March 13, 2006
Here's a bit of a run down of the Tour of California which I like to call the Bling tour, as it sure was a shiny one!
Kicking off with a team presentation in San Fransisco we started off mingling with the people who paid big bucks to be at this exclusive dinner. Then we were all called up team by team and introduced by cycling commentator Paul Sherwen to the crowd who paid a minimum of US$3000 a table to be there. Once we had done our bit on stage we were guided out and off for a feed at a different location; I don't think we were dressed for the occasion? (knicks, jersey and sneakers versus black tie!) No worries though, after our dinner every cyclist in the tour was given a 2 gig Ipod nano as a gift from Amgen. The tour hadn't even started yet and I was already happy with the outcome!
Prologue: San Fran, 3.1km
Bit of a tough one - a whole 3.1kms, but the final 1.5km were up hill. First we hit a couple of typical San Fransisco streets and then hit the final 800m climb up to Telegraph Hill, which overlooks the bay. The crowds were amazing and loud, but I think my legs were screaming even louder. Went ok though only lost 24 seconds to the winner Levi Leipheimer from Gerolsteiner who was presented the leader's jersey by none other than the Californian Governator himself (Big Arnie Schwarznegger)
Stage 1: Sausalito - Santa Rosa, 131km
A very scenic run north of San Fran along the coast. Not a lot of action today as Gerolsteiner kept the race under control for a bunch kick. Just stayed out of trouble and kept the legs ticking over. The other lads tried to set up the sprint for Vassili but with half a kilometre to go he was pushed into the barriers by a Phonak lad and stage over; better to survive to fight another day than crashing!
Stage 2: Martinez - San Jose, 153km
A fairly undulating day with a nasty climb 35km from the finish which was always gonna be the selection climb for the overall GC. Managed to stay up front for the climbs but coming into the main climb of the day Discovery had it lined out for 10-15km and unfortunately found myself thrashing around mid field. I hit the climb in a bad position but managed to ride myself into the second group ok! I thought over the top we might have been able to catch back up to the front group, not a chance though!!! Discovery had 4 or 5 up there in a group of only 20 and drove the pack to the finish to set up the win for George Hincapie. Of course he didn't let his team mates down. Of the Navigators Phil hung on to finish in the front group setting himself up for a good GC spot.
Stage 3: San Jose TT, 27.4km
Not much happens in a Time trial?
-You get your start time,
-Warm up really good, head off to the start
-Get your bike measured and weighed (there are specific limits to bikes in time trials)
-Go to the top of the stairs
-Jump on ya sleek aeroed-up steed
-Head off down the ramp and ride as hard as you can for the allotted k's and post a good time!
I felt pretty good today considering it was my first ride ever on my time trial bike; finished in 34th spot. I'm not a big TT specialist so no probs! Floyd Landis took out the stage by more than 30 seconds to second place, almost sealing the deal to win the first Tour of Cali.
Stage 4: Monterey-San Luis Obispo, 210.7km
This was gonna be a big one, now that the overall contenders had been sorted it normally gives guys that are a long way down on time a chance to head up the road due to being no real threat. Standard problem arises though, that being everyone wants to be up the road! Our team plan was that of everyone else's. The attacks began straight away, there was no easing into this stage. The stage wasn't a flat one either. After about 2km there was already a crash as the pack was very nervous. We had guys in every move of the day which isn't the easiest of things to do, but not all teams were happy with the selection of riders up there so just when you could breath a sigh of relief that we had someone up there and the pace would get a little more comfy the smack would go down again and again and again.
It wasn't till the 100km mark that a significant move would stick and the Phonak squad seemed happy enough to let it go for the time being. We had no one in it but I was at the front and the gap wasn't too big that I could bridge across no worries. There were about 10 of us up there, but with Chris Horner from the Davitamon Lotto squad with us the peloton were never going to let us get too far. By 165km the peloton were closing in on us; the break never really worked well together anyway, so it was time to thin out the break and try our chance on a smaller scale. Vladamir Gusev from Discovery gave it some gas on a smaller climb and I went with him. Going turn for turn and working well together we managed to pull back out by nearly three minutes. Focussed on the break and the road ahead I was later told of the very scenic coastal highway we were on with views of whales and a full colony of elephant seals being on the list. But as all good breaks go we were slowly chased down by a few teams and it all came back together with 3km to go! But it wasn't from a lack of trying. That's racing and that's whats its all about. I am still happy with my ride, off the front for the last 100km of a long stage this early in the season and felt good at the finish. Plus got the squad on TV for a fair bit of coverage and swung a couple more interviews on radio and TV for my effort!
It's all about getting yaself out there - not long now and Chady will be a household name in the States. Coming to a web page near you soon...stages 5,6,7 of the Tour of Cali!
Bye for now,