Tour of California, Stage 2

I had so much fun watching the Amgen Tour of California I decided to drive to Lodi to watch the finish of Stage 2. Lodi is about 50 minutes south on Highway 99 from downtown Sacramento. The race started in Nevada City in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The route was almost entirely downhill to the farm town of Lodi.

Welcome to Lodi!
Welcome to Lodi!

Lodi is known for zinfandel wine grapes. They have a Zinfest wine festival every April. It is a charming smaller Central Valley town. It was interesting to see the range of support. One cranky business owner put up a sign complaining about the road closures. This was made up by lots of entrepreneurs with food trucks and selling water and cherries. Fans lined the road and were in a festive mood. I watched some guys on tricked out bikes ride by advertising Bikes and Bites. (I checked it out on the way home but it was closed to enjoy the race.)

The finish line for Amgen Stage Two in Lodi.
The finish line for Amgen Stage Two in Lodi.

It is fun when the people around you follow cycling. I enjoyed chatting with Jill from Folsom. Like me she saw the race earlier and got caught up in the excitement and drove to Lodi to watch the finish. We were positioned about 200 meters from the finish so the racers were going to pass us three times.

Cheerful young woman selling water and cherries.
Cheerful young woman selling water and cherries.

The three breakaway riders were still away when they passed us the first time. The second time around the sprinters did not appear to be very organized. Lead out trains were not obvious but they had managed to catch the breakaway. Etixx Quickstep had done all the work to close the gap and it may have burned out the lead out riders. The final time around we could see Cavendish and Sagan in the front but it looked like everyone was scrambling.

PeletonIt took a minute or two but then the App informed us: Cavendish won again. Sagan second. So worth driving down to watch in person!

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.

The Queen Stage in St Lary

Thomson Bike Tours regularly stays at the Mercure Hotel in St Lary Soulan for the Pyrenees portion of the Tour de France. This year it just so happens to be on the course of Stage 17 and a quick gondola ride up to the finish line. 

Thomson Cyclists rode their bikes the 10 km straight up to the finish line. Spectators took the gondola. We all messed about this morning watching the finish village come together. Jacinta introduced us all to Phil Liggett and I scored his signature. He is a huge favorite with all of us and he was very down to earth and lovely about posing for pictures and giving autographs. I returned to the village and hotel and did a couple of chores and then checked in on the race in the bar.

It was fun watching it with the Thomson cyclists and other hotel guests. When we thought the caravan was passing, we left the comfort of the bar lounge and stood in the hot sun for more swag. Then we returned to watch the race. It was an exciting day. Although only 124.5 km, it included 3 category 1 climb and ended with an HC finish in St Lary Pla d’Adet.  When the leader “Kiri” had 20 km to go (a quick descent into St Lary Soulan), we dashed back to the roundabout right by the hotel and waited.

The race leadership got rejiggered on that descent and suddenly the breakaway was consolidated and Kiri was no where to be seen. We waited for the yellow jersey and then dashed back to the hotel lounge to watch the finish. The newly anointed polka dot jersey (King of the Mountains), Rafal Majka with Tinkoff Saxo, was in the lead. We could not tell exactly how close everyone was on the last climb because the announcing was all in French. Finally, it was clear that Majka earned his 2nd stage victory and the 3rd stage victory for Tinkoff Saxo. 

After some fun kibbitzing with my fellow spectators, I walked outside to find the team buses. It took a while to walk there and I decided to gravitate to Trek and Cannondale. I arrived at the Trek bus at the same time as Jens Voigt! Someone grabbed his bike from him and took off the computer and put the bike on top of a team car. Jens signed an autograph and jumped on the bus. 

I turned around and found Jacinta and Lisa at the Cannondale bus waiting for Peter Sagan’s return. All of the riders rode back down the last climb because it is faster than dealing with the crazy traffic jam. Peter has to receive his green jersey on the podium and do media interviews before he can ride down. All the other team members had already returned and showered on the bus by the time he returned. Lisa did not get a picture with him; however, she and Jacinta had a ball talking to the mechanics and other riders. 

It is good to grab a slice of pizza on the way home and have an early night. Tomorrow we are up with the robins to drive to within 1.5 km from the finish on Hautacam. Tomorrow the racers go up both Tourmalet and Hautacam. I really look forward to riding my bike when I get back to Davis, and I am perfectly content being a super fan and leaving the riding to others in the Pyrenees.

 

Stage 16 in the Pyrenees

Michael Rogers realizes that he has won the stage and sits up and enjoys his first Tour de France win.
Michael Rogers realizes that he has won the stage and sits up and enjoys his first Tour de France win.

I am so excited that Michael Rogers won the stage. He rode a brilliant tactical ride and sailed into the finish with time to celebrate. We were watching from the Izoad bus in the VIP section and we were not sure how close the other riders from the breakaway were so we all reacted with a little bit of shock and worry. So many riders have been caught at the line. Great to see one of my favorite riders from HTC Columbia enjoy his first Tour de France stage win. It was also the first by an Aussie in 2014, so many of my group members were very happy. 

IMG_2536We have a new group of spectators to work with Jacinta on world domination. It is a larger group so I am focusing on getting to know a few people each day, otherwise it is overwhelming. Our days are long because we have to get places before the roads close and then the traffic back to the hotel is always challenging. They are made longer because we wait and eat at the same time as the Thomson cyclists. Tonight dinner was at 9:30 p.m. 

IMG_2609IMG_2563

Once again we have a core group of Australians who keep us going. I have learned a new car game. When you see a yellow car you yell “Spotto.” I am a little suspicious about the rules. When we spotted a tractor and a van, they did not count. But then Phil spotted a photo of a yellow car and it counted. 

IMG_2577IMG_2581I had a delightful experience at the yarn shop buying stitch holders. The proprietress was gracious and helpful–she even brought out some wool she thought I had dropped. I asked her for a recommendation for a place to eat lunch. She recommended a place just down the street. It did not open until 12:30 and I was one of many waiting by the time they opened. I guess I am invisible, or my American accent makes me so because I finally gave up and walked away.

I bought a ham and cheese croissant and a chocolate eclair at a Patissier instead. I chose the place because of the window display with the macarons as paint on an easel.  The race finished in Bagneres-de-Luchon. It was decked out with banners and celebrations that I have not seen since England. The crowds are swelling and getting louder too.