Doing it all the hard way...

Friday, May 21, 2010

DDC TOC 3 of 3 Watching the Tour of California

We started our day by visiting the Arboretum in Davis.

Some of us looked closer than others...
I have been following cycling racing for many years now. The spectacle I beheld was beyond my expectations. Hottie, BTB, Tux and Evo piled into the war wagon and we drove to Auburn California to see the pros ride past.

We found our spot and settled in. The tree lined street had welcome shade. I put my KOM jersey on Tux in hopes of providing some entertainment for the riders. I didn’t think he would quickly become the belle of the ball, but he was a hit to say the least. We spoke to a local was volunteering. She said the TOC people had come to train them and based upon the number of intersections and number of driveways (something like twenty five and one hundred eighty-seven respectively), told them the number of volunteers required. The needed one per driveway and two uniformed people per intersection.

Tux can CLIMB !!
An hour before the riders were expected the street was secure, or so I thought. California Highway Patrol (CHP) motorcycles and cars started flying past making sure the road was clear. They were looking for anything that could be in the way. Next was a huge tow truck adorned with what I can only guess was structure to push any offending object (or vehicle) out of the way. Then came a series of maybe twenty official cars. After only a minute along came more CHPs and support cars. Then an official car with a loudspeaker that said riders were five minutes behind. The sound of two helicopters now filled the air. The stream of cars continued on the ground. When we saw a bunch of motorcycle photographers we knew the riders would be close behind. Then a breakaway of four riders came through with motorcycle escorts before and team cars after. After a couple more minutes we saw more photographers and official motorcycles ahead of the peloton. There’s Voight, there’s Boonan, there’s Cavendish, there’s Levi and Lance, that’s Chris Horner, there is McCartney. They’re gone. Team cars came behind like they were racing for position, then aid cars and official cars. A minivan labeled “the broom wagon.” Finally a Chevy Suburban labeled “end of caravan.”

Heeere they come !!
It was gone. Looking around everyone had a “now what” expression. The buildup had been tremendous and had taken over an hour. Then the let down was instant. The intensity had been amazing. Tux had been nervous with all of the commotion, and he was all too happy to leap into the back of the vehicle and head for whatever was next.

We returned to our hotel room and watched the end of the stage. I took a short spin to loosen my legs from the 206 miles the day before. By chance I was interviewed by a local reporter and we got to see Evo on TV at ten o’clock that evening.

On Monday we got up and checked out and headed for the starting area in Davis. We found a parking spot that was better than we expected and went sniffing around. We bought a TOC hat for BTB and my attempt to get Lance to sign her book was quickly over as he RODE past my spot on the way to the rider sign in. I did manage to get autographs from Jens Voight, Mark Cavendish, Steve Cozza, Jeremy Powers and David Zabriskie. Fabian and Chris Horner snubbed me, but I will survive.

They call me Jens "Amazing" Voight...

The casual roll out was even fast.
Then we loaded ourselves into the wagon and chased to see the first of two spots where we could see the pros go by. An hour later we were at our spot and we parked and walked/ran to the road. We had arrived between the breakaway and the peloton. The riders flew past and many were eating as they went by. Then we got back in the car and drove to the Trinity Grade climb and parked. By now it was really raining.

We found a spot that was wickedly steep and pulled off the road. The parade of pre-rider vehicles was repeated. BTB got into position with her sign. Hottie had her camera warmed up and ready to go despite the challenging photographic conditions.

In position...
The slow moving motorcycle was the first tip off followed by four bobbing helmets. The break was moving pretty good. I could tell they were working hard and they looked smooth. To look smooth on a ten percent grade you need a level of fitness I can only imagine.

About five minutes later came a select group that contained the GC contenders and was being driven by Radio Shack. Lance was third wheel and BTB held her sign high. I spotted Zabriskie and Levi and Chris Horner as well. I looked at Lance and as his gaze went up the road he must have seen the sign. I swear I saw him mouth the name, “Betty” as he strained to recognize the hunched figure by the side of the road. Looking up the road there was my mum holding up her sign that said go Lance!.

The rally of team cars swept past and there were riders sprinkled in who had been dropped by this elite bunch.

A few minutes later came the gruppetto. Boonen was at the front and I said “good job Boonen.” Tom looked at me like I had just offered him a pulled pork sandwich. Although there was no condemnation in his expression, my take was he wasn’t doing well, and he didn’t expect anyone to say otherwise. Fabian was also near the front and the bunch was just trying to keep it together to the finish. They would end the day some fifteen minutes behind the stage winner.

Look close and you will see world champions and Olympic medalists..
After more team cars came the “Lantern Rouge.” This poor fellow was just suffering his way along. He was weaving back and forth and his pedaling motion told of his agony. He appreciated our words of encouragement, but his suitcase of courage was empty.

After this we made our way to Calistoga for some awesome pizza and we drove to Weed to spend the night. The next morning we made it to Seattle and called it a trip…

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