Luisa Sullivan of Davanti Cycling approached me to co-organize a cycling trip to Italy at the end of April. The dates are April 23 to May 2, 2010. I'm really excited because, as I have told most of you, Italy is my absolute favorite place to ride.
We put together a really special itinerary full of everything we love about Italy. This is a trip to enjoy Italian cycling culture. We will ride in a Gran Fondo, which strictly translated means "Big Ride". These rides are similar to El Tour de Tucson with thousands of people riding. Some people race, but most people just ride and enjoy the day.
We will stay and train for most of the trip at Lake Garda. The area is amazingly beautiful and has spectacular riding. Near the end of the trip we will transfer to the area outside of Monza (near Milan) and ride in the Gran Fondo Bugno. Gianni Bugno is one of Italy's most famous cyclists. He has won the Giro, was on the final podium several times at the Tour (winning Alpe du Huez twice) and was also two times World Champion. He is a friend of mine and will ride with us and have dinner with us when we arrive in Monza.
For anyone who might rather shop or sightsee in Milan the day before the Gran Fondo, I am working on a plan for this option too...
The trip will be fully supported by Giant. We will have bikes so you don't have to travel with yours, and Luisa will do some talks on coaching and physiology for those who interested in learning the secrets of how to get faster. We will be able to accommodate all skill levels. My goal is to have the level of support like a pro team, but be able to relax and soak up Italian culture like a vacation.
And of course the hotels (4 star), food (second hotel has a Michelin one star restaurant preparing our meals), and service will be much better than how a normal cycling team is treated.
Yesterday I did a great ride with my VeloBetty training group. We met in the mountains behind San Diego for an early morning ride in the hills. We were a group of about 8 women, and we were tackling the famous "Kitchen Creek" on Mt. Laguna.
I always look forward to our VeloBetty rides because they are such epic, yet social events. We have a "no drop" attitude, and we always make sure that everyone feels welcome. We are starting to look like a real team out there since our new kits finally arrived and look amazing! It is also a total bonus, and by design I must add, that my kit perfectly matches my Giant For Women TCR!
We were a bit concerned with the heat. At 8am it was already in the 80's and that meant that it was going to be a HOT day. This is always a big concern because dehydration is a big problem in the Summer, and there weren't very many spots to stop and refuel on our route. We loaded up with bottles in the pockets etc. and took off down the road. I also loaded up my dog Lil'B (4 pounds of love)
I always love the early ride chatter, and I heard a great quote as we started up our first big climb. The group was already split, and I was riding with two women. It was awesome, one of them said that when this happens to them they just make up someone in their imagination and chase that person down.... I laughed at first because it was said in a funny way, but then I started to think about it and it made total sense. It shouldn't matter how fast you are, or how bad you feel. It's all about what you can convince yourself to do in your head. It's the mental game and we all play it. Sometimes it's with real people, but there is nothing wrong with pretending like you are chasing Lance Armstrong. Games are what make life fun. So, even if you are suffering to just make it up a hill, let your imagination go and use it to propel you forward.
The ride did indeed get pretty warm, but we had plenty of rest and enjoyed the scenery. We saw some beautiful areas that you can only really appreciate on a bike and the ice cream at the one and only market on Mt. Laguna never tasted so good! "Ride Life!"
I was at dinner on Tuesday's rest day in my hotel in Chieti and decided that after seeing a couple friends that I was going to head to Rome and take in a day of sightseeing and shopping before my flight back to the States. I knew that Blockhaus was going to be a cool stage, but it is always difficult to get the logistics down to see a hilltop finish, and I was thinking that a day in Rome might be a better way to spend my last day.
So, I was having a romantic dinner for one by the poolside, and next thing you know, all the TV helicopter crew comes out by the pool for dinner. I guess I must have looked bored or lonely because they invited me to come and sit with them. I wasn't ready to go back to my room, so I figured what the heck. I could practice my Italian a bit more.
I go over and sit down with them. What a crew. We started talking about the Giro, they wanted to know what I was doing in Italy and I told them that I was there to ride my bike with friends, and that I wanted to see some of the Giro. The next thing you know, they are inviting me to come in the helicopter for the stage the next day. I told them I didn't know because I was heading to Rome, but then I decided that Rome would always be there, but a chance to see an epic stage in the Giro from a helicopter was not an everyday occurrence!
Then I realized that my pilot was going to be Gianni Bugno, one of the most famous Italian cyclists ever. I found out that he now just flies helicopters and the Giro is the only thing he does with cycling now. For those of you who don't know, he won two world championships, the Giro, and was a regular on the podium at the Tour. It sealed my decision to stay and go in the helicopter.
I was supposed to meet up with the crew in a town called Pretola at 11 a.m. It wasn't far from my hotel, so I was wasting time in the morning on the internet trying to find a hotel in Rome (which is another story in itself). I left 45 minutes early, and as I started driving I realized that I was not going to make it by 11 a.m.
I kept running into closed roads, and I'm not sure if it was due to the earthquake or just bad maintenance, but whatever it was, it was not looking good for me to make it to the meeting point on time. I was completely stressing out, and let's just say I have a lead foot and was passing the slow cars on small roads like I was on fire. My poor rental car was earning its money, and was definitely an example of why I would never purchase a rental...
I texted Gianni to say that I was going to be 10 to 15 minutes late. I was mortified. They were doing me a favor and now I'm late... Oh well, I figured better to let them know and then they can decide if they want to wait for me or not. Gianni wrote back "Stai tranquilla", so I relaxed a bit, and I finally got to Pretola, which is a tiny town built into a hillside.
Let's just say that the streets are steep and narrow. I got into town and realized that I really needed to pay attention so that I didn't stall out in any switchbacks. It sounds easy until you realize that there are people going both directions and you inevitably meet in the turns.
Mama Mia... By then I was sweating, and was already 15 minutes late and I couldn't find them. I asked the police where the Campo Sportivo was and they pointed me in the right direction, but I had to ask two more people before I actually got to the destination. I finally pulled into the soccer field which was a makeshift helicopter landing pad.
I got there and it was so relaxed. The crew was so cool. Besides Gianni, there were a couple people who really made an impression on me. One was Erika--she was a pilot of one of the helicopters and awesome. She does firefighting in southern Italy for the most part, but she has done the Giro for the past few years. She was the lone woman in the crew and I asked her about it, and she said it's better than being with a bunch of women and that the guys were all simpatico... Nice... I had to laugh, because I do think that a lot of times women get so competitive with each other that it sometimes takes the fun out of work.
The other person was an American guy from Santa Monica named Eric. He worked on maintaining the cameras. He only found out a week before the race that he was coming, and spoke no Italian. He was on an adventure similar to me! I have never given much thought to how we get all those pictures from the air, and so it was really interesting to see all the behind the scenes work that goes into bringing the TV coverage. There were five helicopters on the ground, and everyone was waiting around. I could tell this was going to be a "hurry up and wait" kind of deal.
Then a flurry of activity... Suddenly I'm being called from across the field. It's time to go! I get in the helicopter and we take off. What a feeling. Just lifting up into the sky, it was so cool.
We were going to head out and check out the course from the sky. We were looking for anything interesting to add to the TV coverage. First we went and circled Chieti. We looked at all the angles of the start and nice views of the hilltop town. Then we moved on to Pescara. We checked out the ocean, all the pools, and the beach--anything that would be of interest to viewers. Then we started moving toward the climb at Blockhaus.
The town of Pretola where the landing field was is at the base of the climb. We passed right over it and started to follow the road to the top. It was hard viewing because a lot of the climb was in the trees. But, it was obvious that the climb was long and was going high. There is nothing stranger than seeing the ocean and its 90 degrees out and then seeing snow on the mountains. It's definitely hard to imagine.
On top of Blockhaus we circled and went down the backside where there were some steep drop-offs. It was an amazing view that I would have never seen except in a helicopter. We landed in a field on top of the mountain so the camera guy could wipe the lenses and there were fans waiting for the race to come. Sure enough, as was the case at Tour of California too, there were guys in their underwear sitting on the mountain. I guess they thought they weren't going to be seen, but didn't figure on a helicopter landing 200 meters away.
We got back in the sky and finally landed back in the soccer field that was our home base. We went for a coffee in the little café across the street. It was hilarious, everyone wanted their picture with Bugno, and then up comes Maurizio Fondriest on his bike and so we have a little reunion of sorts. It was awesome, and one of those experiences that I couldn't have even planned better. It was so lucky, and so Italian. I decided that in my Eat, Pray, Love adventure, it was just being open to going with the flow that I somehow ended up getting more than I ever anticipated.
Me, Gianni Bugno (in blue) and Maurizio Fondriest is in green, second from the right
This marked the end of the Giro portion of my trip. It was such an adventure. I really left there believing that sometimes you have to just open your heart and great things happen. If you are so busy trying to make things happen, sometimes you miss the little things that turn out to be great adventures.
Today was the stage from Forli to Faenza. One of the main reasons I wanted to come to these few days of the Giro is because I lived for a year in Forli and wanted to see some old friends.
Silvia and I both drove separately to the start, but as we got off the Autostrada, we got in one car because parking close to the start is very difficult. We were really early today because of our experience the day before. We had time to walk around the square and check out all the festivities.
The bird guy in the Giro village.
There is so much that surrounds the Giro. First the promotion caravan took off. Then there was a kid's bike race. It was amazing to me how many kids were out there giving it a try. It also struck me how cool it must be for them to be able to race in the same spot as their heroes and then get to actually see them signing in and racing.
The kid's race.
It was scorching hot out and I had worn a sundress to try and avoid pants, but it was still not enough. We kept searching for shade. I was talking to a fan about the heat and said that I felt sorry for the guys today. His comment to me was that this kind of stuff is what they get paid to do. The way he said it was so matter of fact, but it epitomized how the sport is seen here. These guys are paid to suffer, and the suffering is what makes the sport.
I still sympathized for the riders. I was too hot to spend all day running around looking for the race, so I ended up moving to my next hotel and hit the beach with Silvia. I managed to have my second ice cream of the day, and decided that maybe I could add "Eat" back into my Eat, Pray, Love theme...
I came in off the beach to catch the final part of the Giro on TV. My trip has been a combination of seeing the Giro and riding with friends, so I'm definitely never sure what will happen next, but I'm enjoying the ride.
Even my coffee was yummy!
The stage was won by Leonardo Bertagnolli. He had spent the day in a long break and came to the line alone after Serge Pauwels of Cervelo TestTeam was asked to go back and help Carlos Sastre. It was a great win for the Italian who had only joined his team a couple weeks before the Giro.
Today was my first full day in Italy. It was busy! I started the day by going to the SRM house in Lucca to pick up a bike so that I could ride on this trip. I had left it there a couple years ago when I had come to the Giro with friends, and lucky for me it was still there!
It is always good to see Uli (the owner/ founder of SRM) and so my day was starting out well. For anyone who doesn't know, SRM is the company that was first to make power meters to read power output on the bike. I have known Uli, the owner, since '93 when I first started using it for training. He is a dear friend and owns a beautiful villa in Tuscany. The US National team uses it off and on for training during the season.
After I picked up my bike, I headed to the race start in Campi Bisenzio. I had arranged to meet a woman to pick up some passes for the "village". First of all, the only other times I have been to the Giro and the Tour, I have been with people who knew their way around, and had already figured out how to get their credentials.
I, on the other hand, had credentials but no idea how to find them! Every time I thought I was close to the meeting point, I would realize that I was nowhere near where I was supposed to be, and had to try again.
I was frantically trying to find my way to the entrance of the village. It sounds easy in theory, until you are trying to squeeze your way through a million Italians who just want a glimpse of Mario Cipollini or Paolo Bettini, or any of the cycling stars who were soon to arrive at the sign-in stage. I suddenly realized that it was possible that I could miss the start because I was too busy wandering through the crowds.
Suddenly, from inside the fences, I hear "Ciao, Mari" and I am saved. My girlfriend spotted me and told me to wait. She grabbed Paolo Bettini and next thing you know, I am being pulled through the fence and I am inside with no credentials, no nothing except that Paulo said it was OK. Good to know people in high places!
My girlfriend Silvia (who was the Italian national road champion in 2005) and I spent some time in the village. I ran into Michael Barry and Tom Danielson. They were both in good spirits and I found out I had just missed seeing Dede (Michael's wife and 2004 Olympic Medalist).
Silvia (on the right) and I at the finish in San Luca
After the start, we drove a ways and then got on our bikes...OK, so we are two girls, but, between the two of us, neither had any Allen wrenches, and we both dropped our chains once. I could not even believe it: white shorts, tan, feeling good, and then voila -- black grease and a mess!
Anyway, we continued on...We decided to go up the finish climb. It turned out to be very steep. Silvia had a back pack and my excuse was jet lag, but we decided to venture to the top. The crowds were huge, and we were there an hour before the race finished!
Silvia at the base of the final climb.
We were riding up, and I noticed an old man having problems in front of us on a very steep section. Next thing you know, he fell into Silvia, and then continued on to me. I leaned into him and we didn't go down, but there was no possible way that I would be able to get going again. The crowds were awesome and cheering us on. They were going nuts -- making fun of the guy, telling us to try again, etc. etc. It was hilarious, so Silvia and I rode down a bit to a driveway. Got on the bikes, turned around and did it again. All we could do was laugh. All the crazy fans, and we were just soaking in the fun of our experience. It was "over the top..."
The start of the final climb starts under that arch.
As the race was ending, we jetted out of town to our hotel. It was a bed and breakfast, but there was no air-conditioning. Talk about insanely hot, I could not stop sweating, and I think that I lost 10 pounds. It is ironic because before I left home, I kept telling everyone that I was going to gain a bunch of weight here -- eating a ton of pizza and pasta -- but now I'm thinking that I might actually lose weight if things keep going this way. My trip theme has now gone from "Eat, Pray, Love" to Pray and Love...
Before hitting the hay, we went to the town square where there was a bicycling presentation about an upcoming race. I couldn't believe that the whole town was shut down, and that the Saturday night festivity was a bike race presentation. It was surreal because these Italian presentations go on forever, and they had lights, music, etc., and I was already running on fumes from jet lag. Finally, I couldn't stay up any longer and so we headed back to our hotel and I finally lay down to sleep.
In the race to San Luca, Simon Gerrans won after a long day in the break. It seemed like a lot of the riders underestimated the steepness of the climb, and I have to admit, even being fresh, I was really surprised by the second hard pitch to the climb which came after taking a turn. I can only imagine that it would be disheartening to see the 1K to go in the middle of that climb on a hot and humid day like today.
I've been following the Giro for the past ten days, and I'm finally leaving tomorrow to go join up with the race. I'm excited for a number of reasons.... It is the 100th Giro, and in a country like Italy where tradition is king, it is inevitable that this will be an amazing race. It is also cool because it is Lance Armstrong's first Grand Tour since winning his 7th Tour de France. Finally, it is just going to be an amazing cycling trip and bike race viewing for me. I am going to witness history, and I can't imagine a better way to spend a week.
While I am travelling, the guys are going to be tackling the time trial. It is 60k and it is not a normal time trial. I don't think that you will be seeing many time trial bikes out there. Apparently the climbs are long, and the descents are very technical so most of the guys are opting for non-traditional tt set ups. I think that the GC favorites are all going to do well and it's going to be a tight race, but Levi and Rogers might not get as much time on the climbers as they might have if the course was more typical.
I've been texting some of the guys, and they are tired. The courses have been tough, and yesterday's 160 mile race was no walk in the park. The interesting thing is that the race really starts tomorrow with the tt. It's going to be a fight, and I for one am really interested to see where the cards lie at the end of the day.
I will be travelling all day and end up in Florence for the finish. I will let you all know how it goes.
Friday night was a great night for a mountain bike clinic. Every gal overcame big challenges and reached deep to learn a little more about and what they can achieve. Riding a mountain bike is total freedom. Beautiful scenery, wildlife and the best part – no cars. It can be a little scary, but once you have mastered some of the basic skills, every ride just gets better and better. There are trails for all types of riders and everybody has a great time.
We met in Penasquitos Canyon, made sure bikes were ready, riders ready and off we went. Most riders were fairly new to cycling and a little overwhelmed at first. We started with an overall explanation of basic bike handling, then we rode a little, and talk a little then ride some more. Providing instruction and demonstration where we worked on correct body positioning, climbing, descending and cornering. We learned how to ride over rocks, loose gravel, sand, of course some really fun singletrack. Some of the riding was a little more technical than the girls were used to, but they all gave it a try. There is never any shame in walking a section when you are unsure. Much better to be safe and build your confidence until you have mastered the correct skills. The support they gave each other was amazing.
We headed up the hill called “cobbles” to see the goats and chickens. Not just any chickens, but the craziest looking chickens you’ve ever seen. We fed the goats some avocado leaves and proceeded down the fire road. After regrouping at the bottom we headed back to the cars at sunset. Each girl successfully completed the class and received their certificates. We had some drinks, shared some more laughs and gave each other hugs before leaving the parking lot with a big smile on every face
Friday I was fortunate enough to be invited by the Paralympic National Cycling Team coach Craig Griffin to ride with the National Team who was in town training at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista. I used to train at that training center in the mid 90's but it really had been a long time since I had been down that way and I couldn't believe how much it had changed. There is now a whole housing community built up around the training center. When I was there it was just rolling hills. Crazy.
I had not been on my bike in a couple weeks because of an eye surgery, but I really wanted to ride with the Paralympian team, so I decided I would head down there and give it a shot. Craig told me that it was going to be a time trial, but that I could just ride easy out to the ride and then come back after with them. Well, I have been around a long time, and I should have seen what was coming.... I ended up riding 4 hours in the hills, and getting totally exhausted!
The best part of the ride, was that I got to meet cyclists who have represented and won medals in the Paralympics. Anyone who thinks there are boundaries in this world needs to spend some time with these people. They train and push themselves like any Olympian, but they have an attitude towards life that is infectious. I found myself wanting to complain about being tired, and that my new bike still needed adjusting etc... But, I didn't do it because I felt like a complete idiot complaining about my stuff to people who have so many more mechanical issues than me. It was a good lesson for this prima donna. Sometimes we all need a dose of reality.
I coach the Qualcomm Million Dollar Challenge, which is a big fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). It was so cool to go on the ride with the Paralympic team because a lot of those people had sponsorships from CAF. It made me feel good to see how the funds from all the people on the QMDC ride helped to make it possible for paralympians to have the right equipment to race. I learned a lot and felt very humbled all at once.
OK, so maybe this is a topic that is a bit uncomfortable, but I'm going throw it out there anyway. If you are going to ride a bike, you are going to have an issue at some point from sitting on the seat. I know it sounds crazy and wrong, but you will get used to it, and I promise you that you will eventually be fine, and be able to have a normal sex life... I know it seems counter intuitive since I'm saying that you are going to get used to something that not super comfortable, but, no matter what it seems like, you are not experiencing anything that will not get better, or be completely normal with proper care.
I've talked a lot to my gynecologist about this, and women who ride bikes and horses both have issues because of the saddle. It's not normal to be on a saddle, and it causes a lot of problems. Saddle sores, ingrown hairs, swelling etc. We all have problems at some point, and you will get through it. The most important thing is to take care of it and make sure that you pay close attention to how you are feeling. I don't even know how many times I have had to ice my crotch after hard time trial workouts. That was just from being sore, and not even from the occasional saddle sore.
If the soreness is from pressure, than icing works well. I would do it ASAP after getting off the bike. The bigger problem is if you get an infection. If you have a hard swelling and it is red and thick, you should see a doctor because you might need to be on antibiotics. Sometimes this happens with ingrown hairs and glands that get blocked. There might be drainage, and you should take sitz baths and soak to help the swelling. These kinds of infections normally clear up quickly after getting antibiotics. If it doesn't, than you might have a more serious problem and your doctor will be able to help you. Don't let them make you feel weird. Its totally normal and if your doctor isn't sensitive to your issues, than maybe you need to find someone else.
There are many types of saddle sores, and many different causes. I think the first thing to determine when you are having pain is to figure out whether it is a friction issue, a pressure issue or an infection.
A friction issue is going to be raw. Its going to hurt and your underwear are going to stick to it in the same way a Band-Aid gets stuck on a wound. This kind of sore you can help by checking where the seams are located and seeing if they align with your sore. If they do, then you might try riding in another pair of shorts. Also, you shouldn't ride with your underwear under your shorts. If you are, then this also might be contributing to your problem... The way to treat this is to use a bit of Neosporin and keep the area dry and clean.
Pressure issues are going to cause a lot of pain, and a bit of swelling. The swelling is usually on one side, and for whatever reason, most women have the swelling on their right side. This is normally a saddle issue. It has to do with the seat not fitting correctly. As I have said many time before, you need to find a seat that fits you best. A more expensive saddle is not necessarily one that is going to fit you better. If a saddle fits right, than it doesn't need to be very padded. Also, its in vogue right now to have a cut out saddle, and while this is great in theory, you need to be even more careful with fit on this type of saddle, because if the cut out is not exactly right for you than it will cause even more problems. They are able to cut out the middle because they reinforce the edges, and when you reinforce something it actually makes it stiffer around the edges. For most women, it is most comfortable to have a saddle that is a bit flatter, and a bit wider through the sit bones... If the seat is too rounded, it makes your crotch rock on it and even if its just a little, it can really add up over the miles...
The last kind of saddle sore that I'm going to talk about is an infection. This is when you need to pay the most attention. An infected saddle sore can range from an ingrown hair, to infected ducts which might require surgery. And don't be scared, most often, a warm salt water bath, and maybe some antibiotics will clear up just about anything. I've been in cycling for twenty years, and I've only had one girlfriend who actually had to have surgery for a saddle sore. You will know if you have an infection. It will hurt badly and there will be a definite area that is affected. If it is an ingrown hair, it will be sore to the touch and will seem like there is a head. It is important to bring it to a head and drain it. You will see the hair, get it out and then try to keep the wound dry and clean. I like to use Neosporin too. If you have a thickening, like a feeling like there is a pea under you skin, and it is deep and has no head you need to contact your doctor. Just explain that you have been riding and that you have this infection. They will give you some antibiotics and you will feel much better. You won't be able to drain this yourself, and it will get worse if left alone.
The most important thing to remember is that this is nothing out of the ordinary. You will be fine. Just take the steps to avoid saddle sores. Always stay dry and clean. If you are done with a ride, get out of your cycling shorts. There is nothing good that can come from sitting around in wet cycling clothing. If you have a problem, ice and warm baths will go a long way to help. Evaluate your equipment, and you will find the happy medium where you have infrequent saddle sores and other issues...
I'm in Moab right now at a women's cycling camp.... Shockingly, we are having a road camp and not a mountain biking camp. I had never heard of road riding in Moab, but it is great. We are having meetings about training, nutrition, women's medical issue (saddle sores) etc. It has been awesome! I have met an amazing crew of women here.
This camp was one of the first of it's kind. It is a camp designed for women who want to race, or have been racing for awhile but want to improve skills and tactics. It is being run the same way that a National Team camp would be approached except that the athletes are new to the sport, or masters riders. There was threshold testing, and nightly talks by nutritionists, doctors and physiologists. Kimberly Baldwin (an ex pro cyclist) and I are here to talk about racing and tactics and what its like to be racing at an elite level. .
Unfortunately, the weather is cold and rainy. Today we rode into the Canyonlands National Park. It was a great place to teach basic climbing and descending skills. But, it was super windy, so we actually got to work on more tricks to riding in the wind than anything else.
One thing that we really worked on was how to determine what type of paceline would work best in different situations. We took turns taking pulls in a single paceline, and then we spent time learning how to ride in an echelon. The best part was that everyone got comfortable riding close together and communicating. The women are definitely going to go home with a better idea of how to conserve energy on the road.
I'm looking forward to tomorrow's ride that is working on time trialing skills.
Today when I was out riding, I was thinking about how a lot of women wear jewelry while training and it got me to wondering about our choices.
Personally, I always wear jewelry. I love a bit of bling, and since I spend a lot of time on my bike, I want to wear it when I'm riding. It's just another way to express yourself out there.
So, what are there any rules for wearing jewelry on the bike?
I think the first thing to consider is how would your choice affect you if you were to crash. I hate thinking about the negatives first, but we are participating in a sport that does have some issues with crashing. And its important to always be prepared. Most people like to wear their wedding bands, but if the band is made of platinum or titanium, you might want to consider whether it might be too hard to cut off should your finger swell after getting hurt. Other types of material aren't as hard to cut and there might be a better chance that the paramedics would be able to get it off.
As far as necklaces go, I don't think there are really any safety issues, but there issues with your hair getting caught. If you have a frail chain, then you might end up breaking it by accident. No matter how much you think that you are gentle with your jewelry, when you are out riding, we tend to be a bit more aggressive and you could easily pull too hard and break a chain. It would be really sad to have a favorite locket fall off in the middle of a race and you couldn't go back to find it.
I like thick jewelry, but then that's my personality... I normally wear a Tiffany necklace and bracelet. It is thick enough not to break, but still a bit of bling and it makes me happy. Sexy and tough... I don't often wear rings on the bike. I don't like the way my finger sweats too much under the ring and then I end up getting an even bigger white mark on my finger and its bad enough that I wear gloves and get tan lines on my wrists.
I tried wearing an anklet a few years ago, but I couldn't find one that was the right material. The ones I kept buying were some kind of cheap material and after a day of riding my ankle would have a black mark on it. Not the look I was going for, but I did think that it looked cool when the days started out. If I could find a high quality anklet I would do it, and I think it would even look better with a few rhinestones that would sparkle when I was pedaling circlesJ
I used to wear earrings all the time. My favorite are just pearl studs, classy and timeless. Its hard to have longer earrings on cause they get in the way of the helmet and radio headphones. My second choice is a medium size hoop earring, but those are also a bit more complicated, but do look nice.
So, my rules for jewelry are that you need to really consider how it will hold up in a worst case scenario situation. Jewelry quality is also important. You don't want to have a big black mark where your jewelry rubbed against you, combined with sweat and then made you look bad. My last bit of advice is to have fun. You can show your personality on the bike. You can accessorize and make it your own. Let me know if you have any other good tips. I'm always looking for more info.
Saturdays stage was the shortest road stage so far. The climbs were not super long but the finishing circuits were deceptively hard.
At this point in a race I am always intrigued by the fact that you can ask five different guys how the race was, and you will get five different answers. From my point of view in the car, there were a lot of attacks and chasing. This means that the pace was high, and for whatever reason, the group wasnt letting a break go away. After the sprint, there was finally a group off the front. George Hincapie was in this group, and it seemed that he would really want this win since he won the stage last year, too.
The break finally gained some time, and it became apparent that they were going to stay away. Chris Baldwin from Rock Racing was in this group. He is married to one of my good friends who happened to also be in the follow car. We had a tense moment when Chris flatted and had to chase back on. I can only imagine how much she wanted to open a gap in the caravan to help him get back. It's hard to imagine how fast these guys are going until you watch a single rider trying to get back to the group.
So, back to my point about five different points of view... The guys in the break were killing themselves and had an exhausting day. The guys who missed the break but who had been attacking to get away also had a hard day. Levis team had a hard day riding tempo and controlling the race. But, the dark horses are the ones who sat in and followed wheels. They are the ones to watch out for on Palomar. There are still good guys close to Levi, and even though they might not be able to take away the win, they might be able to make things interesting come Sunday.
So as in all things, never rely on one point of view. It takes a few perspectives to paint a picture.
Oh the pain of time trials...I guess that even though I'm retired, I still get nervous when I see everyone warming up. It is just such grueling efforts, that I guess it's a learned stress response.
The weather was amazing today, and the crowds were huge. Everyone got to see such a great show. Being a VIP driver, I covered the course three times with different people and it was cool to see how much bigger the crowds grew during the day. By the time I followed Dave Zabriskie, the crowds were really big and making a lot of noise.
The TT is on roads that many of the riders know from years of training in the Solvang area. It is an absolutely beautiful course with gently rolling climbs and fast descents. It is a bit technical, but not overly so.
As I mentioned, the final rider that I followed was Dave Zabriskie. Before we set out on the course, everyone was saying that they thought Dave had a great chance of winning this and that he had been laying low for the past few stages. He did not disappoint. It was fun to watch him ride the race because he just had such a nice rhythm and looked powerful and comfortable. He made the corners and descents look easy and was flying on the course.
Zabriskie's time held until Levi came through a few seconds faster. It looks like Levi has a pretty firm grip on this Tour of California.
After the race, the next race began. That is the race to get to the new hotel. It was a pretty slow start though, because there was a ton of traffic. I decided to stop and visit my parents in Ventura on my way to the next starting point. I'm taking one relaxing night at home so my parents can take care of me. We are on the final push to San Diego and I'm looking forward to getting home!
Today was a much nicer day. We woke up to blue skies for the first time of this race. There were four KOM's today, and the climbs were not as steep as the other days. But, that is not to say that the race was not difficult.
The race is underway!
I have one friend who is an averaged-sized cyclist and managed to have an average power of almost 350 watts for the first hour. It did look impressive, even from the car. The peloton was attacking and strung out until the break got away. It only finally got under control when Mancebo dropped back from the break to the peloton.
There were a lot of crashes today, and that is another indication that the riders are tired. When people are tired, they have slower reactions and they make small mistakes that they would not normally make. It is not always the fault of the cyclist who crashes, but it is an indication that the peloton is fatigued.
The break of three was caught with a couple kilometers to go. It turned out to be a day for the sprinters, with Cavendish taking the win.
As far as the crowds go, it was another amazing day. There were people lining the course not only near the normal gathering points like sprints and climbs, but they were lining the fields and farms. There were kids and marching bands.
There is a van that hands out Livestrong posters etc, and I always have to be careful when driving close to him because the crowds that gather around him to get Lance paraphernalia can sometimes be dangerous. He is like the pied piper of the Tour of California. Kids and adults coming running into the streets and lose their minds for a poster. It is too cool, and I am serious when I say that you would not believe it unless you could see it in action.
Here I am before the race getting food for the long car ride.
Me and my friend Min Reid with UCI president Pat McQuaid
This morning I awoke to the sound of pouring rain. I didn't want to get up because it was perfect sleeping weather. I decided to drag myself out of bed and take a quick trip to Starbucks. As I ran into the rain I couldn't believe how deep the puddles were. I was thankful I had parked in a high spot of the parking lot, because a few cars down from me ( my friend's media car) the water was all the way up to the door! He had a golf cart help him get to the car and finally get inside.
I got to Starbucks and ran into my good friend Floyd Landis. I had been hoping that I would run into him because I wanted to see how he was doing after his flat on the first epic stage. It seems like he is doing well.
He said his back was hurting, and I asked if it was because of the crash that happened before the day the race started. He laughed and said "no" that he was sore from being frozen and stuck on his bike for a few days in the same position just trying to stay warm.
He said that he was so cold after the first stage that it was actually comical how he had no control of his body. He was past just being cold, and didn't feel bad anymore, he just couldn't use his fingers or move his hands. We laughed a bit, because we both knew that he had another cold, wet, day ahead, and there was nothing to do but grin and get through it...
Floyd cracks me up, and I had to laugh again later when he went on the stage at sign-in and they asked him about the conditions. He laughed and said they weren't that bad.
That's what I like about bike racing: You have to get through the bad days. Whether you are suffering with an effort, or whether you are suffering because of an environment. The sport is all about overcoming adversity. Sometimes you can have great form and no luck, and sometimes you have luck because you don't have great form.
The moral is that you have to work hard to set yourself up for success, and then deal with the hand you are dealt. And for those who are just getting through, it is just remembering to survive to fight another day. I always think that patience in overcoming adversity is the sign of someone who has raced a long time versus someone who is just starting. Those who have been through the ups and downs know that they just need to get through it. Those who are new, have to learn that the bad days are never the end, and that the struggle will pay off with time.
It is the struggle that makes those who have been around awhile as tough as nails. It is what makes someone laugh and make a joke about going out to deal with another day of rain and cold.
Tomorrow is supposed to be a nicer day. I sure hope the sun comes out for these guys. They deserve a bit of sunshine!
Here are some shots from the starting line in San Jose...