Schools out for the bike race!

With a 120 mile long course today, the whole course wasn’t exactly lined with spectators. I’ve been itching to do some announcing, so Jamie and I have been tracking down the best spots to stop and do a little 15-30 second spiel. We have found one stop where there is always a crowd and they are louder than a freight train. Elementary schools. Don’t laugh, I’m serious. Schools along the routes usually let out classes, which means there are 300-400 kids lining the route crammed into a 50 yard stretch. They have been standing there for somewhere around a half hour, and are just BURSTING with energy. Take two parts dance music, about 30 motorcycles, 20 police cars with sirens roaring, 150 cyclists, 12 team cars, one cool painted truck, and throw in a few hundred Jelly Belly packets and you have quite a day for a bunch of 1st – 5th graders. They are out of school, under the sun, and are encouraged to yell and be out of control. SWEET! It’s a lot of fun for everyone, and more importantly, gives all those kids a chance to discover cycling.

My amateur photography career at the tour has not been going so well. Most of my time at the race is spent in the car, and we don’t get to see much of the race, because we are always out front. There are some cool sights along the route, but we are on the move quicker than you can say “auto-focus.” We have been watching the finishes, but any slightly interesting angle is taken by a press photographer, with another standing on their shoulders. I’ll just leave that part up to the professionals, but I’ll keep trying.

We are staying here for the next two days. What a fantastic and beautiful place! The lake is gorgeous and the lodge is no different.

Tomorrows race is going to be very cool, it is a time trial at an indy car track in Atlanta. Check back tomorrow for a report, and if we are lucky, maybe a few pictures finally. Cheers!


Still rolling.

Another fast, flat day today. The course took the riders somewhere around 120 miles between Statesboro and Augusta. The coolest part of the day, by far, was seeing a six lane freeway completely shut down so we could have a bike race. The tour is heavily backed by the state of Georgia, and the Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has really put his name out there for the race. The state has done an incredible job in making the best race possible happen (including letting us use about 30 of their state patrol officers and cars.)

Today wasn’t an ideal day to be in the mobile PA truck. Lots of rural roads, which means not a lot of crowds. Im working with (for) Jamie Smith, the man who convinced me to start announcing, and learning a ton. I haven’t yet described what I am doing here, so I guess now would be a good time. That picture of the truck in my last post is our vehicle. There are four speakers mounted on top, and we have a CD player and microphone hooked up to them inside the cab. Essentially, we are the race ambassadors. We drive about a mile ahead of the racers in the caravan, and inform the folks waiting on the race what is going on and when the riders are expected to come in. Aside from dishing out information, our back seat is filled with sample packets of Jelly Belly jelly beans, which we hand out like, well, candy. Its a lot of fun for everyone. Jamie has deemed us the “Ambassadors of Love.”
Announcing like this took a bit of getting used to. We dont get the nice windows in between laps to explain situations like in criterium racing. Instead, we roll up, and have about 15 seconds to tell everyone what they want to know before we have to get out of the way and move up the road. I have had the most fun learning to read people and determine what they want to know. Some are there to see the race, some are just stuck in traffic, and some want to know why all those police cars just came by. A majority of the people we encounter are in the “stuck in traffic” and “wondering what’s going on” groups, which is really cool, because they get to see a bike race for the first time.
Once again, the race management has really pulled through and put us up in a fantastic hotel for the night. Another early morning lies ahead of us tomorrow, and I have a great bed calling my name. So long from Augusta.


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Getting ready…

Wow, fun day today. All the teams are here now. Our hotel is an incredible sight. The parking lot has been absolutely engulfed with cycling. 15 teams are here, each with a a few cars, a bus, a trailer, maybe a van or two. Its like a mini-city. The teams come in and set up, and it really is an incredible sight. The atmosphere here is very relaxed. Medalist Sports (the company who organizes the tour) does an incredible job of organizing things around here. I’ve never seen anything like it. Nobody is tense, because everything is taken care of. I had dinner with the race director tonight at a seafood place across from our hotel. He just walked in, and had a seat at our table, totally relaxed, totally cool, just enjoying a good meal. If I was a race director of something of this caliber, I would imagine I would have a thousand things running through my head. The riders and teams have flooded the internet here at the hotel, so my connection is spotty. I’ll hold off on trying to upload pictures. Keep checking back, I’m determined to find a solid connection.


Arrival

Well, it’s official. I am now at THE Tour de Georgia. If I wasn’t excited before, I sure am now. What this race does is incredible. I walked out of baggage claim last night to a small army of Tour staff, with vehicles lined several deep waiting for arriving teams, staff, press, and sponsors. I was promptly located by my ride (a brand new 2009 Ford Excursion) and shuttled to our beach front hotel.
This is exciting. I boarded a plane in Columbus ready to do another bike race. Georgia was sure to be something special, but I never would have imagined anything like this. A combination of crashing waves and early morning adrenaline woke me up at 7 a.m. this morning. 7 a.m. is typically an experience reserved for all nighters and early morning bike races. Those are the only two reasons I can ever think to be up so early, and always involve coffee and alarm clocks. Georgia doesn’t need those. There is something in the air that MAKES you want to get up.
I haven’t been this excited about something in a long time. Its the kind of excitement you can feel in the tips of your fingers and the bottom of your stomach. The excitement that you cant get rid of, even if you wanted to. This is one of the few places on earth where people wish Monday morning would hurry up and come, we want to see a bike race.
All this chatter and I’m not even registered with the tour yet. I’ve only been here for eight hours, and I’ve only been awake for two of them, but I could survive on that experience for another ten days. Luckily, I don’t have to. Check back for updates.


Preparation


Less than 24 hours until I will be touching down in Georgia for the AT&T Tour de Georgia. Check back for photo updates.