Stage 7: Never Give Up

Oh my spirits flagged midday. I had a successful shopping excursion to get warmer clothes for the Alps. Just as I gave up on France having sunshine it popped out for bit this afternoon. Since I packed for the weather I experienced in Europe last July, I have plenty of sundresses and not enough long pants and layers. Thanks to a big sale at Go Sports I have a ski jacket and a hideous pink turtleneck (both will go to Goodwill in Paris before I fly home). I also received kind help from a couple from Perth in the pharmacy who recommended the Strepsil for my throat and shared their around the world travel plans. 

When I got to the train station I learned that I had 2 trains and a bus to get to Nancy. I took a deep breath and dove in and it all worked like clockwork. I checked into a better hotel and turned on the television for my daily ritual of “how many kilometers to go?” I waivered for a bit in my room. I could not figure out what day it was, what stage. I looked out the window and wondered, “Why am I doing this?” And then I started out and I met a lovely couple from South Africa also staying at my hotel and walking to the Tour finish line. 

With about 3 hours to wait, there was already 2-4 people deep along the barricades before and after the finish. I picked a spot just 20 feet after the finish with only 2 people deep. I set up my REI chair and did some knitting. Now that I have seen the caravan a few times it is easy to just relax and enjoy the atmosphere and not stress over catching stuff. Interestingly they do not toss swag near the finish line. I guess even though there is an hour or more before the racers arrive, they do not want to have any hazards on the course.  

I love being small and slipping through the crowd to get to the finish in the first place, and then my height is a disadvantage. Once the crowd starts to squeeze in I wish I were as tall as my brother Dean (+12″) and as broad shouldered so I could hold my ground. Ah well, crowd behavior is similar the world over. The finish was so close everyone around me called it for Peter Sagan. He is a favorite with fans and even has his own hard core fan club. (In fact they were so noisy with the air horns during the awards presentations that the gendarmes hustled them out of the VIP section.)

Even the actual winner Matteo Trentin thought Sagan must have won. Until the officials told him he won. The photo finish is my inspiration for today. Never give up. 

I stopped for a bite to eat on my way back to the hotel and I realized that whatever day it is, tomorrow I am headed to Mulhouse and will see Harriet and Brian and Grace and Nora. I am loved and they are adored. I am getting my second wind. Life is great. 

Watch this video for one of the most thrilling 1 kilometer of the Tour 2014: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x21awbk_en-the-flamme-rouge-the-last-kilometre-stage-7-epernay-nancy_sport

Tour of California Time Trial in Folsom

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I pedaled my Brompton across town and then jumped onto the train from Davis at 9:24 a.m.  I asked the Amtrak conductor for a free transfer onto Light Rail once in Sacramento. Then I rode those rails to the end of the line in Folsom. All in pursuit of a day being a bike racing fan at the Amgen Tour of California. Today’s stage was the 12.5 mile time trial with a start and finish in old town Folsom. I arrived at 11:00 a.m. and spent time in the fan zone checking out the booths and picking up free samples of Jelly Bellys, and an Amgen TOC lanyard. I also bought a “Adios Jens” t-shirt at the Trek Racing Team booth. I also wandered around to get an idea of my viewing options.

At about 95 degrees, not a great day to be the California Bear mascot!
At about 95 degrees, not a great day to be the California Bear mascot!
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen's Bakery
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen’s Bakery

The start ramp was on Sutter Street right in the heart of old town Folsom. The finish had a challenging 90 degree turn onto Leidesdorff Street 150 meters from the finish. I decided I would stake out a spot along the barrier after I grabbed lunch at Karen’s Bakery. The Bakery is a popular spot for cyclists and the finish was right in front of the outdoor dining space. Karen rented sold out the space at $200 a seat, all you can eat.  That is a good deal, however, I prefer being right on the rails.

I used my REI portable chair and enjoyed almost an hour of time knitting before the race began. The couple next to me went to the race in Sacramento on Sunday. It was fun learning more of the details about that stage. A large television screen across the road began broadcasting the race at 2:00 p.m. The first rider left the gate at 1:05 and it took over 26 minutes to finish. Thus began the ritual of cheering 128 riders approximately every minute or so.

The last time I watched an Amgen TOC time trial was in Sacramento. I was able to download the order of riders and take a printed copy so I could track our progress. I went to the Amgen welcome center and got a program. They said the order of riders is on the “Tour Tracker” application. I had downloaded the app the day before, so I found the list, only it did not include the rider’s numbers and when they left the gate the disappeared from the list, so it wasn’t helpful for knowing when your favorite riders would be riding to the finish. Nonetheless, our fan group at about 125 meters enjoyed ourselves. We especially enjoyed competing to see who could catch the riders with our cameras.

Sir Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky
Sir Bradley Wiggins, Team Sky

As the afternoon wore on the riders finished in faster and faster times. 24:02 was the time to beat until Bradley Wiggins started his time trial. This is only the second stage and the first stage ended in a bunch sprint, so Mark Cavendish was wearing the yellow jersey and was last to ride. Of the general classification riders, the favorites are Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney. The winner of the Olympic Gold Medal and the Tour de France 2012 decides to make a statement and he blistered the course. I am surprised I caught him on film. He finished in 23:18. Taylor Phinney rode well and placed third in the time trial but is now chasing Wiggins by 52 seconds.Mark Cavendish

The final rider is one of my favorites: Mark Cavendish, aka the Manx Missile. I only caught the beginning of his bike, though in this shot you can see the television screen and the barriers more clearly. No one expected Cavendish to stay in the yellow jersey but there is something about being the leader and as often happens he rode the best time trial of his career.

At this point I had to decide whether to stay and watch the awards or head to the Bike Valet and pick up my Brompton and catch the Light Rail back to the Sacramento Valley Train Station. After all of the sun, I was ready to head home. Great day and a great reminder of why I love watching cycling live.

On the Eve of the Tour de France Route Announcement

Comparison between REI flexlite chair and Target camping chair
Comparison between REI flexlite chair and Target camping chair

The 2014 Tour de France route will be announced tomorrow October 23rd.  I anticipate an adventure following it, so I bought a lightweight and small foldable chair to take on my trip. It will provide a comfortable place to sit while I hold my preferred spot at the start or finish of a stage.

After 3 seconds, the Target chair is ready to sit in and the REI chair is only unpacked.The photos show the highly portable chair ($69.00 US) next to typical soccer chair from Target ($9.99 US) to give perspective.  I also compared the amount of time it takes to set up.

Compare the size of the two chairs.
Compare the size of the two chairs.

The Target chair takes 3 seconds to unfold. The REI chair takes about 3 minutes and I was able to only after consulting instructions. Both are comfortable. The REI chair is obviously much lighter and more compact.

It is another step in preparation for a splendid adventure.