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Alta states

Backstage on the tour: It’s a hard life in The Great White Circus



It was nine o’clock in the evening in Colorado. I thought the Canadians would all be sitting around the Hotel Jerome bar by now, sipping champagne and celebrating the team’s first World Cup victory in 14 years. I thought they’d be laid back and relaxed, replaying the Aspen downhill for a rapt audience while signing autographs for fawning fans. I knew my chances of reaching Britt Janyk to congratulate her personally were slim. So I decided to call Rob Boyd instead…

Reality is often far different than perception. “Hellooo?” The sound of static made it nearly impossible for me to recognize my old friend. Didn’t sound like bar noises to me. I could tell he was driving — the sound of the road invaded our conversation like an unwanted guest at a wedding party. But it was the tension in his voice that really surprised me. Didn’t sound like a guy celebrating his first World Cup victory as a coach. So what was going on?

“You wouldn’t believe the mess we’re driving through,” he told me, his voice cracking with fatigue. “It’s snowing like crazy, we’ve been on the road for six hours already, and we haven’t even gotten across the Divide yet. We’re still a couple of hours out of Denver.” Then he laughed, but with very little humour. “I can tell ya, Mich — it’s been one long turkey train since we left Aspen…”

Picture a Suburban station wagon over-filled with ski racing gear, athletes and a dead-tired coach negotiating Colorado’s notorious Highway 70 on a Saturday evening in a raging blizzard. Now picture all the other folk on the road too. “We’re just approaching the Eisenhower Tunnel,” Rob told me through the crackling static, “and the scene here would be really funny if it wasn’t so stupid. I mean, there are people outside in running shoes and windbreakers trying to push their cars up the pass. And trucks behind them struggling to get around. I’m not joking. It’s bedlam!”

To add insult to injury, he’d had to overstuff the suburban with gear because the Canadians had “volunteered” to cart the Slovenian Team’s stuff to the Denver airport. “I didn’t make that deal,” said Boyd, a rare tremor of impatience detectable in his tone. “And we would be a lot more comfortable without it. But what can you do?” It’s all part of the job, his tone seemed to imply…

And his workday — which had started at 6 that morning — was far from over. For after he’d dropped the women off at their Denver hotel, he still had to make his way to the airport where he’d be overseeing the check-in procedure for the Canadian Team’s gear going to Europe. “I’m still hoping we’ll have time to share a glass or two of champagne together as a team before we hit the sack,” he told me. “I mean, we had a really good day out there. Three in the top 15 — and Sherry Lawrence really fast in the bottom section. I’m quite satisfied with the way…”