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.
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…
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!
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!
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.)
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.
Mark this post as the official revival of my blog. There are only a few things in life that have the capability to inspire me to dig up an old website, sift through every internet password I’ve ever used until eventually finding the right one, and then actually write something. One of those things, however is the U.S. Grand Prix of Cyclocross presented by Crank Brothers. I spent the past weekend in Louisville, Kentucky, where we were greeted by great weather, awesome fans, and an incredible race to boot.
After you jump over the barriers on foot, its all about how fast you can get back on the bike.
Next, you have things like “The Green Monster,” unique to the Louisville USGP course.
They threw in a sand trap just to keep things interesting.
And for the majority of the race, racers are on grass like this.Starting to make a little bit of sense? If you have never seen a race, its unlike anything you can imagine. The atmosphere at a ‘cross race in indescribable, unique in the sporting world. Lead changes everywhere, the potential for a crash at any second, and speed that you can’t imagine. Inspired yet? Go watch a bike race!
This past weekend brought my favorite race all year, the Tour de Grandview. The race was formerly known as the Wendy’s International Cycling Classic, but following Wendy’s withdraw from the sport, the city of Grandview did a lot to keep the race on its feet. This year was a two day event, with a cool four corner criterium (lap) race on Saturday, and the classic Sunday course the day after. Saturday brought lots of rain, just pop up showers throughout the day. The womens’ race was posponed for about an hour an shortened by just a few laps, but everyone was glad they still got to race. The race winner was Christy Keely, a young and upcoming cyclist riding out of Michigan. I met her at a race in Michigan a few weeks ago, when I headed up there with my good friend Jon Moore to do a simple set up for Tenspeeds. We took some flyers on a hunch thinking we could lure a few riders. We were sucessful, as Christy’s team, Priority Health, brought a huge squad of women. The point of all this is the finish. It was decided by inches. I will post a picture up here shortly, but I cannot describe in words how close it was. She won because she gave her bike on last “throw” at the line. She was coming from behind and that extra ounce of effort won her the race. Needless to say, it was incredible to watch, and just goes to show how exciting these bike races get. She took third on Sunday, not bad for a race she found out about by a somewhat chance encounter.
Sunday, as always, was fantastic. Good weather, and a great race to boot. In the mens race, Hayden Godfrey won, and we couldn’t have asked for a better guy to win. He is a New Zealander, and also a World Champion. Promoters always dream of having an international rider win their race. It looks great to the fans, the press eats it up, and everyone gets to hear their cool accents during the post-race interview. The women’s race was equally impressive. Standout junior Samantha Schneider took the win. She is 18, and beat women with 3 and 4 times her experience. Just goes to show that a bike race is ANYONE’S game. Its cool to see juniors, especially women, winning in races.
I’ll wrap up my unofficial race report. I’m going to hunt down the picture of Christy Keely’s finish. I leave on the 9th for Superweek, 17 days of racing around Chicago and throughout Wisconsin. Should be fun, with plenty of great stories to come. Go watch a bike race!
Sunday was the final day of the Tour de Georgia presented by AT&T. The overall leaders jersey was almost completely locked up, so the race was much less tense, with riders talking and smiling during the race. It all came down to a massive sprint on the last lap, every man for themselves, fighting 149 other guys for position. What a great sight, and a great show for the spectators.
The race was held around Olympic Centennial park in Atlanta, Georgia. There was a very large expo going on for the bike race, but as it turned, local Atlanta codes dictate that vendors have to have a license to give away free stuff. Where did those boxes and boxes of “stuff” go? Thats right, the back of our truck. We asked every vendor in the park, and they all gave us everything they brought. Needless to say, the truck was riding a little low at the beginning of the day. We had a blast passing everything out, and hardly announced anything, we had to throw schwag non stop to get rid of it all before the end of the race. What a blast. We found homeless man on the last lap and dropped a whole box of sample organic granola bars. Yummy!
I learned a lot in Georgia. I learned that most people arent there to see a bike race, they are there to see a show, and as long as you put on a good show, they dont care about much else. I learned how much I like talking about bike races, and how much I dont like talking about “free kiddie bike corrals” or “Sign up now for your chance to win a new bike” promotions, but how to do them both equally well, because someone has to pay the bills.
Hoping to make it to another race is Washington D.C. this weekend. The Crystal City Air Force Cycling Classic is put on by one of the most well respected race promoters in the country. J (event services employeer) asked me to help him do staging and results for the race, but it would be a free ticket to a great show! D.C. has some really cool stuff downtown at night, and we would get to set up a day early so we had a fun day in between. Sweet! Hope all works out.
Go Watch a Bike Race!!!
The past two days brought us the first real climbs of the Tour. Yesterday in Dahlonega, and today during the epic and legendary Brasstown Bald climb. I’ve never seen anything like Brasstown before. The climbing and competition are absolutely brutal. So much can happen on climbs, Jamie and I were frantically scribbling all over the place trying to keep up with everything. I snapped a shot of my view somewhere just a few kilometers up the climb. That whiteboard has the info of the leaders, time splits, and anything else I could gather from race radio, our only source of information. We then had to condense all that into a five second update as we flew by fans. Ive also got a box of Jelly Bellys sitting on my lap. The paper taped to the dash is a roster of names and teams, since race radio only transmits numbers.
While it is incredibly illegal, there is something special about being able to TOUCH your favorite athlete as they compete. Thats Tom Zirbel in the picture getting a little help up Brasstown Bald, but the point here is, these fans came out to see the race, and had such good seats, they could touch the riders, feel the sweat, and smell the grease. Yesterdays stage had 130 miles of course, which means 130 miles of seating for fans. Go watch a bike race!
Today’s race was held at Road Atlanta, and indy car course outside of Atlanta. It was nice to get out of the PA truck and experience the race from solid ground. The crowds were a bit better today, and the expo area was bigger too. Today was a team time trial, which means the teams of eight start together, and the whole team receives the time of the last rider to cross the line. Teams did four laps of the 2.5 mile course, and went off every 20 or so minutes. I got to do some PA introductions from the starting gate, a pretty cool experience. The moto guys were also nice enough to take me for a few laps on the back of one of the moto bikes. Talk about cool, I rode on a motorcycle through a race car track!
The coolest stuff from the day didn’t come from the race track. The expo area was full of reasons to love cycling. I found a few shots that demonstrate what makes cycling special.
If you wait long enough…
Good things happen! Thats George Hincapie, one of the biggest names in American cycling, signing that kids jersey. He waited there all day, and George was more than happy to sign the jersey. What other sport do fans get treatment like that?
Anyway, that was a really cool thing for me to see, and I thought it was important to share, because this was not a rare occurrence in the sport, I just got it on film this time. Go to a bike race!