Details of stage 3 of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California are starting to become available. Last year's stage from Sausalito to Santa Cruz looked to be shortened for 2010 as the stage will start on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In order to make up some of the reduced distance and give the stage a bit more punch, it appears that the 2010 edition of the route will include as least one more major climb, Page Mill Road, and potentially a smaller ascent, Haskins Hill, as well.
The first climb of the stage will be the same as in 2009. Tunitas Creek Road is an 8-mile, 2000-foot ascent with a 1.8 mile stretch mid-climb which averages in the 9% range.
In 2009, the race turned right on Highway 35 and after four miles turned right onto Highway 84 for the fifteen mile, mostly downhill, run back to the coast and Highway 1.
In 2010, it appears that the race will not turn right on Highway 35, but will instead head down into Silicon Valley on Kings Mountain Road, a 4.5-mile, 1500 foot technical descent through California redwoods. At the bottom of the climb, the race will head south for five to seven miles of rolling terrain, the exact route yet to be determined, to the base of Page Mill Road.
Page Mill Road is an 8-mile, 1800-foot climb that is popular with Bay Area cyclists. It is stair stepped in nature with many steep, 10-15%, pitches and even a few flat and downhill sections. Mid-climb is a 3/4-mile stretch which sports consistent grades of 12-15%.
At the top of Page Mill Road, the race will most like continue down Alpine Road, a twisty, technical, seven-mile 1800-foot descent with several very tight turns right at the bottom. From there, the race has two options. It can continue out to the coast on Highway 84 as it did last year, it is about seven flat miles to the coast.
The other option is to climb the two-mile, 600-foot Haskins Hill and follow Pescadero Road out to Highway 1. The descent of Haskins Hill is another high-speed, technical affair. It can be slick at the bottom.
Once in the town of Pescadero, the race can continue out to Highway 1 or it can turn left onto Cloverdale Road and follow that for seven, mostly flat miles out to the coast and Highway 1. Regardless of the route taken, from the top of Page Mill Road, it is about 40 miles to the bottom to the finishing climb of Bonny Doon Road.
The exact route details will be available soon, but it appears that the 2010 version of this stage will contain about 2500-3000' feet of additional climbing over the 2009 edition.
It is a new year and that means it is time for a few resolutions. I am not going to bore you with the 'lose weight', 'ride more', 'train harder', 'win the Tour de France' and all those other cliche and mundane resolutions. These are big, earth shattering, life changing, global planet resolutions/wishes.
-buy a clue for the UCI. Every year I do this, but every year the UCI seems to lose it. I just don't understand how the governing body of our sport can continue to make such bonehead moves as dumping the individual pursuit from the Olympics.
-get a peace pipe for Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. Enough already. The Tour was finished five months ago and you haven't ridden together, or against, each other since. Here's an idea. Let your legs do the talking.
-find Floyd Landis a team. OK. The big rumour is that Floyd is going to Rock Racing and that is probably true, but let's give him one more chance to put the events of 2006 behind him and get back to rocking it on the bike.
-get the World Road Championships moved back to late August/early September. The titles shouldn't go to riders who don't have anything better to do in October.
-push for the USA to have a national tour like the Tour de France. This may seem to be a bit provincial, but let's lose the Tour of Georgia, Tour of Missouri and Tour of Utah and just let the awesome Tour of California become, like the Dallas Cowboys, America's Tour.
-get women's cycling some more credibility. While the men's ranks are loaded with depth, women's racing really suffers from depth of field. We need to attract more quality female riders to the sport which will make those victories both much more deserving and also exciting.
-get more cycling on TV. It is great that NBC Universal Sports has stepped in to pick up the slack as Versus seems to want to focus more on getting more high profile sports, but both of these channels are now owned by cable giant Comcast. We need to get cycling on the four major networks so we can all watch and not have to become tools of the Comcast empire.
I did a quick assessment and it looks like Santa knows that I have been "nice", as opposed to "naughty" so there is a real possibility that I might get a present or two under my tree come this Friday. Here are some of the items on my list.
-car drivers and cyclists find a way to get along. Things seem to be going downhill in the relationship between four wheel and two wheel drivers. I am hoping for some understanding on both sides of this issue. Car drivers need to show more tolerance for the slower, law-abiding cyclists and cyclists need to obey traffic laws. It is a two-way street.
-UCI adopts a rule that takes the time of a stage during a multi-day race with 1 kilometer to go. This will allow the GC contenders to be able to relax and not have to mix it up with field sprinters. This should lead to fewer crashes.
-if the UCI won't adopt my 1km rule, then at least stop taking time gaps at the finish of stages where the whole peloton crosses the 1km to go barrier intact. Again, the GC contenders shouldn't have to mix it up with the field sprinters in those hectic finishes as they do now.
-keep Lance healthy and fast for at least two more years. Yes, he gets a lot of press and attention, but that's exactly why we need to keep him in the sport and riding well. No single cyclists in the history of the sport in America has even come close to raising public awareness of our sport. Lance may not be your favorite rider, but a rising tide floats all boats and Lance is just about as strong as the moon when it comes to our seas in cycling.
-more mountain-top finishes in the Tour of California. Please don't let this race come down to the time trial as it has for the past four years. Let's force the strong teams to work and work hard to win this race. The fans deserve it.
-bike manufacturers need to find a way to make carbon fiber frames which will accept a full-size frame pump. Using CO2 cartridges is about as "un-green" as you can get and those silly little mini-pumps are really silly.
-have the folks who make the Bike Friday include a clown suit, free of charge, with every bike purchase. You might as well dress for the part. BTW, there are several good Real(TM) bike options (S&S and Ritchey BreakAway). No one should be forced to endure 20" wheels and more extensions than Brittany's hair just to ride a bike.
-have all the people who wear MP3 players when they ride turn down the volume enough so that they can actually communicate with their fellow cyclists when a greeting occurs on the road.
-a real playoff in college football. Think all cyclists have tunnel vision? Think again.
In early October, Levi Leipheimer hosted a Gran Fondo in his adopted home town of Santa Rosa, California. For those of you wondering what a gran fondo is, it's an Italian phrase which roughly translates to "big ride." Gran fondos are all the rage in Italy with as many as 10,000 cyclists showing up for the most popular events. It's a big deal in Europe and it's about time that these events migrated west across the great pond.
This past March, the Gran Fondo San Diego(www.granfondosandiego.com) was the first gran fondo to be held on American soil. Since then, gran fondo fever has hit the states with the Levi Leipheimer event being the next in line and a whole bunch of events scheduled for 2010. If you haven't experienced a gran fondo, you will have plenty of opportunities to do so next year.
Levi's event(www.levisgranfondo.com) featured a picolo(25-mile), medio(63-mile) and gran(103-mile) fondo routes with the 103-mile course following one of his favorite training rides. King's Ridge is one of the most beautiful roads in Northern California; it was hard to find a cyclist complaining about the challenging climbing and stunning views. Both the 'gran' and 'medio' fondos finished with the short, but steep, ascent of Coleman Valley Road, which was featured in several editions of the Tour of California.
Undoubtedly, the most heartening aspect of the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo was the outpouring of support from the community of Santa Rosa. It seemed like half the city came out to either volunteer for support or cheer on the riders. Levi has definitely made an impact on this community. His three wins at the Tour of California and his efforts to bring that race to Santa Rosa have endeared him to the public and the gran fondo offered Levi's fans an opportunity to show their appreciation.
Whether you go to San Diego, Santa Rosa or parts east, if you haven't ridden a gran fondo it's definitely worth checking out.
I posted my best guesses on the proposed route for the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, but speculation is just that speculation. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the organizers and he was kind enough to fill me in. BTW, the official announcement of the route is scheduled for October 22.
The first stage of the race will be a point-to-point course starting in Nevada City in the Sierra Foothills and finishing in downtown Sacramento. Stage 2 will start in Davis and travel to Levi Leipheimer's hometown of Santa Rosa. The course will be lengthened from last year's route to include a spin by Bodega Bay which also means that the steep Coleman Valley climb may also be on the program.
Stage 3 is San Francisco to Santa Cruz which is similar to last year's stage, but it will probably not cross over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Stage 4 is San Jose to Modesto, most likely along the same route as was used in 2009 when Thor Hushovd claimed Cervelo Test Team's first ever win.
The details of Stage 5 are a bit sketchy, though it will finish in Bakersfield. Race organizers would like to put the actual finish line at Bakersfield College which sits on top of a bluff and would allow for several challenging finishing circuits once the race reaches town.
Stage 6 appears to be the mountain-top finish at Big Bear Lake. Stage 7 will be a flat, 30-mile individual time trial in the Los Angeles Area.
The final stage, Stage 8, will be very difficult. It starts with a descent from the Woodland Hills area down Encinal Road then a climb back up Decker Canyon Road. After that, multiple circuits of a local loop which includes the Rock Store Hill, a very steep climb that ascends 1000 feet in 2 miles, will be ridden before finally finishing in Thousand Oaks, the hometown of the race's primary sponsor, Amgen.
Previously, I reported that Yosemite Valley was on the agenda. Unfortunately, the Park Superintendent decided not to allow the race to come into Yosemite, because the event offers prize money and there is a rule prohibiting races of such type in the park.
Tyler Hamilton received an eight year ban from the United States Anti-Doping Agency today effectively ending the 38 year-old's professional cycling career. Hamilton admitted in April that he had taken an over-the-counter anti-depressant that contained the banned substance DHEA. DHEA is a precursor for testosterone. At that time, he also announced that he has been fighting depression for a number of years which was the reason for taking the over-the-counter medication.
Hamilton's career has been marked by some very high highs and some very low lows. In 2002 he became only the second American to stand on the podium of the Giro d'Italia and the first American to win a classic, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2003. His Tour de France stage win in the same year, riding with a broken collarbone, was the stuff of legends.
Tyler's Olympic Gold Medal in the Time Trial at the 2004 Athens Games was, undoubtedly, the highlight of his career, but the low point occurred only a month later when he tested positive for non-homologous blood transfusion at the Vuelta a Espana. What followed was two years of trials and hearings which ultimately resulted in Hamilton receiving a two-year ban.
Tyler returned to racing in 2007 with the Italian Tinkov racing squad, but found a better place in 2008 with Michael Ball's Rock Racing team Last year he won the USPRO Road Championships meaning that in 2009, he would be sporting the coveted Stars and Stripes Captain America jersey when he competed. Unfortunately, he only got to wear that jersey in one race, the Amgen Tour of California, before being informed of his positive test at the end of February.
Tyler is one of the nicest persons you will ever meet. The best word to describe this premature end to his career is tragic. I hope that he will be able to rely on the support of his friends and family to fight his depression and move on to the next chapter in his life.
The 2009 Amgen Tour of California ended today and Levi Leipheimer locked up his three-peat. Leipheimer was clearly the strongest rider in the race, he proved it on the climbs and in the TT's which is where stage races are won. It was a great event, race organizer AEG estimated that two million people watched the spectacle live, obviously countless more viewed it on TV as the feed went out to 60 countries across the globe. It is safe to say that in just four year, this race has grown exponentially in size and stature and is truly one of the best events on the pro cycling calendar. Yes, there are some issues such as whether the race should move to a more weather-friendly date and if it should become a Pro Tour event, but there is no doubt the 2009 edition was an unqualified success.
In my report from yesterday, I noted that the final stage would be difficult, but not decisive. That was indeed the case, but there was one incident high on the slopes of Palomar Mountain that deserves some discussion. About three miles from the top of the massive 4200' climb, Jens Voigt, who was placed fourth overall about one minute behind Levi, broke away from the peloton and took a group of riders with him. Because Jens had a teammate in the group and the group was about five riders, there was a real chance that if they could work together, they might threaten to stay away to the finish and change the overall outcome of the race.
What happened next is the interesting part. The rider who initiated the chase of Voigt and who ultimately drove the chase group to catch Jens and his crew was Michael Rogers of team Columbia High Road who was in third place overall. Also in the chase group was Dave Zabriskie of Garmin-Slipstream who was in second place overall. With those two guys in the chase group, Levi jumped up there as well. Unfortunately, Levi didn't have any teammates in the chase group while both Rogers and Zabriskie had one each.
This may seem like a huge tactical error by Levi and his Team Astana because they allowed Levi to be isolated in a group with his closest rivals. However, it was really a very big tactical error by Michael Rogers. Because the time gaps between the first five riders were so small, if Jens Voigt and his group succeeded in staying away, Voigt, who was in fourth place, threatened not only Michael Rogers' third place and Dave Zabriskie's second place, but he also threatened Levi's race lead. That means that it was really the responsibility of Leipheimer's Team Astana to chase down Voigt and not Michael Rogers.
Looking at the bigger picture, Roger's should have seen Voigt's escape not as a need to defend his third place position, but as an opportunity to attack the race lead of Leipheimer. Instead of initiating the chase and driving the group up to Voigt, he should have sat at the front of the peloton and forced Team Astana to chase Voigt. Then, once that chase and catch has been performed and Team Astana was tired from the effort, he then could launch a counter-attack and try to get away.
The fact that Rogers decided to defend his third place and not attempt to go for the win might indicate that he felt Levi was too strong to be beaten, but in any case, he should have left the chasing up to Team Astana.
Dave Zabriskie rode tactically correct when he was in the chase group. He sat on Levi's wheel looking for any weakness and if Leipheimer had faultered, it would have been a perfect scenario for Dave to attack him and go for the overall win. Dave Z did it right, Michael Rogers didn't. Well, that's the way I saw it.
Today was a day for the lesser-placed riders as a group of ten broke away from an Astana-controlled peloton to take the glory at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. This is a great segue into the theme of this posting which is, a stage may be difficult, but it is not necessarily decisive. I think that observation applies to Stage 4 from Merced to Clovis, today's stage from Santa Clarita to Pasadena and the final stage tomorrow from Rancho Bernardo to Escondido.
All three of these stages contain a lot of climbing. On paper, none of these climbs is exceptionally steep, but at the speed the pros are capable of riding up these ascents all of them can be very, very difficult. So, I don't think anyone isn't saying that these stages are an easy day for a lady. Quite the contrary. The real question from a racing standpoint is, are these stages decisive?
By decisive I mean will they have an affect on the race's overall standings? Unfortunately, in the case of these three stages, the climbs come too early in the day's ride. As we have seen many times before, a well-driven peloton can chase down a breakaway as long as the gap isn't too large. So, all the peloton needs to do is give the riders off the front some rope and they can reel them in.
In the case of today's stage, the ten-rider breakaway did not contain any riders who could threaten Levi's overall lead so Team Astana smartly allowed them some rope and the stage win. No harm done and Levi will be in yellow tomorrow. Also, it is a good idea to let other teams have their day in the sun. Greed doesn't make too many friends.
So, while a stage may be difficult, the position of the climbs has a huge affect on whether the stage will also be decisive. Stage 2 into Santa Cruz was decisive because the climb of Bonny Doon Road occurred so close to the finish. Stage 1 into Santa Rosa should not have been a decisive stage, but two factors, the fact that the breakaway containing Mancebo was allowed to get way too much time and the sanfu with the radio communications made it a decisive stage. Which goes to prove that even a difficult, non-decisive stage can become decisive if unforeseen factors intervene. That's what we call bike racing.
You finally say Christian Vande Velde(Garmin-Slipstream) at the head of affairs.Christian was on the podium last year, but has been pretty invisible this year. I asked his team director, Jonathan Vaughters, why Christian seemed to be auditioning for a remake of Casper the Friendly Ghost. Jonathan said that last year, the team was bidding for a wild card entry into the Tour de France so they needed to shine in the early season to impress the selection committee. This year, as a Pro Tour team, they are guaranteed an entry into the Tour so they are bringing Christian along a bit more slowly so he will be ready to fly come July.
I caught up with Michael Barry of Columbia-High Road at the TT. Michael and I have known each other for years so I can say this publicly, he looked like death warmed over. I asked him why and he said that he and teammate Adam Hansen have the job of looking after Mark Cavendish. What this means is that on the stages with climbs, when Mark gets dropped, Michael and Adam have to drop back and then pace Mark back up to the peloton after the climb is over. Then in the last two hours of the stage, they have to go to the front and ride tempo to bring back any breakaways. That's a tough way to make a living! Luckily, Michael and Adam are pretty good at it. Just look at the results.
It was great to see Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing) off the front in the breakaway today. Chris is a multi-national champion in the time trial so yesterday in Solvang, it should have been his day to shine. But, because his teammate, Oscar Sevilla, was in a position to take a high overall place, Chris had to hold back in case he needed to ride at the front to defend Sevilla's position. After his ride, Chris said it was very difficult to hold back in his specialty.
What to do? What to do? Does an athlete need to confess to a doping positive to be accepted back into favor with his fellow competitors and fans? In the past few days we have seen Alex Rodriguez(A-Rod) admit that he used steroids during the height of his career in 2001-2003 when he was voted the league MVP. The problem is that in 2007, A-Rod told Katie Couric that he had never taken performance enhancing drugs(PED's).
Why the flip-flop? Because several journalists at SI.com were able to obtain the identity of some of the 102 baseball players who tested positive for steroids when Major League Baseball did anonymous testing in 2003. So, faced with pretty hard evidence that he did use steroids, A-Rod came clean. In cycling, a similar situation occurred several years ago when Ivan Basso denied drug use until bags of his blood were identified in a refrigerator in Spain. David Millar also denied drug use then came clean when syringes containing EPO were found with his fingerprints at his home.
Why am I bringing this up? Am I jealous that A-Rod hooked up with Madonna and I didn't? No, it is because the 4th annual Amgen Tour of California starts on Saturday and Basso will be there. Millar rode the race last year. But, more importantly, Americans Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis will also be there. Basso, Millar, Hamilton and Landis all served suspensions for doping infractions, but while Basso and Millar admitted their transgressions, Hamilton and Landis did not.
There is a good reason that Tyler and Floyd have not admitted to doping. Both contend that they didn't do performance enhancing drugs. The question here is, do Tyler and Floyd need to admit that they took PED's to be accepted back into the pro peloton and be embraced by the fans much like what has happened to both Millar and Basso? Is it good enough that Tyler and Floyd served their suspensions, paid their debt, so to speak?
Personally, I think that Tyler and Floyd should be allowed to compete and their fans should be allowed to cheer and cheer and cheer for their success. If you are not a Tyler of Floyd fan, then fine, don't cheer for them. Don't put them on your Christmas card list. What I have a problem with is people calling Tyler and Floyd dopers. Yes, they were dopers, but by the same token so were Basso and Millar. So, if the shoe fits, then everybody should wear it.
ps - unless some huge story breaks in the next week, this is the last blog I intend to write about doping. The Tour of California is America's premier bike race so let's focus on the positives!
pps - if you are saving an asterisk for any of Barry Bond's records, don't forget to save a few for A-Rod.
The Amgen Tour of California(AToC) has even started, but I am already calling it an unqualified success. Why so, you might ask? It all has to do with a little stretch of blacktop called Tunitas Creek Road. This very popular Silicon Valley climb will be included in Stage 2 of the AToC. While this 8-mile, 2000-foot ascent comes a bit too early in the stage to be decisive, it is still a worthy test for cyclists pros and amateurs alike.
Unfortunately, the pavement during the steepest part of the ascent has been deteriorating over the years and a serious repaving was definitely in order. You might remember my blog from a month or so ago where I lamented that Tunitas Creek Road was supposed to be repaved for the AToC, but the local road crew appeared to have only done half the job and packed up for good.
So, I sent an E-mail to AToC Race Director, Jim Birrell, notifying him of the situation on Tunitas Creek Road. Here are a couple of key paragraphs from the E-mail:
"Having ridden this road for the past 20 years, I can tell you that just filling in the obvious potholes is not going to make a significant improvement in the quality of the road. The pavement in this 2-mile section is so old and poor that even without a rain storm, new potholes seem to appear overnight. The only way to really fix the road is to lay down brand new pavement, curb-to-curb, as was done on approximately 1.5 miles of the upper section of the road during the repaving this past fall.
Frankly, I think the quality of the pavement in the aforementioned section is way below the standard of quality of the roads that should be part of America's premier stage race. But, don't take my word for it. An inspection from someone on your technical committee(not someone on the local organizing committee) will quickly reveal the substandard quality of the roadway. Yes, it really is that bad."
Well, Jim is a stand-up guy and he sent his technical representative for this area, Eric Smith, out to inspect the road. Lo and behold, this week, about a month after my letter, there was a road crew out on Tunitas Creek Road finishing the paving project. Major props to the Jim and Eric for working this issue and fixing the problem. If you ever wondered about the lasting benefits of having a big-time bike race in your area, this is certainly one of them!
Today the race organizers of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California announced the list of ProTour teams who will be participating in the race. A number of US-based teams such as Garmin-Slipstream and Team Columbia Highroad were on the list as well as the squad of two-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer, Team Astana who will most likely bring his new teammate Lance Armstrong along with him. Team Saxo Bank, the new sponsor of the old Team CSC as well as Tom Boonen's Quick-Step squad also made the cut.
Not surprisingly, Rabobank and their ace climber Robert Gesink (that's Hesink to you) will be there. They recently signed on a a major co-sponsor of the event.Look for Gesink to be lighting it up on Bonny Doon Road during stage 2. Surprisingly, the French team Ag2r-La Mondial will be making their first appearance in California.
Even more surprisingly, Liquigas is also invited and that means the potential participation of Ivan Basso who rode alongside Levi at the Tour of California in 2007. Basso is returning from a drug suspension. There used to be a rule that any rider who is serving a drug suspension cannot ride for a ProTour team for an additional two years after the end of his sentence. When the UCI was questioned about this apparent breach of the ProTour rules, they responded that the additional two year suspension was part of a "code of ethics" agreed to by all the ProTour teams and not part of the UCI's official rules. Huh? What? Would the UCI look the other way if Floyd Landis signed with a ProTour team?
It is interesting to note that there will only be eight ProTour teams in 2009 down from nine in 2008. By UCI rules, that means that there can only be eight non-ProTour teams invited so, there will be two fewer teams(16) than in 2008(18). I hope this isn't a cost-cutting measure by the organizers of the race. But, the three-year old event has never made money and in this economic downturn it is unlikely to do so in 2009.
So, which non-ProTour teams will get the remaining eight spots? It seems like Ouch Medical, BMC Racing, Rock Racing, Bissel, Jelly Belly and Kelly Benefits have the inside track which leaves just two other slots open one of which might just go to the recently announced merger of Successful Living and Australia's Virgin Blue squads with the remaining spot going to Team Type 1.
Stay tuned to see which domestic pro squads secure a coveted berth in America's premier stage race. Anybody else got any ideas?
ps - one of last year's AToC ProTour teams, Saunier Duval-Scott, has been reborn as Fuji-Servetto. As Fuji is an American-based bicycle manufacturer it is not clear if they applied or were considered for one of the ProTour slots in the 2009 race. More as details become available.
Obviously, there is no need to give any tips on watching the race at either the stage starts of stage finishes. Watching the race on the road is a bit more difficult and there are some points to consider. Above all, you don't want to endanger the safety of the race nor do you want to cause a delay which may effect the outcome. The key here is to be respectful of the event and the riders.
Yes, it is a free country and you have every right to be there on the side of the road cheering your favorite riders, but please bear in mind that these are professional cyclists doing their job. You wouldn't want somebody coming to your place of work and causing you to perform badly so please don't create a situation on the road which causes the riders to perform their job badly.
That means staying well back of the riders as they pass. The pros tell me that every so-called "pat on the back" feels like a kidney punch. Just give them their space and let them ride their hearts out. It's OK to yell encouragement, take photos and even paint names on the road, but touching and getting in their face is a no-no.
If you are going to paint the roadway, try to make the words or symbols as thin as possible. It can rain a lot in February and paint keeps the water from soaking into the pavement. If you cover the whole roadway with some artistic design it can cause a very slick surface for the riders. Just ask Freddie Rodriguez who crashed out of the 2002 Tour on a huge replica of the Luxembourg flag.
Cycling to watch the race is a great way to see the riders. If you are using a route that is not part of the race course then there should be few problems. However, if you are going to be on the race course, which is definitely the case on climbs, you may be asked to either dismount and walk your bike or you may be kept from moving at all. I wish I could give you an exact time to be at your desired viewing spot before the race passes by, but because of a number of factors it is virtually impossible to say when the road will be closed to cyclists.
The race passes through numerous police jurisdictions and they all seem to deal with the event in their own way. The best advice I can give is to leave early, bring lots of warm clothes and food and convince a few friends to come along so you can have a party of sorts while you wait. Be sure to check the weather conditions. Waiting in the rain is really a drag. Oh yeah, look both ways before you venture out onto the roadway. Even on supposedly closed road, race vehicles seem to magically appear out of nowhere.
Race organizers announced that the Tour de Georgia will not be held in 2009. While this is the official announcement, I have been talking about the demise of Georgia's premier bike race since late last spring. Most recently, I speculated if Lance's return to cycling could save the event.
It is not fair to blame Lance for the demise of the race. Yes, it is true that the event really blossomed the two years (2004, 2005) when the Texan rode it, but the organizers were unable to build on the buzz. Maybe it is just too difficult to sell cycling in a region where NASCAR has such a stranglehold on the sports community.
I think the organizers have to bear the responsibility for the demise. Last year, the race visited such cycling hot beds as Tybee Island and Savannah where crowds were almost non-existent. However, if you saw the final stage in downtown Atlanta, the site of the 1996 Olympics, there were no crowds there as well. So, either Georgia is just too much about four, and not two, wheels going fast or the race organizers just didn't do enough to whip up enthusiasm.
It was just reported that the title sponsor for the Tour of California, Amgen, will be printing up 60,000 handbooks using cycling to teach core subjects which will be distributed to 4th-6th grade students in schools at the race's 16 host cities. That's a move that has grass roots written all over it.
OK. Maybe this is a case of the cart before the horse and the fact that the Tour de Georgia could never land a long-term title sponsor (this will be Amgen's fourth year at the Tour of California) was really at the core of the problem and not the lack of fan support. But, it could be argued that without the fan support, you can't land a long-term title sponsor. Do I sense a Catch-22?
Whatever the reason, the Tour de Georgia won't be held in 2009. With the recent postponement of the Tour of Colorado, let's hope that all the other major US stage races, Missouri, Utah, etc. are healthy and happy with a long-term title sponsor.
The buzz in the domestic racing scene is that the Tour de Georgia will not be held in 2009. More importantly, it appears that the Tour de Georgia may be done forever. It should be noted that the seeds of the current Tour de name-your-favorite-cycling-crazy-state stage races such as California, Missouri and Colorado were sown by the organization which first promoted the Georgia event. So maybe this is just a passing of the torch, but is it too soon to send the fire westward?
Just as the Peach State was saying bye-bye to cycling, Lance Armstrong announced his comeback into pro cycling. As a bit of a history lesson, Lance's participation in the 2004 Tour de Georgia boosted the event into the stratosphere. When Lance retired in 2005, while the racing fields remained strong, the race declined.
Now that Lance is back in the picture, is his presence enough to revive the seemingly doomed event? Maybe more importantly, should we expect Lance or just his aura to come to the rescue? Clearly, Lance has had an incredible effect on cycling in the United States. It could be easily argued that Armstrong put cycling on the map in America and that he resurrected the Tour de France to boot.
So, is it justifiable to ask Lance to come to the salvation of the sport? Have we been poor stewards since Armstrong retired in 2005 and allowed the sport, as a whole, to decline? This time around, I think we all need to stop trying to hitch ourselves to Big Tex's coattails and figure out a way promote cycling without burdening the 37-comeback king with the responsibility.