the main boulevard, which looked like a small creek. Much to my astonishment, thru my struggling windshield wipers, I saw a group of cyclists riding in water up to their hubs. Then I realized they are wearing the Blue Train colors. OMG - it’s the Posties! Drenched in the downpour their whole training ride, heading for our hotel.

The guys were in small bunches, and with traffic and stoplights, I ended up way behind them. One lone rider had been dropped and I stopped beside him at a light. It was Whitey, and he didn’t look too good at all - I really didn’t know him and he didn’t now me, either. I asked him how he was doing. “Not so good, I’m freezing to death”. And he really looked hypothermic to me, seriously.

The light turned green and I had to drive on, but I couldn’t see any team support vehicle anywhere behind me in the rain. I just knew the guy was in trouble. So I pulled over about a block away, and Whitey rode up and got off his bike. He was literally blue in the face and shaking from the cold. He told me they had ridden in snow in the high mountains and being an Aussie, he wasn’t used to the cold. I offered for him to sit in my car with the heater on, and I’d try to stick his bike in my trunk in some half-arsed way.

But there is a code of honor, you know, and he thanked me and said no, he thought there was a team van somewhere behind him. So I just stood there in the rain, getting soaked myself, figuring that a team support vehicle didn’t come soon, I was gonna have to make him get in my car. I kept talking to him, but his teeth were chattering so bad - he wasn't in any shape to make conversation. I felt like hugging him or something to keep him warm, but that idea was a little out there...

It was quite a while, but we saw a van coming through the rain, and there were the soigneurs, who jumped out and stuck his bike on the roof, stuck him in the van, and away they went. They later told me that they rushed Whitey right into a hot shower, with this kit and shoes on... He was definitely hypothermic. He came up to me later and really thanked me for hanging in there with him - said he thought he was gonna die of the bloody cold. So he and I have this special soaking wet bonding between us...

This photo is from the 2005 Tour de France, after the finish of one of the mountain stages, and Whitey is still grinning....


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