As you may know, the Amgen Tour of California is one of the races I focus on most each year. I love the stage race. In it's ninth year now, it crosses much of my home state of California. And since I am hoping to one day move back to California, the scenes and stories of the race and riders crossing the land that I call home is even more meaningful.
Then why I am not at the race?
Well I've been in Ireland. This is another kind of home. This is where my family came from. This is a country so beautiful it is a comparison in mildly beautiful to blow your mind beautiful. And then there are the people. Like all things in life, it comes down to family and friends; old and new. And here in Ireland, I made quite a few new friends. I also more deeply understood my own family's history and the state of current Ireland.
"You will talk to anybody"
I laugh at this statement I hear quite a lot from people who know me and people who have just met me. I will indeed talk to anybody. This habit comes from a place of ease and true interest. During this trip, I spoke with so many people who added joy to my days. I want to thank them, for traveling depends on ingenuity, self-determination, and the people you surround yourself with to help broaden your world a bit. Being part of the cycling community meant a warm welcome here in Ireland.
The perfect combination of travel and being a fan.
Having a reason to visit a country is a fine thing and the Giro d'Italia proved the perfect reason to go to Ireland this May. As my brother said, "Glad you are having fun. It really was a great opportunity. Ireland - Giro - TTT - Foreign travel - English speaking - small geography." Although I might question that language thingy. I am being honest in saying I had to ask many times, "What does that mean?" Not what did you say, but what are you saying. I have also broadened my vocabulary.
Go North my friends
Now I had been to the south and west of Ireland before, to the typical touristy spots. Which I think has become a sort of like the heart of Provence - a bit over trodden. Personally I couldn't get over the beauty of Northern Ireland, and now that times have and are continuing to change, please visit. It is glorious vacation territory. If that is not enough to convince you - I swear the Guinness is SO much better over here. I am ruined to the real taste of how it should be.
As the Giro moved off the Island to Italy, I return today to San Francisco, California. I teased with Jim Ochowicz of BMC racing the other day in Armagh, who was flying back from Dublin to SFO, "Yeah but you'll be up in First Class, I'll be way way in the back." "Nah" he said, "I fly business, comfortable but not extravagant." Off he rode in his team car toward Dublin with a farewell wave, "See you in California." I certainly will.
Ain't May great
In the month of May the Giro d'Italia and Amgen Tour of California are both neatly tied into a package so tight I have to concentrate to keep track of which news is coming from which race. Exciting starts to both races. Oh I met Michelle Aquarone in Belfast, he was masquarading as a normal looking fan in a hoodie. I walked straight up to him with another new friend, @RexGlobetrotter from Indiana, and shook his hand to have a chat. Memorable experiences are definitely made by reaching out to people.
Quite an operation
I also talked a long time with one of the key SKY mechanics. He told me how the team prepared for basically three races from their one Service Course based in Belgium. Time trial and road bikes were sent to Ireland and also Italy. More of the same to California for an entirely separate team of riders. The team hired a whole new crew to drive much of their equipment (buses, cars and mechanics trailers) from Dublin to Italy. The crew and riders in Ireland flew down. The logistical and equipment organization of stage races is mind-boggling; one being a Grand Tour.
Makes me realize my one suitcase is not such a big deal.
I bid farewell with a big thanks. Yes, I have tons of photographs to share and more stories and travel recommendations of course. But this trip was jammed pack with getting out there and doing it and not so much writing about it. I have been tweeting, so you can see some of my photos @karenrake.
I also prepped the Pedal Dancer Amgen Tour of California Guide Page: TOUR OF CALIFORNIA
Tour Tracker is a fantastic way to follow the race Live this year. The official race Twitter (@amgentourofcali) and Facebook (@amgentourofcalifornia) accounts have been doing a great job of sharing varied news for fans. And Christian Vande Velde is co-announcing the ATOC this year for NBC. I identified his distinctive voice after the first 5 words I heard. Good for him for securing that job, a sign that attitudes have changed or memories are short term (and you know what I mean).
I will be writing and photographing from the last three stages in California. Willie Reichenstein will be back to join me, adding his fantastic photography as well. Follow along on our journey.
All the best to you.
I learned that phrase in Ireland.