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I suppose the only way Stage 7 was going to be remembered along with those that came before was if it rained just as hard as the others. And it did. But that didn't stop the riders from living up to their world-class billing. The 2008 Amgen Tour of California truly hosted the best and most exciting professional cyclists racing today.

 

The stages and weather conditions these guys pushed themselves through merited the enormous fan appreciation on display at each stop along the way.

 

I've got a recap of the stage on this Endurance Blog post:  Leipheimer Wins 2008 Amgen Tour of California. The real excitement came, however, from wondering if Bissell Pro Cycling's Tom Zirbel could turn his daring solo breakaway into a stage win. Ultimately, it was George Hincapie who won the day and Levi Leipheimer who took the overall race. (Below, being led by his Astana teammates).

 

 

But once the race was over, the rain stopped and all eyes were on the podium.

 

 

The awards ceremony pretty much summed up the most memorable moments of the tour.

 

Australian Rory Sutherland of HealthNet Presented by Maxxis proved to be one of the more fun-loving guys in the race. He was second to Hincapie on Sunday.

 

 

And while riders like Mario Cipollini, Paolo Bettini and Tom Boonen filled up on a steady diet of awe and admiration, Americans like Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and Hincapie (below) truly were the crowd favorites.

 

 

Those retro High Road jerseys helped, too.

 

Due in large part to the solo heroics of Jackson Stewart and Scott Nydam, The Tachyon Most Aggressive Rider jersey was awarded to the entire BMC Racing Team, leading one to believe BMC really stands for Big, Macho Cajones.

 

 

And who knew a Canadian riding for an American Continental team could be so suave? Dominique Rollin of Toyota-United, who won the crowd with his Stage 4 win through the tempest along Highway 1, gave some of his roses to the podium girls after being presented with the Herbalife Sprint Leader jersey. His excitement every time he walked up on that stage was infectious.

 

 

Similarly, there was Team BMC's Scott Nydam and his ear-to-ear grin as he racked up points before finally winning the California Travel and Tourism King of the Mountains jersey.

 

 

Yeah, he looks like he's enjoying himself.

 

And speaking of that...I've been a mite critical of Levi Leipheimer's emotional output in earlier stages. Well, it quickly became obviously the man was waiting until it was really over.

 

 

 

Attaboy, Levi! Let David Millar have it! Haha! Actually, Levi was the consummate professional throughout the race. Even when asked about his (hopefully brief) exclusion from the Tour de France, Levi was honest but classy. Impossible not to like.

 

That can also describe Slipstream Chipotle, who proved, with their overall team victory, that they're not just the "clean team" but a group of guys who know how to race together. Directeur Sportif Jonathan Vaughters remarked at the post-race press conference that they aren't just a collection of good cyclists, but a team of racers who genuinely like each other and enjoy racing together.

 

 

 

Some other memories of AToC '08? The beautiful towns of Solvang, Sausalito and Seaside. Highway 1 and the crazy route I took to get there. And the fans--many very dedicated and knowledgeable cyclists, others just interested in the spectacle and awed by what they witnessed. It proved to me that despite a mainstream media addicted to doping stories when it comes to cycling, there's nothing like watching the real thing in person.

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In the movie Zoolander, Owen Wilson's character Hansel seems to be constantly followed around by House music and an entourage. His introduction in the film is preceded by a deep bass beat followed by an off-camera baritone saying "HAN-sel."

 

That's what I think of every time I see a rider or vehicle from Rock Racing. The newly-formed Continental team was created by fashion designer Michael Ball of Rock & Republic.

 

 

And when they roll up, you know it. They're generally one of the first teams to have a presence near the start and finish lines...mostly due to the tent set up to sell $9 water bottles and Rock Racing trucker hats.

 

But when the team bus rolls in, someone quickly hops out and puts down the lime green traffic cones. They're one of the few squads to put up a barrier (those rolling strap kinds that you heard people in line at a movie theater or H&M). And they draw hordes of onlookers.

 

 

The Rolls Royce they sport helps too.

 

Despite being a sponsor of the race, the Amgen organizers only allowed five of their men to participate. Issues with phantom doping investigations got in the way (more about that on Bruce's blog). But that still doesn't stop them from drawing attention. Italian Mario Cipollini aka Super Mario, aka The Lion Kingseems to have a camera crew with him wherever he goes.

 

 

Check out his ride. That's a limited edition (as in, made just for him) Cipollini bike. It also comes in white and regular road black.

 

 

But there are other riders on the team here in California worth mentioning, including Fast Freddie Rodriguez, who is back on a U.S team for the first time since 1991. Michael Creed is a young rider who's looking to prove he's not just filling a roster spot. He's currently hammering it on Stage 7, earning both sprint and KOM points.

 

 

But let's be honest, the team members the fans have really been going ga-ga for are the Rock Racing podium girls.

 

 

The team seems to be everywhere. Without a number for the race, the excluded Rock Racing riders Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla, and Santiago Boteroalong with a few riders from other squads who've bowed outtook to the highway to get some riding in ahead of the peloton.

 

 

Their website is a little bare, but check out the commercial they made for themselves. Hard core.

 

It'll be interesting to see how the team plays out over the course of this season and next. Will bike teams become the new yachts for rich guys with time on their hands? Is Ball the Mark Cuban of cycling? Can he take the black and neon green to France in a few years?

 

Will Rock Racing even be back next year?

 

 

Beats me. But honestly, they're fun to have around.

2,834 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, rock-racing, amgen-tour-of-california, mario_cipollini, michael_ball, fred_rodriguez, michael_creed

Being a cycling fan in America isn't easy. For one, there's no live TV or radio coverage of U.S. events. Therefore, if you're following the race as a spectator, you're in for a day's worth of guesswork. Even with my handy Tour of California Technical Guidewhich features route maps and course directions with estimated times of arrivalit's no easy task to nail down when the riders will pass by.

 

Today, due to a light rain and a late start in Santa Barbara (I was posting yesterday's Stage 5 blog), I decided to skip the start and get a glimpse of the peloton along the route. I loaded up on donuts and headed out, eventually stopping a few miles up route 150, a country road at the base of the first King of the Mountain climb of the day. Then I waited. And waited. And just when I started to wonder if I would have been better off retreating to the media center in Santa Clarita and watching the whole thing online, the breakaway sped past, followed shortly after by the technicolor swarm of the peloton.

 

 

And thus did I realize that cycling fans must constantly wage an internal war within: sacrifice experience for information (provided by the internet or TV), or submit to the desire to witness first-hand what can be so beautiful--a rolling peloton gobbling up an entire span of concrete.

 

I decided I needed to see this again, so I dashed off to Santa Paula (my third Santa of the day!), where I could watch the riders come through the Sprint bonus section.

 

Australian Rory Sutherland of Health Net Maxxis led the breakaway through the bonus (below in black, next to Alexandre Pichot of Bouygues Telecom).

 

 

Then, six minutes later the peloton came through. Fittingly, race leader Levi Leipheimer rode just in front of  second-place rider David Millar.

 

 

I made it to Towne Center Dr. (which really just seems to be a made-up center of condos and a mall created to appear "authentically" urban. Decent planning for a development, but it makes one pine for places like Solvang or Sausalito) in Santa Clarita just in time to park before the roads were closed down.

 

Now fortunately for fans near the finish line the race announcers (who, by the way, constantly speak in Ital-ish whenever referring to "Whorlda CHAMP-eeon Paolo Bettini" and Mario Cipollini...seriously, they sound like Steve Carrell's character from The Office) are constantly relaying information to the spectators. The six minute lead was gradually being cut down, but not without a fight from the breakaway (below, starting their first of three laps).

 

 

With each successive lap, the peloton grew closer and closer to the breakaway riders...

 

 

On the first of the circuits, however, it was announced that Mark Cavendish, Mario Cipollini and Freddie Rodriguez were involved in a bike-bending crash. They all made it back up, however, and were miraculously catching up with the peloton.

 

On the last lap, the breakaway was caught and it became a mass sprint to the line. In the final bunch, Cavendish rocketed to the front and took the stage:

 

 

Cipo would cross the line sporting a raspberry from the earlier incident:

 

 

But then things got tricky. The crowd waited. The judges were conferring, we were told. And when the stage winner was finally brought up to the podium...it didn't look like a Brit with High Road. Instead Luciano Pagliarini, a Brazilian with Saunier Duval-Scott took the winner's trophy:

 

 

Notice Bettini looking a little grim? It's because he let up at the last second after Cavendish as good as crossed the line. Cavendish was ruled by the judges to have held on to the team car for too long following his crash. Even though his replacement bike was being worked on by the mechanic, the judges decided to dock him 20 seconds (along with Cipollini). This meant the second person to cross the line, Pagliarini, got the stage win. Pagliarini was pretty excited, both for himself and for Brazil. He gets credit for riding hard through the finish, not just to it.

 

A crazy finish made even crazier with the big "Huh?" moment. (The funny thing is, as I'm watching the local news on KCAL 9, they show the clip of Cavendish crossing the line and then state him as winning the stage. Someone didn't get the memo.)

 

The only thing that could top that, would be this:

 

 

Levi's smile got bigger!!! (Seriously, compare that photo to pics in my Stage 3 post.) Maybe he knows ultimate victory is close at hand. Obviously something is up, judging by this smirk:

 

 

I can't wait to see him tomorrow.

 

But before signing off, I have to end with this story. After the race, an Italian man (I'm assuming, based on his accent and favorite rider choice) with a mustache that wrapped down his cheekbones then up to his sideburns and a little tuft of hair under his lower lip told his wife and young son, "We have to hurry. We have to see Paolo Bettini." His wife asked how he could pick him out from all the other riders.

 

The man answered his wife, "He has a long, pointy chin. Just like yours." Hahahaha! She heard me laughing and turned to roll her eyes at me. Ah, cycling fans.

987 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, levi_leipheimer, amgen-tour-of-california, leipheimer, mario_cipollini, paolo_bettini, mark-cavendish, luciano_pagliarini

Stage 5: The Race of Truth

Posted by ManintheArena Feb 23, 2008

Friday's Stage 5 individual time trial in Solvang was intended from the start to be the kind of race that would allow the top competitors to lay it all out. If you were going to get a podium spot, you had to make a statement here. Well, race organizers got what they wanted.

 

Solvang is a small village surrounded by pastoral hills between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. I knew it was supposed to be a place that had a some European characteristics, I just didn't realize how distinct those traits would be.

 

 

They were definitely distinct. At first, the town has a Disney-created feel to it. But once you wander around, you notice that the people have put effort into the built environment. This is where and how they want to live. The community was very welcoming and I heard over and over, "Come back to see us." "Thanks for coming to our town." "We'd love to have you back in Solvang." And not just from the tourism bureau.

 

 

At first, I thought this was the Press Room. But it turns out (unfortunately) it wasn't.

 

So back to the race. The time trial consisted of 15 miles around the countryside, with some rolling hills and winding roads. The battle was expected to be between Levi Leipheimer and Fabian Cancellara. Because time trials are seeded by overall classification, those two would start last.

 

 

The numerous fans along the course and near the start/finish seemed pretty cycling savvy. Yet despite the big names that came through every now and again (like Jens Voigt passing the Specialized Angel, above), the buzz was basically "How close are we to Fabian and Levi?"

 

The two riders before them were Slipstream/Chipotle rider David Millar and Rabobank's Robert Gesink. Gesink wasn't really a threat to win the stage (he finished 20th), but Millar looked to be dialed in from the start.

 

 

After all the riders were on the course, word slowly started coming back that Millar and Leipheimer were tearing it up while Cancellara was struggling to keep pace with them.

 

The crowd went nuts when Leipheimer motored across the line well ahead of Cancellara and 29 seconds ahead of second-place Millar.

 

 

True, the overall race isn't won, but the feeling at that moment was that it's Levi's to lose. I'm becoming more  and more impressed, however, with Team Slipstream/Chipotle. Both Millar and Christian Vande Velde grabbed podium spots, moving the squad into the overall lead of the team classification. They're out there to prove they aren't just a fashion-conscious, steroid-free team, but that their main goal is the same as everyone else's: To win bicycle races.

 

 

And wear cool socks. That, too.

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Yesterday was the day for epic journeys.

 

It began in Seaside, a town resembling a coastal Modesto--quiet, laid back and ready to resume normal life the minute the peloton rolls out. The streets near the start, however, were filled with excitement and interest despite the sprinkles of rain.

 

 

The riders were courteous enough, but they didn't joke aroundwith each other or spectatorsas much and many stayed in their cars or RV's until the last minute, probably in an effort to stay as dry as possible. Unfortunately, as I was leaving Seaside 20 minutes before the start, it began to rain steadily. I drove down Highway 1, past Pacific Grove and the official start of the race to watch the peloton come through.

 

 

About this time the rain was intermittent--not too hard but never really stopping long enough for anything to dry. After they passed, I drove North to get on US-101 and head for San Luis Obispo. The plan was to cut across some roads further south, from 101 to the coast, and catch the riders coming along Highway 1. That would be my downfall.

 

The road I took led into Fort Hunter Liggett, a large military base that starts in Lockwood on the edge of the San Antonio Reservoir and covers all the ground to the coast. While the guy at the gate was helpful in trying to give me directions, the roads were minimally marked and I had to double back on myself a couple times while guestimating that I was on the right road based on the topography I got from the map.

 

It wasn't until I passed the second gate, into the National Forest that makes up the western side of the base, that I realized my gas was getting low. I still had about an eighth of a tank left and decided since I was pretty much stuck in the middle, I might as well continue onward. The road I was following, Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, gradually became less developed as I entered further into the national parkno lines, soft shoulders and barely enough room for two cars to squeak by. That's when I noticed the gas gauge dipping...a lot. Signs indicated I had 14 miles to Highway 1. The gauge continued to move. The roads began to gradually ascend while twisting back and forth like a coiled hairpin. And the gauge continued to move. I started to get worried. The last thing I wanted was to run out of gas over 10 miles from anything in the mild of the woods. I kept driving. The gauge kept dippingliterally, my toaster dial moves slower that that--while my mileage didn't seem to be increasing by much at all. As the road started getting steeper and steeper, I started calculating turnoffs I could roll the car into if it came to that.

 

When I finally hit the apex of the hills, I shifted into neutral and commenced my coast to the coast. I have rarely been so happy to see the ocean.

 

 

The road almost seemed to spin down, it was so winding. The whole trip was like a roller coaster ride, where just for a second on the way up you seriously think "What if I don't make it?" Then you start going down and you realize "I made it! But I'm not out of the woods yet..." Now take that times 10.

 

At one point, I could see the highway. I was overjoyed. Then I realized I was watching the tail end of the caravan. I had missed the riders. This also meant that unless I wanted to double back through the base, I was going to be bringing up the rear of the caravan. And there was still the problem of finding gas.

 

As I was winding down, the gas seemed to slosh around the tank enough to fill whatever valves it needed to. My mindset then was "Thank God for this miracle fuel." I hit Highway 1 and was able to make it to the town of Gorda, which was basically a cafe and gas station on the coast, where I paid $5.20 per gallon.

 

With enough gas to get me to San Luis Obisp, I joined the long line of cars following the riders. That's when I first realized how tough they had it. The winds were coming strong off the cliffs, sometimes head on. When the rain wasn't hitting you smack on one side, it was coming straight down hard.

 

And while Highway 1 was just breathtaking, there wasn't much a rider could enjoy as he probably fought to stay on out of the wind in the peloton. Heaven help the breakaway.

 

 

So there I was, inching along, admiring the view, and wondering what was going on in front of me.

 

 

There were some cool scenes along the road. A few cyclists were earning their street cred by riding the route, like these two from Team Highlighter:

 

 

Some die hard fans were out as well.

 

 

For half the course I rolled along like a participant in the Oregon Trail (hoping I wouldn't die of dysentery). I finally made it to San Luis Obispo around 5:45, in time to watch the broom wagon cross the finish line. I didn't really care though. I was so happy to be there after sitting in the car since 9:30 a.m. When Dominique Rollin, the unlikely Toyota-United rider who took the stage, began weeping as he accepted his jersey, I wanted to go up there and hug him and tell "I know what you've been through. I had my own journey today, too."

 

 

Or maybe I just really wanted that enormous bottle of wine. George Hincapie, the second-place rider of the day, looks like he's ready for the Tour de Hotel Room. After a seven-hour, 135-mile slog through Mother Nature's worst, he deserves a rest.

 

 

 

So Levi Leipheimer kept the yellow jersey, with a scant 13-second lead over Fabian Cancellara going into today's time trial in Solvang. I still had two hours of driving to my hotel in Santa Barbara so I hightailed it out of San Luis Obispo. A long day, but a truly memorable one.

 

933 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, levi_leipheimer, george_hincapie, amgen-tour-of-california, leipheimer, fabian_cancellara, seaside, san_luis_obispo, dominique_rollin

Stage 3: A Sunny Demeanor

Posted by ManintheArena Feb 21, 2008

My morning started off kind of cool in that I found out I was staying at the same Ramada Inn in Modesto as the Saunier Duval-Scott team. I offered to help carry one rider's bags down the stairshe was dressed in his kit and looked a little confused as to how he would get his leather case and metallic rolling luggage down the wet concrete stepsbut he politely refused. On top of that, they were driving around in unmarked mini-vans. Wow. Here's this European Pro Tour team making its way through the budget motel circuit in California. Wonder what they thought of the continental breakfast...

 

For today's start in Modesto, large, bulbous clouds hovered over the sky. They seemed to loom as a warning for what lay ahead: the 4,360-foot peak of Mt. Hamilton and the category 1 climb up the Sierra Road. The clouds seemed to overemphasize how mid-size and modest Modesto felt (I couldn't resist the name game there, but it fits). Compared to the other stops in the Tour so far, it had the easiest parking and the most...curiously interested crowd. There weren't as many cyclists and most people seemed to have come out for the spectacle of the whole thing more than any interest in the actual race. It was fun to see pretty much every elementary school class in town lining the streets ringing cowbells. As a reporter for the Modesto Bee later told me, "That's because kids in Modesto grow up with cowbells!" But it was a genuine interest and enthusiasm, and it was cool to be a part of.

 

The morning was marked by a Slipstream rider, Tyler Farrar, in the yellow jersey. Unfortunately, he would withdraw from the stage, and thus the race, because of a stomach virus that might have affected more than one rider.

 

 

After the start, I found my way to San Jose while the riders tackled the hills. Because the roads up Mt. Hamilton were closed to everyone but locals only, I skipped it. (Also, it was 35 degrees at the top and I packed light.) However, here's a blog from another Active community user, ToshiMoshi, who made the trek.

 

By the time I got to the broadcast in the press room, Levi Leipheimer and Rabobank's Robert Gesink had broken away from the peloton and were tearing it up the Sierra Road. Leipheimer is the defending AToC champion and was making his first real run at the yellow jersey. The mindset of the journalists around me was that the race had now really begun.

 

The finish was a fast sprint into the city. I was able to finally get myself into the press area just beyond the finish line. An exciting place to be, but not the best view if your aren't wearing a special vest and behind an enormous lens.

 

 

Leipheimer seemed to concede the stage to the 21-year-old Gesink, who was the Best Young Rider at last year's Tour of California. And as well he should, Gesink did the majority of the pulling for the two breakaway riders. Said Leipheimer a little later, "He was the guy I picked to be my ally."

 

Here's a shot of Geslink being interviewed by our very own Bruce Hildenbrand for the AToC DVD:

 

 

He was seriously overjoyed to be the day's victor. In comparison, Leipheimer was...stoic for a guy getting smooched by the podium girls. To busy concentrating on the remainder of the Tour? The guy might be a pedaling powerhouse, but he's not exactly a smile machine.

 

Let's compare. Levi:

 

 

 

It's the same look! Blue Steel. Le Tigre. The same look! (Sorry, started quoting Zoolander there.)

 

Now let's see Gesink:

 

 

Yeah, he looks happy. I mean, I've studied those photos multiple times and the conclusion is that if the Rock Racing podium girls can't get Levi to smile, then...ummm...what was I talking about again?

985 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, bruce-hildenbrand, levi_leipheimer, rock-racing, slipstream, amgen-tour-of-california, leipheimer, robert_gesick, tyler_farrar, mt._hamilton

SANTA ROSA - SACRAMENTO: Today I skipped the start in Santa Rosa. Rain and another neutral start couldn't outweigh the draw of getting up the first climb of the day, the category 2 Trinity Grande. Several times I heard it described as "gnarly."

 

Getting lost left me driving country roads through Sonoma County. Not a bad place for a wrong turn. Finally reaching Trinity Road, I found fans already camped out along the ascent, while others riding their bikes up (I was pretty jealous. I think if I had my bike with me, I'd probably not do another update or blog; I'd be too busy riding the race euphoria off). These two were pretty proficient in marking encouragement to the riders (mostly Steven Cozza):

 

 

And just to be clear, they wanted me to mention that it's chalk. It'll wash off in the rain. Luckily for the riders and fans, it was merely foggy near the summit.

 

 

The grade is pretty steep, but the constant switchbacks mean the riders can't just get into a rhythm, they need to keep their heads up and watch where they're going. BMC rider Scott Nydam was first up, holding a lead of a few minutes after only 16.6 miles of the stage.

 

 

When the peloton came, it was like a wave of workhorses. The hills were alive with cowbells.

 

 

I then hopped in the Chevy Cobalt and followed the course down the other side of the climb. Whoa. Getting up was only half the battle. The descent had some hairpin turns that had to make more than a few guys a little nervous. It was like Flava Flav sang in "Can't Do Nuttin' For Ya Man": "You jumped out of the jelly into a jam." (The jelly being your legs at the top, the jam being your brakes.)

 

I wound my way over to the highway and bounced over to Davis, where I was able to catch the race along flatter terrain. Once again, Nydam was in the lead. This time with 11 minute on the peloton! The eventual Most Aggressive Rider of the stage has to have some internal fortitude to do nearly a century alone in occasion rain.

 

 

Lucky for the peloton, they have a flat ride into Sacramento:

 

 

In the capitol, it was another three quick laps around the city center. By this time, Nydam had been caught and the stage was up for grabs.

 

 

I was stationed about 200 meters from the finish, and on the final break a High Road rider (who I'd learn later was Gerald Ciolek) broke out in a dead sprint. He had about a 10 meter lead and I saw him look back a couple times.

 

 

"He's the one," I thought. But apparently he didn't have it in the end because Tom Boonen powered through to take the stage. There's a great video of it on the official AToC site.

 

Whew! What a day. And I only walked up the climb. Now I'm in Modesto. Tomorrow's stage runs from here to San Jose and includes the climb up Mt. Hamilton--the highest peak in AToC history (okay, it's only been three years, but that's how they bill it...).

828 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, sacramento, tom-boonen, amgen-tour-of-california, boonen, amgen_tour_of_california, mark-cavendish, scott-nydam, mt.-hamilton, trinity-grande

Overheard this same conversation twice today:

 

"Man, seeing the group go by is amazing. All the colors...the fluidity...they're so close and moving so fast!"

 

"Yeah. Do you know if they go by more than once?"

 

"I think they come by three or four times."

 

"Good. I was hoping I wasn't going to stand here all this time just to see them once!"

 

In both Sausalito (today's Stage 1 start) and Santa Rosa (the finish), the riders did a few circuits around a short course within the city limits. From what I've heard, the French handle the waiting with wine and cheese. The start featured a neutral start, where the riders just kind of warm up the legs and show off for the crowd:

 

 

Paolo Bettini brought up the rear, though when you're a world champ, the pack will wait (or you'll catch up...either one):

 

 

Sausalito was a beautiful little town, a mix of seaside European and New England port. It's the perfect treasure at the end of the drive up from Palo Alto, along Redwood Highway, then over the Golden Gate Bridge.  My regret at not being able to follow the riders on their course is alleviated by the thrill of finding my own way in a place I've never explored.

 

The route into Napa to Santa Rosa bared evidence of how much fun the drive would be when the vineyards were in full bloom.

 

And so it was again that the peloton put on a show for the crowd, this time proving that they could indeed reel in the breakaway of the day (Jackson Stewart of BMC). They arrived in town en masse:

 

 

 

Three laps around a circuit was exciting enough. Then George Hincapie and Tom Boonen tap wheels less than 300 meters from the finish and Hincapie goes down:

 

 

After catching his breath, he got back on his horse and finished, the crowd loving every minute of the American's resolve.

 

 

Tomorrow's forecast calls for rain, with a chance of more thrills and spills. Meanwhile, CSC is showing as early favorites. On to the capitol!

824 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, george_hincapie, amgen-tour-of-california, boonen, paolo_bettini, csc

Today's Prologue was the kind of opening event organizers dream about. The morning fog burnt off by noon, just in time for the pre-race benefit time trial. Local radio and TV personalities, amateur riders, a former mayor of Palo Alto and this guy...

 

 

...who warmed up the 2.1-mile time trial course up for the professionals to come later. Joining in on the action was 2007 Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack (wearing a not-available to the public Specialized aero helmet).

 

 

By the time the pros starting taking off, the crowd was pretty into it. Palo Alto was awash in la vita cyclisma. It seemed like every other person was riding a bike or walking around in their kits, cleats or helmet. I felt like I was in Amsterdam.

 

 

As the cycling content manager at Active, it warmed my heart to see roadies mix with mountain bikers, riding past singlespeeds and fixes. Recumbent bikes and a few hand-crank cycles could be seen. And best of all, kids seemed to be enamored with the fact that they could ride their bike in the street. The cycling love was ever present and there was nary a "They'realldoperssowhocaresthisisAmericaanywaygoplaysomefootball" sentiment about.

 

But really, the riders put on the show--both on the course and off. Fabian Cancellara's time trial blew the competition away (as Bruce predicted.), but American favorite Levi Leipheimer stayed close in the fourth spot. The talk of the starting area were the sweet Slipstream Stashes:

 

 

Though I'm not sure how aero they are,  the facial hair must have worked, since Slipstream placed four guys in the top ten. Then there was the nose plugs, a "traditional/superstition" according to Bruce Hildenbrand (I'll get his video explanation up as soon as I can).

 

 

A few more observations:

 

-Cancellara was the only rider to not sit down before the time trial. Instead, he arrived late to have his bike measured and weighed, then rode around until just before he needed to take off. He then just coasted his bike up to the gate, waited, and won the day.

 

-Mario Cipollini arrived with a camera crew, a million-dollar smile and perfect hair to a raucous welcome by the crowd. As good a greeting as any that the American riders received.

 

-Fan access was amazing. Team buses filled the streets and riders warmed up right next to the sidewalk as spectators watched in awe. More than once I saw or overheard someone ecstatic over being given a water bottle by a pro. Kind of like that Mean Joe Green commercial where he gives the kid his jersey after getting a Coke. Really cool. The riders seemed more than happy to be visible to the public.

 

Lots to look forward to in the coming days. Tomorrow it's Sausalito to Santa Rosa--Levi's current home. Should be a good reception for the defending champ.

906 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: team, cycling, levi_leipheimer, ironman_world_championship, chris_mccormack, slipstream, amgen-tour-of-california, palo-alto, leipheimer, mario_cipollini, fabian_cancellara

Talkin' AToC

Posted by ManintheArena Feb 16, 2008

I started the trip with a camcorder sans microphone, a point-and-shoot camera, a rented Chevy cobalt, 400 miles between San Diego and Palo Alto, and a "Go get 'em!" from Luke (the boss, aka Luc the Good Egg).

 

Along the way, I thought about the approach Active's Tour of California page should take in presenting the race. While creating the package, I wanted a section to showcase helpful articles related to the stage. You'll see climbing tips on mountain days, sprinting tips on days that end in circuits, and general cycling and racing articles throughout the eight-day event.

 

I also had a box created that features rides in California anyone can sign up for. This is a step beyond our traditional coverage of big events (such as the Tour de France). The goal is to make it easy for you to ride some of the same roads the pros will. Because after all, if we're not getting you fired up to ride your bike, we're not doing our job as journalists.

 

I'm not exactly sure when it was I realized I had attempted to create a page that could pertain to cyclists even if they didn't care about Vaughters and the gang, Leipheimer, Boonen, and the rebels of Rock Racing. If Cameron Crowe were directing this trip, the epiphany might have hit me while I was listening to the Allman Brothers as the sun set over the hills south of San Jose. But it may have been while singing along to the Aladdin soundtrack driving along the top-tube-straight stretch of Interstate 5, past endless farmland drinking Dr. Pepper and eathing Munchies Mix. Whatever...

 

The point is, there's more to cycling than biological passports, ASO's evite list and the constant need to update your Rolodex of who is on what team. cycling also involves, you know, pedaling and riding and stuff. And these pros do that pretty well, I hear.

 

So America, here's your chance to watch a top-notch tour on your home turf. I'm thrilled to be along for the ride.

736 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, tour-of-california, rock-racing, amgen-tour-of-california, palo-alto, leipheimer, boonen, vaughters

When I first started commuting by bike to work, I was wearing mesh shorts and t-shirts. It was five miles to the train station, then another mile and a half to work from the back end of the train ride. My butt could take it.

 

But as I rode more, I realized I needed shorts. So I went out and got some mountain bike shorts with a second short underneath with padding. Obviously, I was a little hesitant to look like all the other SoCal cyclists and their stretchy pants.

 

As the weather got cold, I fashioned some leg warmers out of a pair of old tights that Emmy's mom gave her to give to me because they didn't fit. (I'm very resourceful, I think I get that from Grandma.)

 

Me in old bike shorts:

 

Well, little did I know the wheels were in motion for my general improvement. Emmy decides I look silly and gets me some real bike shorts and leg warmers for Christmas. Boy is it easier riding with those.

 

Me with new bike shorts:

 

But the best part of the story? Better gear meant more riding. More riding (coupled with the training for the half-marathon) meant better bike fitness. And all that led to... (drum-roll please!)

 

Me beating Toby and Airey in the February TCSD Duathlon!!!* Hahahaha suckers!!! Better luck next time. Watch out if I get some arm warmers!

 

*OK, so they got lost on the bike route and traveled way out of their way, but still. My intelligence won the day.

1,740 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, active_toby, duathlon, tri_club_of_san_diego, commuting