October 09, 2006

Nice way to spend a Sunday

Saturday night came, and although I was still nursing a fairly serious cold, I decided some fresh air would be good and that I should get out of the house. Coincidently, Hiro Aoyama had returned from Japan with his brother, Shuhei, and they invited me out for dinner along with some friends. Why not? I took the BMX down from my apartment in the Eixample district and rode through the Ramblas and Gothic area, getting my bearings back and trying to see if I had enough time to get to the water before I had to turn around and get to the restaurant. Sure enough, I managed to get lost in the dark, zig-zagging through the maze of the Gothic area's winding roads. I was moving at a good clip and all the buildings are a couple stories high, so it was difficult to find my landmarks, but I covered enough ground to go around more than once, and when I reached the restaurant, I was still first. Naturally, I wasn't running on Spanish-Time.

It was good to breathe again, to feel the burn in my chest and in my legs, and to be honest, I really get a kick out of zooming around on my bike. It's so strange to see how my life has played out so far, and to be fair, I'm a little scared at how it's going to keep on going. I remember my first "real" bike, a chrome frame Mongoose that I spent hours on trying to remove the rust spots. It was a garage sale special, and I rode the wheels off it. Later, I started riding seriously on Kona Fire Mountain MTB bike, tackling the hills in Hawaii and bombing through the backside of Tantalus every weekend. I'll never forget my good buddy, Chris Winn, high-siding it as we were coming down the frontside on city streets. He was trying to avoid a car that was over the double yellow and the result was a broken ankle. But I'm getting off-topic here. Oh! Just remembered, my headbearings on the BMX (Haro Mirra 540 AIR) are completely shot and need replacing. Anyone know where I can get some? The shops here in Spain leave a little to be desired.

If you're near the Cathedral in Barcelona, head north and you'll end up in a small loop of streets with a couple nice restaurants. You're looking for this:

Here's a close-up. I've been coming here for almost a year now, mostly for special ocassions or with a special person. Shunka (not to be confused with Shunko!) is a small Japanese restaurant that serves traditional and non-traditional food. The owner is a highly animated man who loves motorbikes and the wall above the openview kitchen is covered with autographed photos of Hiro and Shinya Nakano, who also is based out of Barcelona. Although Hiro and I had made big plans to party and "whoop it up" in Tokyo following the Motegi round, I knew he was pretty busy with work commitments and I wanted him to be able to spend as much time with his Japanese friends as possible. Besides, my own schedule was rather chaotic and I wanted to explore Japan at my own pace. This was our real Motegi Victory celebration, and the food and the company were great. Shunka is great!

We were joined by my roomates, Patricia and Daniel, and a few girls who were friends of Ursula, a girl who does a lot of work with Telefonica. She's full of neat stories about the riders who have been sponsored by Telefonica/Movistar in the past.

Muggin' for the camera is the norm. I guess this means I've had two Motegi victory dinners - with the winners of the MotoGP class and the 250cc class!

Dinner ran a couple of hours, until after midnight. I had already made plans to attend the 5th round of the CEV, the Spanish National Championship, the next day, Sunday, in Montmelo. Turns out Shuhei wanted to go, too. His team has been in something of an unheaval this season ever since Sebastian Porto left Grand Prix earlier this year, and he has had several different teamates since then. He wanted to see David De Gea racing in the Formula Extreme (1000cc, almost Superbike spec bikes) class, because De Gea might be joining him in Estoril. The plan for an early day didn't seem to put much of a damper on anyone's partying spirit, though. Some of our group didn't make it back to the house until almost 6AM. . . . . . . . . . . but that's Spain for you. I started my morning off with some serious coffee and a tarta de queso, or cheese tart. Note the extra sugar necessary to get the day going.

Montmelo! Four of us drove together in Hiro's car, myself, Ursula, and the A-Bros. Hiro remarked as we were driving in under the bridges (the roads going to the paddock pass under parts of the track), that he was feeling a little nervous, even though he wasn't racing. We had a good chuckle, and then we talked a little about what it's like for him at the start of a race. Hiro says that after the mechanics leave the starting grid, it all gets very quiet for him, very calm. Meanwhile, the paddock in the Spanish Champ. was anything but. I couldn't believe how many people were there! Not only the National guys, but there were a significant amount of GP folks in attendence, as well. The usual suspects were there, and I said hi in passing. Randy Mamola was there with Dakota, who's still nursing a broken wrist (in a fat fiberglass cast), and the MotoGP Academy was running, too. Said hi to Juan Martinez, who's not talking about where he'll be working next season, and Raul Jara, one of the main coordinators of the Academy. He's a great guy and was a good racer a few years back. In fact, it's a little sad, but when he was coming up through the Movistar cup, he did quite well, outplacing Dani Pedrosa. At that time, Joan Olive and Jara were slated to move up into the 125 GP's, but Alberto Puig made the decision that Jara wouldn't move up, and instead chose Dani Pedrosa. The rest, as they say, is history. Oh, there were a lot of 125 adn 250 guys around, too. Mechanics from Lorenzo's squad, and from Seedorf Valsir. It was a little strange seeing some of the people from the "big" circus, and I had fun watching Pol Espargaro win the Spanish 125 Championship. I had a good time racing with his older brother, Aleix, at Valencia last year. I should mention that Pol is the youngest person to score points in a GP, at 15 years 8 days, with his 13th place the other week. Great job, and I hope he continues to improve and impress as he gains more experience. Not only was I able to catch up with some of the GP guys, but I ran into a bunch of mechanics I had worked with in the Qatar series this year, before I got the ride in GP. They're spread out, working for various teams, but I think we'll all still get together next season and do it again. Who knows?

Turns out the Formula Extreme race was won by Ivan Silva, the rider who substituted for Alex Hofmann for three rounds in MotoGP, and who I've had the pleasure of working with! This was D'Antin's first victory in the F. Ext. Championship this season, and they boys were ecstatic! There was a huge celebration, and I hope we can take that momentum with us into next year. Here's a photo of the Trophy, along with Pedro, who I worked with in Qatar, and Tomas, who I work with in GP.

The team packed and loaded the semi, driving to Madrid that evening. Come Tuesday, we're all driving to Lisbon together - no idea how long that will take, so hopefully the scenery is nice. We wrapped up the day with a super meal at La Trabuc in Montmelo (call for reservations), and then headed back to Barcelona, tired and happy. What a great day, with good racing, good food, and good people. Can't wait to do something like that again! However, I've since learned that the race that took place after we left was marred by tradegy, as a rider went down in Supersport in front of the main pack and was struck repeatedly while sliding/rolling. He was medivac'd immediately but was pronounced dead at the hospital. Complete downer. I'm leaving early tomorrow morning for Estoril, and hopefully everything goes out without a hitch, and that everyone stays safe. Be safe out there.

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