Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My Tour of California

Well, after months of waiting, it was finally here. America's premier cycling event, the Tour of California. In its honor, my fiscal year now runs from February to February. In reality, the TOC starts even earlier for me. First of all, we get to see top pros like Scott Nydam, Alexandre Moos, as well as Levi Leipheimer, this year's winner for the third year in row, riding the back roads of Sonoma County on a regular basis.

Since I live in Santa Rosa, I also have the privilege of being in a city that has hosted a finish every year since the race started. As a result, many of the teams arrive in town 1-2 weeks early for training and scouting rides. This year we had Team Astana, Team BMC, the Bissell Pro Cycling Team, and many others riding our roads and hanging out in our local coffee shops. If you are a cycling fan the tension really starts to build.

Then it's Valentine's Day and the race begins. I watch the entire prologue on TV. And while I am pulling for Levi, who lives in Santa Rosa, I know that Fabian Cancellera is an absolute bad-ass on a time trial bike. Sure enough, Fabian takes the first stage.

The next real excitement came that night. Pedro sent me an invite to the Santa Rosa Bicycles for Humanity charity event. The evening's special guest was none other then Paul Sherwen. So after hearing him comment on the race during the day, we got to meet him that night. Of course, where there's Paul, there's Phil. That' right. Phil Leggitt also attended as did Craig Hummer. It was a blast chatting with them. It was also a very successful evening. Local cyclists raised over $10,000 far surpassing the goal of $8,000. (BTW - You simply have to love a wife who lets you spend Valentine's Day at a cycling fund raiser!)

It's now Santa Rosa's big day. And it's raining, hard. If you saw the stage you know just how miserable it was for the riders. Still, I arrive downtown just after noon and watch the Women's Criterium. It was really something to see this group of riders so dedicated to race in that rain. The Women's Crit photo was taken by Rodney Cox and the woman in the photo was the eventual winner. Her name is Emilia Fahlin. She is the youngest member of Team Columbia-Highroad and the current Swedish road champion.

Then the men came through. We actually got to see Mancebo get caught in the final lap only to sprint to the finish for the win. It was awesome. And Lance, as in Armstrong, was nice enough to be in front when they came by on the second lap so he was very easy to spot. When it was all said in done I spend over 5 hours in the rain watching cycling and hanging with my wife and cycling buds. Not a bad day at all.

On Sunday it was 5 hours in the rain and on Monday it was 5 hours in front of the TV as I watched Stage 2 from start to finish. (If you couldn't tell by now, I do not have children.) I wasn't feeling great Monday morning and I woke up to more wicked rain so it was the perfect day to sit in front of the TV all day and watch the Tour. Levis' attack on Stage 2 was simply unbelievable. I really do wonder what it must feel like to ride a bike at that level. I can assure you I will never know. I will also never know another feeling the Levi experienced that day. Pulling on the leader's jersey in a stage race. So with Levi now in the yellow jersey, I am ready for the rest of the Tour.

The really sad moment for me in this Tour occurred on Stage 4 when our other local man, Scott Nydam, crashed out of the race. It's one thing to hear about the crashes and quite another when it is someone you know and have had the chance to ride with. Although he broke his collar bone, again, he seems to be otherwise fine and I wish him, and all of the riders who crashed, a speedy recovery.

The remainder of the week was spent glued to cyclingnews.com during the day and Versus TV coverage at night. Everyday brought its own level of excitement and I truly enjoyed watching each and every stage.

Finally, the end came on Sunday. You know where I was. Once again plopped down in front of the TV to see if our home town hero could pull off his third win in a row. You already know the answer.

I cannot wait until next year when we get to do the whole thing all over again.

Until then . . .