22 May 2011

Stage 8 Tour of California - Highlights

Now what do I do? The Tour is over.
Chasing the Amgen Tour of California as a fan has come to an end - for at least another year. Today I saw the start of Stage 8 in Santa Clarita and the finish in Thousand Oaks. I can now list my favorite host cities as Solvang, Claremont, Livermore, and Paso Robles (Thousand Oaks and San Jose not so much). And no I was not on top of Mt Baldy yesterday, nor was I running up the mountain inside the Clean Bottle costume or as a Sumo wrestler.

This morning I listened to Rory Sutherland explain to some fans in Santa Clarita that "in no other sport can you get so close to the athletes, and no, those crazy fans don't really bother us." "Sometimes they touch the guys in the front, but not us guys in the back," he said.

I met a number of interesting people in the last few days, all with their individual stories of what brought them to the Tour, or their role in helping it all happen. I met a man who worked in the broom wagon, a policeman who had worked the tour for 5 years, a Mother from Seattle who was chasing the Tour solo as a birthday gift from her husband, a Spider-tech worker who had traveled the entire tour as a vendor (he said Solvang was his favorite town as well), a die-hard Leopard Trek fan from Ireland also chasing the Tour for the week, a Grandmother from New Zealand, a number of locals who were thrilled to have such a big event come into their hometown, and a Mother and son, on their bikes, who lived at the base of Mt Baldy, but looked at me oddly when I asked, "have you ever gone up the mountain on a bike?" "No," the Mother said, "I don't even like going up it in my car!" 
The riders were impressively gracious to the fans, and noticeably enjoying each others company. This evening it occurred to me - who is Chris Horner going to talk to tomorrow? Ask the man a question, even, "how's it going?" - and he will give you a 15 minute play by play with high-wattage enthusiasm! I'd like to hear someone ask him, "Chris what did you eat for breakfast?" and I swear Horner could expand on what he ate, the team ate, and why Radio Shack had the best breakfast advantage. 
One thing for sure, the fans loved him! I have my other favorite riders including, Bernhard Eisel, Oscar Feire, Johan Vansummeren, Nick Nuyens, and Christian Van de Velde. The riders who were very open to the fans and often spent time signing autographs and making themselves available to pictures seemed to be Taylor Phinney, George Hincapie, Matthew Busche, Bernhard Eisel, Levi Leipheimer, Oscar Freire, Tejay van Garderen, and of course, Chris Horner.
A few highlight pictures from today at Stage 8 - Tour of California. Start
Chris Horner
Tejay van Garderen
Oscar Freire
Matthew Busche
Rory Sutherland
George Hincapie
Andy Shcleck
Quote of the Day: "Don't drink out of that honey, Bike Riders drank out of it" ~ A Mother to her young son, after he scored a Garmin-Cervelo water bottle. 
Oh, and guess who was at the race today ...
(oops I fell asleep at 1:30am trying to write this post last night, sorry about the typos!) ... and the mystery guest at the bike race was ....
Barry Bonds - hanging out on the barriers at the sprint finish in Thousand Oaks
all Photos by PedalDancer.com