To my left sits the grinning, bearded and silver-haired German entrepreneur Manfred Neun, trained in psychology and economics. Since 2005 he's been president of the European Cyclists' Federation and a major player in the world of cycling advocacy. To my right is the stoic and peeved German political scientist Hans Michael Kloth, former political editor at Der Spiegel and now acting secretary-general of the International Transport Forum at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.The scene is a massive hotel in Vancouver, but it feels like Europe. The place is crawling with men in pointy shoes and shirts with the top few buttons undone. Women wear scarves, skinny belts and summer dresses you won't find at the local outlet store. They all speak a language reminiscent of English, yet coloured with odd bits of German, French, Spanish and Flemish dialects of Dutch. This bike love-in is a delightful and cosmopolitan affair. It's an upbeat, friendly beginning.
The trouble starts in an upstairs media room, where, morning plenary complete, I sit around a table with some of the world's brightest minds in cycling policy and realize I'm the only reporter present. Where the hell is everybody? This is a smorgasbord of cycling knowledge and I'm the only one feasting.