Six days after Ronnie Coleman lost his Olympia crown he has a chance for revenge, and he has another chance the day after that and a third chance yet another day later. It's time for the IFBB Euro Tour, and Team FLEX has arrived in Graz, Austria-near where Arnold Schwarzenegger grew up-for the first of three historic contests. At 9:00 AM, eight-time Mr. Olympia Coleman was the first competitor to check-in to the Graz Courtyard Marriott-located outside of town and next to vast parkland. Newly crowned Mr. O Jay Cutler arrived at the hotel at 2:00 PM. I had lunch with "Cuts" (chicken breast and baked potato, for him) as he waited on his room to become available, so he, like Coleman, could get some much needed sleep after a half-day of flying. He's received over 2000 congratulatory emails since Saturday, and he's plowed through about half of them on his Blackberry. Especially after the stress of flying, Cutler anticipates he'll be below 270 for tomorrow's show (he was 274 at the O prejudging). Just before his 5:45 PM cardio workout at a nearby gym, I caught up with Coleman, weighing 295 and text-messaging friends in the States.
The "th-ree-matches" begin with the Austrian Grand Prix at 7:00 P.M. on Friday (1:00 P.M. EST), held, appropriately, at an amusement park. Cutler and Coleman, in some such order, will surely take up the top two places and garner most of the focus, but such competitors as Markus Ruhl, Dennis James, Ronnie Rockel, Silvio Samuel, Jaroslav Horvath, Hidetada Yamagishi, Eddie Abbew and Alexander Fedorov fill out a surprisingly deep lineup. Promoter Daniel Holzl (who had his S.U.V. painted with "IFBB Pro League" and "Austrian Grand Prix" logos) says ticket sales have been overwhelmingly phenomenal this week in anticipation of the first rematch.
After Austria, Coleman, Cutler, most of the rest and a few additions will be off to mysterious Timisoara for the Romanian Grand Prix on Saturday and then to Amsterdam on Sunday for the Holland Grand Prix and who knows what sort of sinful shenanigans. Will Coleman get revenge or will Cutler further establish himself as the world's best bodybuilder? Rest assured that more surprises, big and small, await us in Europe. Check here each day for the exclusive behind-the-scenes and front-row-center reports you can only get from FLEX. Let the rematches begin!
In the accompanying photos by Greg Merritt, Jay (shortly after 2:00 PM in the hotel restaurant) is a happy "Number One" as he saves a chicken breast and baked potato for later, and Ronnie (at 5:30 PM in the hotel lobby) awaits a ride in the "Austrian Grand Prix" S.U.V. to a nearby gym.