Monday, February 9, 2009

Living in a cycling mecca

Although I started cycling a little later in life then most, I really do like everything about this great sport. I love the camaraderie of group rides and the social nature of post ride coffee. I enjoy the challenge of pushing myself physically up hills and mentally on long solo efforts. It's fun to hear Sherry shout at the riders when we are watching it on TV and to ring our cowbells when we get to see races live. I read news and blogs about cycling everyday. And, I think Phil Leggit and Paul Sherwin are an absolute kick in the butt.

So how did a beach bum from Florida end up living in one of of the top cycling meccas of the world? I am not exactly sure but to quote Julie Andrews, "somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good."

Sonoma County is truly on the world-wide map for the cycling community. To begin with, you have our most famous Santa Rosa resident, Levi Leipheimer of Team Astana, constantly talking about how great the cycling is here. Scott Nydum, of Team BMC, now calls Sonoma County home. And Steven Cozza, of Team Garmin-Slipstream, was born here and still lives in Petaluma in the off season.

Then comes the Tour of California which will see Stage 1 end in Santa Rosa for the 4th straight year. The ToC has become such a great race that many of the world's elite cyclists will be lining up at the start. The field this year is arguably the most talented field of cyclists ever assembled on U.S. soil. And I can't wait.

So what does all this mean for a local cyclist? Basically, you get the chance to meet, and sometimes ride with, a lot of pros. Last November I rode with Scott Nydum and attended a welcome home dinner for Levi Leipheimer. In January, I rode the "Ride the Route" which included 4 or 5 women pro cyclist who will be racing in the crit during the ToC. This ride ended with a meet and greet of the Team BMC riders who were participating in the ToC.

Here is a sampling of just the last 2 weeks as teams have begun to hold training camps in Sonoma County.
  • On my way to work I stopped by Flying Goat Coffee and got the chance to chat with 3 riders from the Bissell Pro Cycling Team.
  • Over the next 2 weeks, I ran into 1 Astana rider, 2 of Astana's Director Sportifs, and some of the support staff.
  • Tim and I met 3 of the young lads from the Trek Under 23 Development Team, also at Flying Goat, as they braced themselves for the upcoming 4-5 hour ride in the rain.
  • Last Saturday, while Sherry and I were eating dinner at Riviera, Yaroslav Popovych came in with 4 other Astana riders. I also spoke with Alexandre Moos from Team BMC, who also showed up for dinner, as Sherry and I were leaving.
  • The Trek U23 Development Team rode by me, going the other way, on my ride Saturday.
  • Team Astana past 2 of my friends while out riding this weekend. Carmen was passed by them on Saturday and Pat said the "flew by" him on Sunday.

So you can see that Sonoma County is not just a great place to ride a bike. It's a great place to live if you love the sport of cycling. Then, when you throw world class racing, along with some world class wine, into the mix, well you just can't go wrong.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find my cowbell.