The Tour of California is celebrating its four-year anniversary. For three of those years, I’ve been confined to the tele-version, instead of the live-on-the-streets version. Geography, unfortunately, separates me from live gawking as my most favorite spandex-clad men whizz by. I tend to get all emotional and nostalgic this time of year as I watch their shapely calves conquer hills I’ve ridden. I feel famous by association for a full week because they’re riding in TOWNS I’VE VISITED, and in some cases, through towns I’ve lived in. And isn’t that just the definition of fame?
I’m so annoying to watch stages with that to preserve friendships, I try to limit my audience to glass bottles of Hoegaarden. “I’ve ridden on that road!” “I think I recognize that town name!” “That dude raced in our collegiate conference!” "My sweat has hit that pavement too!" and “I think I know that shirtless dude waving a flag and running alongside the rider!” tend to all become rather bothersome slogans that I shout. Repeatedly.
Here’s a brief re-cap, in case you haven’t been following:
I’m not sure why stage races even bother with prologues. All of that fuss for 4 ½ minutes of racing? They basically have to shut down the city streets for the day, put some serious money into permits, and sleep with the wives of city officials for the honor. I say, for all that fuss, let the riders do a time trial or proper crit. American racing, although finally becoming a more popular spectator sport, is still way behind our European counterparts. Over there, towns collectively give up their firstborn children for the honor of having a race pass through the town. No crits, circuit races, or prologues are necessary to draw a proper crowd. But on this side of the Atlantic, we put on a big show, and often ruin the breakaway finishes, just so we can stage a finish in a town—with a circuit ending, of course. If Bush didn’t kill our reputation in Europe, our stage racing circus-endings certainly will. Anyhow, I digress. Cancellara (he wouldn’t even have to respect me in the morning), won. Reportedly with a fever. Then he dropped out. I think he had an honest shot at the podium—no hilltop finishes means his time trial performances could have sealed the deal. Possibly.
Stage 1: Davis to Santa Rosa
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to oogle over a former stomping ground of mine—the Napa Valley, as the riders passed through. Versus, bless its heart, still hasn’t figured out how to film a bike race in the rain, meaning, we had the pleasure of watching Craig Hummer look estupido and un-eloquent next to Phil and Paul. For hours. Fortunately, things cleared up just enough to capture Rock Racing’s Mancebo actually WIN, after being solo for 100 miles. That occurring in a race is about as rare as me going on a successful date. But he did it—even with that atrocious Cadillac team vehicle hot on his soaking-wet ass.
Stage 2: Sausalito to Santa Cruz
It’s a shame the race falls during California’s very brief rainy season, because it was hard to make out the riders as they rode over the Golden Gate—a first for a bike race. Coverage was spotty as they wound down the coast and up into some fabulous redwood-bedecked climbs. (This is one of those occasions where I started shouting, “I’ve ridden that road!”) Leipheimer, proving there are advantages to being a 5’7 man, drilled the climb in an attack reminiscent of the
doping Armstrong days.
I’m avoiding all media outlets until after I watch tonight’s stage. If you tell me what happens, I will puncture your tires and stick a wet finger in your ear.