Book Excerpt: Michael Barry's Inside the Postal Bus - Part 2

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06/24/2005| 0 comments
by Michael Barry
Michael Barry's book Inside The Postal Bus.
Michael Barry's book Inside The Postal Bus.

Book Excerpt: Michael Barry's Inside the Postal Bus - Part 2

Part 2 ? USA racing.

Then we go out on the town, no?? he said with a smile, only half joking.

Max and I walked out of baggage claim and into the muggy, polluted airport parking. The smell of jet fuel and car exhaust, combined with the honks of drivers and the blast of the jets taking off, woke us out of our travel hangover.

Arriving at the hotel in Philly half an hour after the flight, we threw our gear in a room and walked to a local pizzeria down the block. The Lakers were on TV, the semifinals, and Julien DeVriese, our head mechanic, was entranced with the game as he cut into his pizza with a flexing plastic knife. The orange laminate tables, the lettered Pepsi menus above the cash register, it all felt like a place I knew. It felt good. Surreal though, as I was surrounded by a Flemish cycling crew that was glancing up at a Lakers game between bites of thick, cheesy pizza.

?Where yous guys from? Are yous here for that bike race?? asked the pizza parlor manager, hat turned backward, dressed in baggy jeans and basketball shoes.

?We?re here for the race,? responded Vince Gee, another mechanic.

?You like the Lakers??

?I do,? responded Julien, ?and those bastards better win tonight.?

?Are yous guys part of the team that that guy Lance Johnson rides for? You know, the guy that won the race in
France
?? the manager asked, as he got up from his seat in front of the TV to play with the air conditioner that was rigged precariously in the window with duct tape. After playing with the dials and switches for a few minutes, he left and opened the door to cool off the restaurant and then rejoined the conversation and the game.

?Yeah, that?s us, U.S. Postal,? responded Vince.

 

 

Julien loves coming to
America
for the races; they are, in fact, the only races where he works as a mechanic. Julien has been to more bike races than most of the riders combined, knows more about cycling than most of us, and has worked for Merckx, LeMond, and Lance as a mechanic. He is stubborn. The first year I raced with the team, I, along with most of the other riders, was scared of Julien. He would roll his eyes when I asked for a part to be changed or checked on the bike, making me feel as though I had asked for a new gold watch.

Julien rarely makes trips to the European races because he has done them all and because he keeps the team equipment in order at the warehouse and makes sure everything is running smoothly from the Belgian base. Julien comes to races in
America
because he loves
America
, the Lakers, and an afternoon ice cream.

Thirsty, and with no bottles, I went back to the team car during the 2003 Tour de Georgia for some water. Julien sat in the backseat, spare wheels beside him and a full cooler right behind the seat.

?What

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