At the start in Davis, it was a scene of pure and utter trepidation. The looks on all of the faces, be they fan, racer, team support, and especially the mechanics were the same: oh, shit. This is going to suck. You could hear the whispers everywhere: ‘rough day ahead’, and ‘think they’ll call it off?’
The wet, cold start.
Just one of those days that makes you wonder why you do it, I guess. And the cruel irony of the beautiful sport of cycling exemplified – in one of the most beautiful places in the world, the Northern California wine country, but in the worst weather the area can produce. Vicious winds whipped the trees like red headed stepchildren and rain lashed down in buckets. To top it all off, someone horked Armstrong’s TT bike, and a few of his teammates’ bikes for good measure.
The fans were not scared of the weather atrocity.
Under the hammer of the weather gods, the lads rolled out to an impressive crowd. While the weather did change the mood of everyone, it didn’t alter their resolve, and crowds were thick, start to finish. And what a show they were treated to.
Our day had begun in Davis and we split before the race started, opting to drive the impressive course and head for Santa Rose to catch the women’s criterium at 1pm. We sojourned ahead of the race and took in the epic beauty of the area, rolling verdant hills and wineries along lakesides and magnificent and steep vistas. Incredible. But as the windshield wipers tapped along with London Calling by The Clash, we were happy to not be riding. I like a few “adverse” days as much as the next guy, but this was too much. I’ve never felt such pity for a group of riders in my whole life.
Pity these poor souls.
Realizing the twisting and beautiful course would have us missing the women’s race, we instead dropped the essentials at the hotel and jumped in a cab to the race site. Local joints did a brisk business as Francisco Mancebo of Rock Racing (with their newly co-opted anarchy “A” all over their team cars) ploughed a lonely and wet, cold road in his bid for victory.
The view consisted of either the tv…
…or some blurry little people howling by.
Crowds stayed glued to the big screen TV’s placed about the finishing straights, no matter they were being pelted by a driving rain. Cycling fever had spread to Santa Rosa, as local boy Levi Leipheimer rolled in a select chase group being looked after by none other than Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner some closing seconds behind the leaders. It was riveting racing and the crowd was chowing on the excitement.
Yeah, you have fun with that Levi. I’ll be right…
For us Pez sorts, all soaked through, we sought refuge in several of the many bars or bike shops on the circuit, opting for the Belgian approach to being a spectator. The video feeds got the shit kicked out of them all day thanks to the weather, so information was hard to come by for a bit.
I saw them! I did!
Once the race had ended the crowds were slow to disperse, still savoring the day’s events and hoping to catch glimpses of their favorites. For us, it was one more quick one at a joint called Flavor before finding our new pal, Cabbie Gary, to give us a ride. Turns out Gary the Cabbie had another passenger, by the name of Rick Brown.
Do you ever feel artsy after imbibing?
We immediately decided they should form a band: Rick Brown and Gary. The funny part about this story was Rick Brown was a new fan to the sport, and he had cultivated this newfound freedom over several beers throughout the day. Admittedly, Rick had “been there” all day. In short, our dear Rick was completely … let’s say “happy”. It made for a great 20 minutes in the cab, that’s for sure. Regal Gary shook his head while Rick regaled us with stories of partying so hard he’d “come home in only his underwear.”
The Tour of California is creating new fans everywhere it goes, and we’re barely underway.
Thanks for the great cab ride, Rick Brown.
We’ll be on hand at the start in Sausalito tomorrow, bright and early. For now, it’s a night of Sonoma wine country to take in and have fun with. Who knows, maybe we’ll run into Rick Brown at a local bar. Wouldn’t surprise me one tiny bit.