"Alright, alright, alright." As a tribute to the world-renowned growing regions of Northern California (I mean grapes and Redwood trees of course) featured during today's stage of the Tour of California, I will begin today's post with a little help from one of my all-time favorite movie characters, David Wooderson (Lancelebrity Matthew McConaughey's first and best role) from Dazed and Confused. I could write a whole book on the philosophy of Wooderson but since this is supposed to be about cycling (and not drug related High School movies set in the '70's), I will try to recap some of today's Tour of California action by applying various relevant quotes from the movie. You may have to work to stay with me here...it's been a long day.
"The older you get, the more rules they are going to try and get you to follow. You just gotta keep on livin', man. L-I-V-I-N." - Wooderson would agree that every cyclist forced to work today should have been paid double. It's a national holiday AND the first road stage of the Tour of California? Come on, what does this country stand for anyway? I don't know the answer to that question but I think the Presidents would have wanted us all to have the day off. We'll get into more about Washington's interests and some other Presidential fun later...
"I'd like to quit thinking of the present, like right now, as some minor, insignificant preamble to somethin' else." – Cynthia is one of the more underrated characters from the Dazed and Confused cast but has one of the coolest red She-Fros of all time. Not sure how that particular fact is relevant but this quote speaks to the nature of the first road stage of virtually any long stage race. Even though there is still a week of racing left, this is not an easy stage and the climb out of Mill Valley to Mt. Tam should have woken everyone up rather abruptly. Even though this stage is unlikely to really break the race apart, anything can happen on these roads which I can tell you are pretty sketchy in sections. No one will win the ToC today but someone could lose it easily.
"Listen, You ought to ditch the two geeks you're in the car with now and get in with us. But that's alright, we'll worry about that later. I will see you there." - A classic Wooderson pick-up line for Cynthia that is probably something similar to what Bettini thought about saying to a few of the guys in the early break with him along Highway 1. He actually put in a pretty good effort in that group. It seemed like the other guys were just praying he wouldn't really hit out because gaps were coming off his wheel every time he pulled. This quote also has such a great sense of confidence -and I get that vibe from the Cricket as well. Do whatever you want because he will see you at the finish. Most likely from the top podium step. Looks like he's enjoying California. Hard not to around here though.
"George Washington was in a cult, and the cult was into aliens, man." - Slater gives a little history lesson about GW and interestingly enough provides a nice segway into a curious fact about Sonoma County and an area the ToC passes on today's stage. Specifically, there is a large section of forest here that contains the legendary Bohemian Grove, the ultra-secret, ultra-elite compound of San Francisco's super-private Bohemian Club. There are some really crazy stories about this place but the gist of it is that every summer the Grove hosts a private, two-week encampment of cultish fraternization for some of the most powerful men in the world. Presidents (Nixon, Reagan, Bush etc), CEO's and a virtual who's who of power mongering all get together under a 40ft Owl statue and do some pretty weird, wild stuff while at the same time excercising in some good old fashioned socio-political networking of the highest order. You should read about it. I'm going to stop talking about it now because they may be reading...but seriously, it's in those forested hills somewhere. I personally think they just go mountain biking and cruise around on the spectacular rolling roads around Occidental. Slater would think otherwise.
"Behind every good man there is a woman, and that woman was Martha Washington, man, and everyday George would come home, she would have a big fat bowl waiting for him, man, when he came in the door, man. She was a hip, hip, hip lady,man." - Since Discovery basically rode the front for a large portion of this race and I can't really think of a cycling application for this great Slater quote, I'll take it as an opportunity to take another look and the wives of our U.S. professional cyclists. Well, not a look per se (that would be wrong...and possibly illegal) but more of just a general reflection. C-Mac says chicks dig bikers but it must be hard to be the wife of a pro cyclist. I think that's probably why the guys are always quick to praise the ladies. Seems like they always have to play second fiddle to the bike and the travel can really suck. Wait, what am I doing...forget I said that. I mean...it must be wonderful to be married to a professional cyclist. Sorry guys, my bad.
"Y'all ready to bust some ass?" - The scene when O'Bannion pulls up is the first time I recall ever seeing Ben Affleck on screen and provides a great quote for the work done at the front of the peloton to bring the break back before the circuits in Santa Rosa. They were busting some serious ass there. O'Bannion would have been proud. Hold on...I can't believe that I just said that was the first time I had seen Ben Affleck. In fact, that couldn't be further from the truth. The first time I saw the former Mr. J-Lo was actually in 6th grade. Yeah...you heard me. Voyage of the Mimi - Science class, Mill Valley Middle School. How could I forget Voyage of the Mimi?
Okay, sorry...where were we? OH NO!!! Huge pileup and it looks to have gotten a good portion of the field. Dang. That was rough. Reminiscent of the Tour de France in 2003. Someone blew it there I think. Too anxious.
"Fifty of you are leaving on a mission. Twenty-five of you ain't coming back." - Mr. Payne, the junior high school teacher must have been a bike racing fan because he pretty much called that crash with this quote. It seemed like that yard sale actually took out more than half the field. At least put them back a ways. Levi is off the back and seems to be giving his Santa Rosa neighbors a little moonshine action through his shorts. That is unfortunate. Not nearly as bad as Ollerenshaw's two-seater down under but pretty rough nontheless. There are going to be some really upset bike racers in Santa Rosa tonight because I can't see everyone getting the medical OK to start tomorrow. Bummer.
"I don't know coach, I've been doin' so well in English I thought I might work on bein' a writer. What do ya think about that?" - Benny O'Donnell (played by the startlingly post D&C successful Cole Hauser) was just giving the coach with the poor short length-to-sock height ratio a hard time but I think this quote sums up at least part of the reason I am happy to be sitting here writing in my comfortable, warm living room and no longer giving myself the wire brush treatment on a regular basis. Anyone who pins on a number is bound to go down a few times but when the pros eat, they REALLY eat it. The fields are so big and the riders are all so fast that the chain reaction effect at the end of a stage can be gruesome to watch.
I hope there were some twisted NASCAR-type fans in Santa Rosa who enjoyed that because I sure didn't. The area where they went down was absolutely packed with people last year so I can only assume that this year's crowd got quite a show.
Speaking of which...T-Mobile's Jakob Piil and a couple Quick-Step guys made darn sure that the 40 or so riders left after the crash were staying away. It sucks that for them to do their jobs, they could be eliminating Levi, the hometown hero and current race leader, from overall contention. Jakob Piil is just doing his job - and a very good one at that - for Greg Henderson who is also a good guy. Cycling is a tough sport.
"I'm just trying to be honest about being a misanthrope." - Before getting beaten up, Mike (played by Adam Goldberg aka The Hebrew Hammer - the actor, not my friend from High School) was pretty upfront about hating people. He probably branched out to hating humanity after the unfortunate pummelling at the Moon Tower. Now...I don't hate Graeme Brown but I do like Greg Henderson (being that he used to call Boulder home) and I was admittedly frustrated that Brown took out the win by a tire width. I couldn't tell if Henderson was kind of razzing Brown after they finished because in the replay it does seem like there was maybe a little argy bargy there. Hard to tell because he totally could have been congratulating him as well. To quote Paul Sherwen: "What a gesture."
"Okay guys, one more thing. This summer, when you're being inundated with all this American Bicentennial 4th of July brouhaha, don't forget what you're celebrating. And that's the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, Aristocratic white males didn't want to pay their taxes." - I wish that I had a teacher like Ms. Ginny Stroud when I was in High School but alas, I was stuck with Mrs. Pilgrim. Anyway...this quote pretty much gets to the foundation of the official decision to neutralize the entire circuit portion of the stage and just declare the same time for everyone. Sweet. I think. Well...I don't know. It seems "fair" in the grand scheme of things and sure leaves everyone in Santa Rosa feeling happy - er. But was it the right thing to do by the rulebook? ...thinking, thinking... I'll go with... hey, they are the officials and it's their call. I think everyone is probably pretty okay with it but there are going to be some questions. I mean...the first group was a long way out.
I truly hope that the crash and subsequent ruling do not affect the ultimate outcome of this race. And since I am writing this after the stage I will try not to feel guilty about jinxing the race by going with the Dazed and Confused idea. There were a lot of riders in that state after the race today. I know I am.
Can't wait for tomorrow...
- Cut to shot of Wooderson's car "Melba Toast" as "Low Rider" plays in the background -