On the way to 207, Remi and Ben’s room, a black dude with a homemade-looking grill and white medical tape wrapped around several of the fingers on his right hand asks me to go to the corner store and purchase alcohol for him, he can’t leave the premises you understand because his daughter is asleep in the room, Remi walks by in bib shorts, compression socks past his knees and a polo with the collar flipped-up the 80’s way, he’s pushing his bike vertical-style in order to squeeze it between the grill-having dude and myself, and the balcony railing, beyond which railing is the backest of alleys, littered with Burger King bags and broken bottles, choked with vines and weeds. The alley separates our motel, which motel I can’t name, and a neighborhood of sorts, it’s hot again, an air conditioner leaks and hums from above, sorry dude but I can’t, I’m late for a professional bike race, which nobody cares about because it’s America and nobody in the greater public sense here cares much about bike racing.
At their best hotels, are forgettable and consistently boring. That’s what you want in a hotel, a non-experience.
Later that night, as in way later, as in nearly midnight, I’m on a bed in a room, which room smells like coagulating refried beans and tubular glue, surrounded by stacks of wheels, partially naked athletes and a collection of sweaty Styrofoam containers sat on every conceivable flat surface including the top of the TV, which TV is on even though nobody is watching what looks like Matlock.
One of the problems with Hotel Life is the eating out every night. As well as, I suppose, the isolation and boredom. And the fact that you’re stuck for long periods of time with only one person, your roommate (probably on the phone to his girlfriend, a lot), for the duration of your stay in the suburbs of _________?
If you’re lucky your team has a soigneur to handle the laundry. If you’re Remi you take this opportunity to walk past room 205’s open door with a mesh sack full of colorful science and stink on your shoulder like a dejected semi-derelict Santa after a hard evening of criteriums and late night Burrito Joints.
“I get stuck doing the laundry all the time. Hotel Life sucks because its not conducive to team camaraderie. Sometimes you all hang out together but mostly you sit in your room and watch television and do the internet. Unless you’re Scott (Team Exergy Co-owner) who talks to everyone including the randoms in the hallway. But every once in awhile you see a hot chick come out of an elevator.” – Remi McManus, Exergy Team Manager
The next day we checkout. Team Exergy is charged $18.00 dollars a piece for two towels – hand towels actually. Side Note: As of 2012, only one of the two guys who left their “hand” towels lying in plain sight after using them to cleanoff their chains, is still on the team. The other is not, for unrelated/related reasons.
This is just not how it’s done. Remi explains
“You have a lot of downtime right. So after the race or the next morning maybe, you put your bike in the shower by itself. And you give the bike a hot shower. Then you take it out and clean it up (in the bathroom!) with a washcloth. Not a towel or hand towel, a washcloth. Then you throw the washcloth away. You don’t leave a greasy-black washcloth on the floor like evidence for the maid to find.”
In Europe Hotels can be like Homestays, high-risk high-reward. Last year during the Tour of Bulgaria, Team Exergy (Beta ) stayed one night in a Soviet era hotel reopened for the first time since who-knows-when. With an elevator as good as broken, the only safe way up to their room on the 22nd floor was a narrow rusted-out hand railing-less spiral staircase 30+ flights high running through the open atrium-like center of the building. “Oh, and the Elvira-looking lady at the front desk who checked us in, the one with the white streak running through the center of her huge black hair, I know for a fact has ties to Dracula.” – Anonymous. The following night, Exergy stayed in a massive recently remodeled hotel located in the center of a well-maintained city park. Every room was a suite with modern furniture, state-of-the-art technology and 200 sq ft. bathrooms with open showers and glass everywhere. The night after that, a total shithole. Eastern Bloc style.
Homestays are like that, too. The hosts are often nice, and their accommodations, while often unusual or atypical or ad hoc, or whatever, are also nice. Though sometimes they’re not. It’s inconsistent.
“One thing about Hotels that’s really nice is the consistency. Homestays can be rough. Like when you have four guys spread-out on a floor and you’re the one sleeping with your head inches from the toilet, and all night long you got guys stepping over you on the way to take a shit, and you can hear in graphic detail the sound of feces evacuating their bodies, it’s hard to go back to sleep after something like that.” – Sam Johnson.
Technically speaking, and this only if you are lucky enough to race for one of the few U.S. teams to receive an invite, Colorado's USA Pro Cycling Challenge, in an effort to emulate Continental Europe’s Baller Approach to cycling, recently broke with the United State’s corporate tradition of Vanilla. For seven nights, Rocky Mountain’s finest ski resorts competed against each other in an attempt to out-luxury and out-decadent the competition. Breckenridge tried to out do Aspen, Vail tried to one-up Beaver Creek, etc., the by-product(s); high-thread count, seafood, lavish Welcoming Banners, etc.
But mostly and for most of the year, as well as for most of your average domestic professional cyclist’s career, it’s the place with blue doors and brick walls and a view of the freeway, conveniently located behind the gas station, sandwiched between a slough and a used car lot. A forgettable place with sub-optimal wi-fi and a Coke machine.
“I think it’s fun to roam around hotel hallways during races because all the other racers staying in your hotel are doing the same thing, you know, walking around between rooms in their towels and shower sandals, picking-up food, borrowing iPhone chargers, looking for the sougnier’s room, etc. It’s a like real community.” – Sam Johnson.