Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Tour of California Stage 2 - A Crystal Time Bomb

Before we tackle Stage 2 of the Tour of California, let's take one final moment to reflect on Monday's beautiful but deadly stage into Santa Rosa with a Top 5 list of observations and...other things.

1) Dave Zabriskie needs to start keeping a rabbit's foot or 4-leaf clover in his jersey pocket or something. The woefully unlucky CSC rider took another digger on the Coleman Valley Road descent, bumping his noggin and ending his race. I told you someone could lose the race yesterday. Actually, I don't know where he got off but having ridden that stretch a lot I can only imagine that he is lucky to have escaped with just a concussion. Heck, he's fast enough to carry a horseshoe. Something. Very unfortunate but Levi's job just got a little easier.

2) They didn't even bother having Phil attempt say "Mt. Tamalpais" and just went with "Tam." Now, I'm totally cool with that - because that's what the locals call it so it wasn't a big deal to use the nickname. Even though it is the birthplace of the mountain bike and should be well-known in cycling circles. But that's another topic. What irked me was that later on he called it "Mt. Tom" and consistently mispronounced Marin. It's "Muh-Rin" not "Mare-In." Sorry, local pet peeve.

3) What was up with Patrick Dempsey as the "random celebrity Versus signed up at the last minute for PR purposes who doesn't really know much about cycling" selection as the Breakaway From Cancer guy? He basically goes, "Yeah, I've been riding for a few months now and really enjoy it." That's nice and all but okay, Dr McWhatever (Life is too short for hour-long medical dramas), glad you could help. What would the cycling equivalent of Patrick Dempsey's acting career be? Seriously, to go from the early highs of "Can't Buy Me Love" to the lows of...well, I really don't know what he's been up to for the last twenty years, and then to the current success of Grey's Anatomy? Maybe if Millar, Hamilton, Ullrich or Landis could get a World Championship or Grand Tour?

4) It's nice that the Tour of California went with a yellow leader's jersey instead of the gold/beige/brown deal they had last year. The old leader's jersey wasn't that bad but it was heinous when stacked up against Floyd's green and yellow Phonak shorts. While I'm here...I'd like to give a big retroactive shout out to Phonak for instituting the black and white leader's shorts last year. Super good call on that one. I always wondered if that was Floyd's idea or someone else. His wife or daughter? Andy Rhis? If anyone has any info on this...please give a shout.

5) Botts Dots = The Worst. Dr. Elbert Dysart Botts is forever in the Cycling Hall of Shame. They really are very good for overall road safety but yeah...not so good for over a hundred rampaging bike racers jumping all over the place. Cobbles my ---. Taste a Botts Dot at the wrong angle going 35mph and you could end up like Gerald Ciolek. Not a great introduction to Santa Rosa for the recently crowned U23 World Champ or for him to the peloton. "Oops. My bad guys. I'm kind of new here." I think Dr. Botts may have been one of the race officials yesterday and was trying to ease his conscience. The ruling may continue to be an issue.

Okay...now to Stage 2, 115 miles from Santa Rosa to Sacramento.

Santa Rosa is an interesting town. Levi obviously loves it and I can see why. Very good place for a pro bike racer. On the surface it seems like it would be pretty cool - and it kind of is. I guess. College town (kind of), wine country (kind of), close to the San Francisco (kind of). C-Mac and I came dangerously close to living there a few years back. It is a REALLY long 60 or so miles from Santa Rosa to San Francisco. Really long. If 101 was better it would help.

Anyway, by tackling Trinity Road just 13 or so miles in to the stage, the riders are in for a pretty grim start. It is a beautiful road but it does not mess around as seen by the Category 2 rating. With Mt. Tam so early in Stage 1 and Trinity so early in Stage 2 the organizers are kind of...how do you say...uh...getting the good part over too quickly. This could be a pretty decisive climb if it were more strategically placed in the stage but coming so early is generally not well appreciated by the other parties involved. I mean the fans.

So this guy Laurent from Credit Agricole gets the KOM at Trinity while narrowly avoiding being knocked over by some tool running along the road with a huge California flag. I really hate the flag wavers. Nothing good can come from flag waving close to a machine with spoked wheels and a fast moving chain and gear system. Apparently a Priority Health rider tagged an overzealous fan trying to take a photograph in an earlier part of the stage. Generally the fans around California are somewhat educated about the sport but there are a lot of people who just watch the Tour and try to turn into those yahoos for a day. I think a sort of Marshall law kind of thing where other fans could just clothesline any idiots running along the course with no fear of litigation would help. Too many good lawyers in NorCal for that now though.

While we're here, Priority Health is getting its money's worth with Omer Kem. I have heard that name a ton so far. Okay, the first time was for crashing with Christian Vandevelde but he's back in the break and trying to hang on to Laurent alongside McCann. This team is having horrendous luck otherwise though. Between multiple crashes and the Ben Jacques-Maynes near-race lead issues...it's been tough. They're getting after it though and Kem is working hard.

So, apparently Dave Zabriskie's nickname is the "Green Hornet." Who decided that was going to be the relevant personal data for his stats profile graphic? I'm looking forward to learning what Stuart O'Grady's favorite color is later on in the week. Maybe we'll see who Hincapie's favorite cartoon character is. Solid information that I did not know. So then Versus got the cameras out and took some sad and awkward footage of DZ wandering around the entrance of the hotel after coming back from the hospital. Quality paparazzi style television right there. Concussions are not good at all. Even small ones.

In the "Hey, these kids are pretty good" Department, we are seeing a lot of orange and blue argyle of the Slipstream powered by Chipotle team in the Tour of California so far. It's been a good few days with Donald in the Prologue, Tolleson in the Young Rider's jersey, Peterson in the Climbers jersey and Frischkorn seemingly in every early move and getting some serious airtime for JV's squad. And then there's Pate.

After bridging up to Laurent and McCann (automatically a C-Mac favorite as Irish National Champ) like it was nothing, Pate took off on his own until just outside Sacramento. Good effort, lots of quality airtime and a chance to show the world that you can match world-champ rainbow stripes and orange and blue argyle. He'll win something big soon.

The sprinter's teams were having none of it though and so began the mad dash around the Capitol Building in downtown Sac. Seriously...that's what a lot of people actually call it, not a joke. Bobby J and Jens Voigt (presented by Chuck Norris) kept the whole field strung out for what seemed like a very long time. I think these two should star in a "buddy" type cop show when they retire. Can we make this happen? Get Chuck on the phone.

It was kind of hard to tell from the footage but it seemed as though a Toyota United rider (I assume Dominguez) got stuck on the front and kind of hesitated a little on the left just as O'Grady was giving JJ Haedo the leadout of a lifetime to the right. The result was everybody getting pinned on the left and well over a bike length victory for the Argentinian dragster.

JJ Haedo has made a lot of money off of this event and this is not likely the last we will see of him. He will challenge other stages here in the Tour of California but I have a feeling that he could do some work in Europe too. Maybe not much this year but he'll get some wins.

A big part of that prediction is Team CSC. If it were another team I would be leery but not with Bjarne Riis' squad. He'll be taken care of well there and it seems like a good environment for a guy like him. And when you can have the last 8k of the race controlled in ruthless fashion by the likes of Bobby Julich, Jens Voigt and Stuart O'Grady well...I'd say you've got some incentive to bring it home. I wouldn't want to let those guys down and I'm sure JJ doesn't either.

This is an excerpt of Levi's post race interview with a conspicuously quiet Bob Roll: "It [the race] was like a ticking time bomb made out of crystal and they [the team] didn't drop it." Levi is deep, man. Awesome. I think Bob's imagery is being transferred through Levi now that he's doing the interviews. Like a Vulcan mind meld kind of deal. Who would you envision using the term "ticking time bomb made out of crystal"? Levi Leipheimer or Bob Roll? See what I mean?

And we end with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger making the podium presentations in the shadow of the Capitol Building. Only in California.

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