Looks like we got ourselves a convoy!

Traveling with the Amgen Tour of California is a small army of course marshals, those charged with the ever important duty of keeping the roads closed while corralling thousands of photo hungry fans to a safe vantage point. After the police roll through to shut down the roads, the marshals roll up in a van, and are dropped off quicker than you can say “stop.” Marshalls make multiple “drops” each day, as their van comes back to pick them up and sweep them up the road to the next area in need of their expertise.

In order to transport all these marshalls, there is a convoy within its self that rolls out at the beginning of each stage. Marshalls must be able to quickly identify which of these identical vans are theirs, so the team leaders have taken to some interesting tactics in setting themselves apart in a sea of cargo vans.

http://www.youtube.com/v/JPgS5asoZCQ&hl=en&fs=1

Also assisting the tour is an entire group of motorcycles, over twenty in all. The do all the technical things that cars just arent practical for. Some carry photographers and television cameras, others act as “regulators” in the caravan, keeping us rowdy cars in order. There are also officials, timers, and mechanics, among others, out on the roads with the tour at all times. The motos lined up and ready to roll:

And finally, the tour would be impossible without the help of law enforcement across the state, cities, counties, and the wonderful California Highway Patrol. Who, each year, picks their best officers for this coveted detail spending a week with the Amgen Tour of California. If the first few motorcycles don’t move you off the road, certainly one of the ominous CHP Dodge Chargers will do the trick. CHP lined up and ready to roll:
Our mobile PA car has the freedom to slide in and out of positions in the convoy, but we have certain vehicles which shoudl NEVER be in front or behind us. If they are, we are about to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.


Fire up the presses…

Today, stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California, finished in the city of Pasadena. It brought us good weather along with the best racing and biggest crowds of the tour. Pasadena is a beautiful city, and obviously, home of the world famous Rose Bowl. The final 20 miles of today’s stage took place in the form of five, four mile circuits around the legendary arena. Following the incredible sprint finish, the post-race press confrence took place in the Rose Bowl media room, the same one used by the winning teams and coaches following the college bowl game.

There is an entire entourage of media and press that travels with the tour, from every corner of the earth. Some are here because of the “Lance factor”, but most are simply following one of the largest and most prestigious stage races in the world. Immediatly following the race, there is a rush to spread the information to the rest of the world, and they do it in an incredibly fast manner. I shot the video below in the press room, just about an hour after the conclusion, after the initial rush to send results had passed and writers were then working on their feature stories.

http://www.youtube.com/v/Dmnzuy_cdrs&hl=en&fs=1

I was also able to catch a bit of the press confrence with former Tour de France champion Floyd Landis. I shot the video with the intention of giving an idea of what the press room is like, Landis is answering a “softball” question in the video.

http://www.youtube.com/v/F6SC9DVuWFs&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x234900&color2=0x4e9e00

While you have an idea of the atmosphere in the press confrence room, I want to talk about the very last question asked. Before the questions even started, Landis made some opening remarks and made it very clear that he was there to discuss his current racing season, and was not interested in, nor would he entertain, questions regarding his past (if you will recall, Landis was stripped of his Tour de France win after testing positive for a banned substance.) It was announced that Landis would take three more questions; the first went by, the second, and then VeloNews reporter Neal Rogers stepped up to the microphone. The question went something like “I know you don’t want to talk about your past, but are you finding that people are still interested in talking about it and what happened?”
Without flinching, Landis replied, “You know, I said I wouldn’t answer questions about my past, and I don’t think I want to answer questions about questions about my past either, but nice try.” He thanked the press, stood up, waited for some photos, and quietly left the room to the roaring applause of the entire room. An instant classic.

Thats all for now, check back tomorrow for some crowd and race pictures from today and tomorrow. We are staying at the fabulous Rancho Bernardo Inn for the next two days, so I will try to get a blog post in sometime between attending a world class cycling race and playing the front nine here in Rancho Bernardo. I can’t belive people would live in any state other than California.

Wish you were here!


Danger!

Stage four was, to say the least flat. Now, a flat stage is necessary in a stage race like this, and there were some beautiful stretches as usual along today’s route, but the first seventy or so miles were brutal for us. Through the farmland on our way to wine country, spectators were scarce (no population center for miles) and the scenery got a bit repetitive. Luckily, the technical team found a way to lighten the mood after several hours of boring riding…


Its not over until…..

The camera says it is. Here is a picture of the sprint finish from day four here at the Tour of California. This gives you an idea of how close these guys come after riding for 120 miles through the mountains.


The ride….

Another day, another incredible stage here in beautiful California. We are now in the central part of the state, traveling South bound. Thought I would take a few minutes to give a better picture of what we are doing here. I was able to snap a few pics of our vehicle before rolling out this morning.

So new, the instrument panel is still in Kilometers, the “American” production was not ready.

The title is “Mobile PA.” We are 2-3 minutes (1 mile) in front of the first riders, sometimes more if we are heading into a town full of people. We stop, or sometimes just slowly roll by, and relay as much information while getting the crowd as excited as we can before the final California Highway Patrol car (Command 5) comes into sight. Command 5 is the final car before the riders, so that is our cue to head out. Interactions usually last around 3o seconds max.

You can hear us from about 150 yards away, so we pass along any radio reports we have, throw out some free schwag, and move up the road 150 yards to the next group of fans who were out of earshot. Most people are interested in when the riders will be rolling through. If they are cycling fans (standing near bikes, wearing jerseys, holding signs for teams, etc,) we give them the names and teams of riders in breakaways, many cycling fans can not pick their favorite riders out as the fly by.

We have a pretty good system worked out. There are two of us in the car, and it gets pretty hectic in there sometimes. Driving, analyzing the crowd, keeping our spot in the caravan, taking radio reports, cueing music, looking up riders bios, announcing, and throwing free stuff keeps us pretty busy. The mic sits in the cupholders between us, and it’s pretty much a matter of who has a hand free to announce.

When we come at you on course, this is what you see…


Don’t have much else for now. I’m currently working on a few behind the scenes posts which I hope to have up later in the week. Until then, I will leave you with some pics of today’s scenery.

Snow up in the mountains, the temperature here was right around 65 degrees.

Rolling hills just outside of Merced…
These were plentiful between San Jose and Modesto…
That’s it for now, check back tomorrow!


Don’t you people know it’s raining?

Stage 1 (following the Prologue) was a wet, rough day for the riders. Solid downpours all day plagued the entire route, but the fans didn’t seem to bother to check the weather report. As buckets of rain fell from the sky, thousands of die hard cycling fans packed the route here at the Tour of California, clamoring to catch a glimpse of their cycling heroes. Ok, a good portion of them were there to see Lance, but it doesn’t make it any less romantic.

Today (stage 2) was much more of the same. Torrential downpours plagued much of the route as we took to the epic California Route 1, following the coastline from Sausulito to Santa Cruz. Just about ten minutes into the race, the course looked like this.
The Golden Gate Bridge offered an incredible view as we crossed with the bridge to ourselves, completely shut down to traffic. I was not able to catch a shot as we crossed, but Grahm Watson of VeloNews did a fine job of capturing the moment.

We stuck to the coast for the first quarter of the race. Route 1 never deviates from the water, so it is regarded as one of the most scenic roads in the country. Car enthusiasts dream of taking their machines out for a spin on this stretch. There we were, with a brand new, (and as we would come to find out, incredibly fast) Volvo XC60, with Route 1 shut down for 10 miles ahead of us, with no cars in sight. Once in a lifetime. The skies even cleared up for a bit as we headed into Santa Cruz.

That’s it from Stage 2 here at the Amgen Tour of California. Six more days of incredible racing await us. I might not come home from this trip. So long from San Jose!


And so it begins…

The prologue of the 2009 Tour of California is over, and if this is any measure of what the rest of the week will be like, we are in for a crazy ride. The turnout, atmosphere, and production were far beyond anything I had ever expected. For the first time in this career, I felt like I was at a commercial sporting event. NFL, MLB, NASCAR, and now the Amgen Tour of California. I prepared myself coming into this, expecting something incredible, and was still blown away.

The prologue is essentially a time trial; riders leave a starting point at exactly one minute increments, when chips attached to their bikes trigger a timing system. They ride a short course, and about 7 minutes later, (6:38 if you are world champion time trialist and 2009 Tour of California prologue winner Fabian Cancelarra) riders cross the finish line just a few blocks away from the start.

Normally we work in the Mobile PA car like in Georgia, but that didn’t apply today, so my partner Jamie Smith and I were manning the PA at the start, while the infamous Dave Towle and Jeff Roake called the finish. It was, in a word, breathtaking. Lance Armstrong leaves the start house:
(turn your speakers up, sorry about the quality.)

http://www.youtube.com/v/sGJa22SuHb0&hl=en&fs=1

The spectators you see in the video were packed equally as dense around the entire roughly 3 mile course.

I’m staying at the same hotel as the teams, the lobby and restaurant are crawling with well dressed Europeans. I got a kick out of Jamie’s blog post here. I know what you are wondering, and no, Lance is not staying here, he is undoubtedly hidden in a posh compound somewhere far away from the likes of me, and rightfully so. There was an incredible turnout for him, with adoring fans swarming him at any public appearance.

Tomorrow is set to be an equally if not more incredible day, as we take to the beautiful roads of California in our new mobile PA vehicle (never driven, brand new Volvo XC60.) Check back for more pics and video.