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.