Friday, April 1, 2011

Matt White revisited

On the road he was the support rider for people such as Francesco Casagrande, Lance Armstrong and the Australian Olympic Cyclones. If he had been treated more fairly and given more of the opportunities that his talent deserved he would have been a world and Olympic Champion . I voiced this opinion after I met him as a “Directeur Sportif”, he rounded on me and asked if I was criticizing his career, as he was proud of what he had achieved. For a while after this he ignored me as my choice of words were picked up by him in another context. At the 2009 tour he autographed “Skippys Legacy” so I hope that we will enjoy chatting once again.

As a Directeur Sportif he has had outstanding results with his athletes and leads the team from the front gaining podium results for his Sponsors.

I first met Matt at the 1999 Tour de Suisse which was a new event for us both. As he was an Aussie I had gone looking for him. The smaller tours were a good place to get close to the riders. At the Giro I was given accreditation so I was able to mix fairly readily with all concerned. When I presented at the Suisse the Media head told me I would not be given this accreditation as he said “the only time I see you in the press centre is “when you are eating or drinking”. Days later on the Saturday etappe on a mountain pass he sat as a passenger in a Mercedes coupe crawling up the pass with me continually overtaking him. A couple of times he made remarks and finally I lost it and said “the only time I see you is when you are sitting on your butt annoying cyclists and offering opinions above your pay scale and abilities!”

The next day I spoke with Matt before he made the Time Trial run. He was one of the first racers away on the course , so until near the end his time was the bench mark. Afterwards when we spoke I asked him how he felt about being on the Podium and said that I would like to see him on the top step in the next days. At that time Matt was in a cleft stick as on the previous Friday he had been told there was no Tour de France that year since Casagrande was “Persona non grata with ASO” that year because of his activities and suspicions relating to his "health", unproven of course .

Monday evening found us in Lichtenstein with Matt on the stage as victor. Whilst waiting for the presentation I found the local folk band and as they knew “Waltzing Matilda” I had them strike up whilst he was being presented on the stage to the crowd. Before he went on stage I gave him my “Aussi Cricket team cap” to wear but he had to wear the “Vini Caldarola cap”. I never got the cap back , it I was told was at one time worn by Alan Border. It had been given to me by the Aussie Rowing team at Leverkusen World Rowing Champs the previous October . Matt it was only a loan, mate and I would love to get it back!

Over the years I have enjoyed watching Matt in action. One of the last was disappointing as I thought when he passed through Bellinzola on the way to the finish at Lugano with Mick Rogers, Commesso and Freire that he might just podium once more. It was not to be as Oscar bunny hopped the median barrier and smoked them. Commesso sat up and so the three of them lost the initiative and whilst the Italian scored 7th place the Aussies were absorbed by the sprint.

These past months I have enjoyed seeing Matt voicing his opinion regarding a variety of cycling subjects.

Good luck to Matt and Garmin team in 2010.

Since this posting Matt has had a run in with Jon Vaughters at the Tour Down Under and is currently working with the Cyclones and there are reports he will be involved with the new Aussie Cycling Team , Greenedge , which is gearing up to enter the 2012 season as a "Protour Level Team" . With Matt's and Shane Bannon's race experience there is a good chance of their early success !

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