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By Kip Mikler, VeloNews editor
It wasn’t your normal weekday morning in the city of Hamilton, Ontario. “I need a German-English dictionary,” said the waitress at the Sunrise Restaurant as she topped off a cup of coffee. “And French, Italian and Swiss….”
The streets of this no-nonsense center of industry, which usually goes by the name “Steel City,” have been taken over by foreigners, some wearing bug-eyed Rudy Project helmet shields and others asking where they can get a decent espresso. The local media seems mostly delighted with the spotlight on Hamilton, and the Hamilton Spectator newspaper is even printing special “souvenir editions” of the cycling coverage throughout the week.
On the flipside, one waiter at Shakespeare’s restaurant said the world championships has driven his business away. And Jeff Dubois, the general manager of Hamilton Motor Products, which sits directly across from the team tents lining the street near the start-finish line, told the Spectator that his dealership would lose more than $50,000 during the event.
Still, the majority of locals lining the streets seem to be marveling at the spectacle. “I think it’s wonderful,” squawked a voice over morning radio being played at the Sunrise. “Did you know that these cyclists burn 6000 calories when they race?”
The radio personality was likely referring to something she learned from a page 1 report in that day’s Spectator that ran with the headline, “Awesome Body Power.” Never mind that the figure was actually referring to the typical caloric intake of some Tour de France racers, it still sounded impressive. Readers also learned about VO2 max, along with the observation by local kinesiology professor Dr. Martin Gibala that elite cyclists generate more than 400 watts of power for hours at a time.
“The average individual in our lab cannot generate 300 watts for 30 seconds,” Gibala said.
One Canadian sports reporter remained unimpressed. “This is a terrible sport for spectators,” he said while trying to conjure up a report for his paper. “I just don’t get it. It’s just weird — they have this huge press center, but I don’t know anyone here. It’ just all Europeans or something.”
Perhaps the happiest Hamiltons (Hamiltonians? Hammies?) are the schoolchildren, who got the whole week off. With transportation virtually shut down in some parts of town, it wasn’t feasible to keep school in session, so some kids are spending the week watching racing, while others got out of town with their parents. A group of some that did stick around was seen being led hand-in-hand down King Street Wednesday morning by an adult. The sight of nine half-pints wearing purple and pink bicycle helmets as they paraded down the street drew plenty of smiles from onlookers, including members of the Italian team gathered outside the Howard Johnson’s for a morning ride.
The children not watching the race were most likely on a beach somewhere. Local travel agencies enjoyed a spike in business this week as those not interested in being barricaded in by course restrictions split town. Some travel agencies claimed the number of trips booked by Hamilton residents this week was second only to spring break, known in Hamilton as “March Break.”
You may have noticed Bobby Julich using chainrings that looked like misshapen eggs on his Team Telekom Pinarello for Thursday’s time trial. Geoff Brown, the mechanic for the pro members of the U.S. team, said Julich had been training with the unusual looking rings, labeled “Harmonic,” at his home in the south of France. After he finished 14th in the race, Julich said he thought they helped him save 5 seconds per kilometer.
U.S. TEAM UPDATE
Julich and Levi Leipheimer arrived early to race Thursday’s time trial, and Tim Johnson drove the six hours from his home to Hamilton earlier in the week, but most of the American men scheduled to race Sunday’s elite men’s road race will arrive on Friday. Team leader George Hincapie, Chris Horner, John Lieswyn and Mark McCormack are among those due to arrive in Hamilton less than 48 hours before the start. The American team has set up home base in Ontario’s Niagara wine region, about 30 kilometers outside of Hamilton. For the racers, it’s a 45-minute ride along the shore of Lake Ontario to get to the world’s course.