Tour of California Bike Race, Stage 1

18th and L in Midtown SacramentoThe 10th annual Amgen Tour of California bike race started on Sunday, May 10 in Sacramento. I have moved to midtown Sacramento so I was thrilled when I looked up the Stage 1 route and learned that the final circuit around Capitol Park would turn left at my building. Turns always mean a bit more drama.

The best part of the being the host city for Stage 1 is the teams arrive a few days before the start and you see them training on the American River Parkway. Sacramento has a well paved, wonderful 30 mile+ bike trail stretching from Old Sacramento to Folsom Lake. Apparently some of the riders got a little careless and especially the great bike handler Peter Sagan bumped into some cyclists on the trail. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour but the flat wide trail with great pavement is too great a temptation.

The men’s race started on L Street at the North entrance of the Capitol. They cycled out of town on their way to Rio Vista. Shortly afterward the women’s Stage 3 circuit race began. We watched them go round and checked out the festival. I bought some Nuun. Stopped at the Trek Factory Racing booth to take a picture of the bike that Jens Voigt’s used to break the 1 hour record. I also asked about using slightly wider tires on my Trek road bike to gain a little speed in the hopes this will save me a little time in the saddle on RAGBRAI.

We all relaxed and napped while the riders were out on the road--even Dozer.
We all relaxed and napped while the riders were out on the road–even Dozer.

There were a lot of fans out on a Sunday and Mother’s Day. We bumped into a few family friends. We returned to my apartment home and watched the women from my balcony. I need to learn more about women’s cycling. I have been watching the men’s racing for years so I know the players and teams. I am going to invest some attention to learn more about the top women racers. Leah Kirchmann (CAN) won the Stage 3 circuit race and Trixi Worrack (GER) hung on to the yellow jersey to win the overall Women’s Race.

We downloaded the excellent Amgen Tour of California Live App on the iPad and phones. You can watch the video from 2:00 p.m. to the finish plus other features.

I dozed while I listened/watched the video. I sat up when one of the Jelly Belly riders went off the levee on the road winding along the Sacramento River on the return from Woodland. Lucky for him he let go of the bike and landed just before the riprap rocks. (He finished last; but he finished.)

This close!When the 3 breakaway riders crossed the Tower Bridge I ran downstairs with my camera to get a first hand look. The turn itself was 3 fans deep so I moved down L Street a little towards the Lutheran Church. I did not think about the physics, but it was perfect as the riders had to move to our side of the street on the curve. The first time around I was surprised by the wind/blow back and thrilled by the speed. The first two of four circuits Sagan’s Tinkoff Saxo team lead out train was in front. The last two times the front lead out train was Cavendish’s Etixx Quickstep (my favorite team).

Mark Cavendish's lead out train in front.
Mark Cavendish’s lead out train in front.

The last time round the church bells were pealing and the fans yelling and the cowbells clanging. We turned to the App to find out who won and there was a bit of a delay… Cavendish first, Sagan second.

AMGEN Tour of California, Midtown Fashion Show and More

I had such an exciting morning. It is a great way to warm up to a busy and fun Mother’s Day weekend.

The entrance to the bike trail is just behind Blue Diamond Almond factory on C Street.
The entrance to the bike trail is just behind Blue Diamond Almond factory on C Street.

I am getting ready for RAGBRAI (7 day bike ride across Iowa in July). After 7 days off my bike because of travel to Southern Utah, I was trying to find the motivation to begin training. The good news is there is a cool training plan by David Ertl on the RAGBRAI blog. I am getting a late start, so I set out to ride for 2 solid hours and see how many miles I cover. As a bonus I thought I might see some professional bike teams working out before the AMGEN Tour of California.

I was about 4 miles down the trail when I saw a lone rider in a Trek team kit. It was one of my all time favorite riders: Jens Voigt! I said something like, “Are you Jens Voigt?” He said yes and he needed directions to his Sacramento hotel. I gushed about being a fan and was so excited that I left out an important left hand turn in my directions. I continued riding and felt an adrenaline rush. It was as exciting as the time I saw All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw at breakfast in Chicago. Only this time I was not so gobstopped and I was able to say something to him. Maybe it helped that I met Jens before in Yorkshire.

Riders from the Trek Factory Racing team were among the very first people to sign my California state flag.
Riders from the Trek Factory Racing team were among the very first people to sign my California state flag.

Afterward several more teams passed me from behind. You can hear them coming from a distance–they sound like a light rail train. It is not a question of being “dropped” since I could not keep up with them for any pedal strokes. It is great for inspiration. Team Giant-Alpecin, Team LottoNL-Jumbo, Cannondale-Garmin, and Hincapie Racing, Optum Pro Cycling, Drapac Professional Cycling teams whizzed past me. The much larger Tinkoff-Saxo team has a different standard for passing space (barely any)!

I turned around after 70 minutes and one the way home I saw Jens Voigt returning with the Trek team. He recognized me and gave me a big “hey” wave. It made my day. It also reminded me of my wonderful Tour de France experience with Trek Travel in Yorkshire when I collected the signatures of the entire Trek Factory Racing team on my California state flag. It is framed and hanging above my couch. You can experience your own one-on-one moment with Jens Voigt. The Tour de California is selling tickets to three meet and greets with Jens with the first one for Stage One in Sacramento on May 10 (tickets only available for Stages Four and Six). You can download the map for Stage One and watch the race near the Capitol or along the Delta route.

The Tour of California is going to go down 18th Street and turn onto L in the closing circuits of Stage One on Sunday. But first on Saturday I am throwing a little supper party before the fashion show on Capitol Avenue and 19th Avenue at 6:30 p.m. to benefit WEAVE (Women Escaping a Violent Environment).

Then on Sunday after the kids and I go to church it will be the Amgen Tour until mid-day. I am really looking forward to it.

Mooching Around Midtown Sacramento

I moved to midtown Sacramento to be in one of the liveliest places in Sacramento, which is not saying much in a relatively sleepy place. It is the first Sactown neighborhood to re-embrace mixed use with restaurants and shops on the first floor and apartment living above. Plus it hosts the Second Saturday for Art events and a lot of other celebrations. It is loud and lively most every night from Thursday through Saturday.

Hoping for a kinder, friendlier police force.
Hoping for a kinder, friendlier police force.

I chose this light and spacious apartment 2 floors above the Rind restaurant to keep from becoming a hermit and to cycle to work and shopping (even more than in Davis).  I am finding that I interact with all sorts of people much more here. Just now as I type I can hear a duo busking with their guitars in front of Capitol Dime bar. I compare it to my experiences in Chelsea NYC.

My dog Lulu also gets me out of the house 3-4 times a day. And this week I am caring for Dozer and so my life is dominated by the dogs’ schedule–something I call living in dogtown. People are very interested in the dogs and this opens conversation as well as providing an excuse to cut it short and move on.

Beautifully restored home and garden near where I worked in the 1990s.
I used to walk past this dilapidated home and garden in the 90s and imagine how I would restore it. Someone else has done it beautifully.

I am enjoying riding my cruiser to church and around town for shopping errands or picking up my mail. I need to get on Map My Ride and begin making longer rides. Indeed, to prepare for RAGBRAI I restarted Bike Your Butt Off by Selena Yeager and.Leslie Bonci.  It is 12 week program that will peak July 4.

I love the Saturday Farmers’ Market at 20th and K Streets. I shopped at the Davis Farmers’ Market, but now I have a decent kitchen. So I am cooking at home more and making an effort to eat more healthy and fresh foods.

I thought I would give myself a challenge of picking one activity out of Sactown Magazine or Sacramento Magazine and do it each month. It turns out I do not need an official challenge. I have been inspired to try new restaurants, drink coffee in new places, go to the movies more, and generally enjoy the neighborhood amenities. I shop at Time Tested Books instead of the Avid Reader. Monday I will go to a Rivercats baseball game and in a few weeks a soccer game. Now I have a local wool shop in Rumplestiltskin. There are so many places within just a few blocks to watch rugby that the upcoming World Cup will be awesome.

Every move gives an opportunity to purge belongings, create new patterns, and make new friends. It also takes a while for my molecules to settle again. I have not learned to sleep through the night noise yet so I am tired in the afternoons. I look forward to the return to normal levels of creativity and energy.

Mostly I am glad to be here in this present moment and to explore my new neighborhood as if I were living in a foreign land.

Coming up: The Handle District will host the second annual Dress Up, Wine Down on May 9th between 3 – 9:30 p.m. The block party will be on Capitol Avenue between 19th and 18th Streets for a fashion show and wine tasting. Free to the public, donation to WEAVE suggested.

#Pieperfest14: RAGBRAI

RAGBRAII first reconnected with the Pieper cousins in June in California, and when I shared that I was a cyclist and going to the Tour de France, they told me about the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI). I was intrigued. Then on my Trek Tour, Sandy from Ohio told me more about it and several other people in our group had done it too. They all recommended I give it a go.

I went to Iowa with the resolution of learning as much as I could about RAGBRAI so I could ride it July 2015. If you are not familiar with RAGBRAI (rag- bri), it is the oldest multi-day ride in America. About 10,000 riders cycle from the Missouri River on one side of Iowa, clear across the state to the Mississippi River in 7 days. Everyone describes it as a moving party.

The route changes every year and it is announced on January 24. The registration is only $160 for the week, and competitive to get a slot. I will increase my chances of getting in if I ride with a team.

When I was in Decorah, Darrel and Betty shared their stories from 13 years of riding RAGBRAI. They have learned over the years to take a motor home. They ride with the Decorah Trolls. They encouraged me to form a team and rent a motor home and ride. I want my kids to come with me and I have a couple of friends who might be interested so that is a possibility.

Then I met my cousin John and he invited me to join Team Larry. They rent a trailer for their gear and bikes and stay at people’s houses and in tents along the way. This is very appealing to get the full experience. (Although my kids are probably snickering at the idea of me sleeping in a tent.) An air mattress will be a must.

Apparently there are also trucks that you can rent for showers and others with bunks. It sounds like the entrepreneurial spirit is inspired during RAGBRAI.

I am already training for my 4 day December ride in New Zealand. I will just keep pedaling so I can ride across Iowa in July.

Have any of you gone on RAGBRAI? Any advice?