Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tour of California Stage 3 - A Running Diary vs The Live Feed

Okay…the Amgen Tour of California site is actually up and running on my computer so we’ll give this a shot. I have made every effort to clear my work schedule and can only hope I don’t get a call in this afternoon. Fat chance…but we’ll see what we can get away with here.

As the brutally pixilated images come through I will try to identify people and figure out what the heck is going down on the roads between Stockton and San Jose. As I tune in there is a break of approximately 15 or so riders out front. I can see Jens Voigt presented by Chuck Norris and Jason McCartney having a little chit-chat at the front of the break.

Now it looks like Frischkorn is going off the front. This guy must be on some serious early-race-break-coverage detail because he seems to be in every move so far. Either that or our Boulder Boy is on some wicked good form right now and just feeling it. One way or the other he is doing some really good work for Slipstream. His effort yesterday to snag the last KOM points was impressive and Peterson should have been thanking him big time.

Here comes Van de Walle up to Frischkorn for the KOM…and Big Willy style gaps the Pro Tour rider for max points. Dang…much friskyness from Frischkorn and some super good team riding by Slipstream. They are definitely the best showing for the domestic teams so far.

Even though it’s a dangerous break and no one seems to be helping, Levi has to be pretty confident with Big George, Ivan Basso, Alan Davis and Tommy D. pulling him through. In case you weren’t aware…Discovery Channel has a pretty good team this year. I don’t care how many people are in the break – if Disco wants to bring it back, they will. At least before the Sierra Road climb.

Hmmm…it seems that “Wings” McCartney is trying to hurt the break a little bit and has gone off the front. Now that’s a curious move. Other than just trying to weaken the break so that Discovery can bring them back…I’m not sure what the goal is here. Cycling tactics can be hard to understand from the sidelines so I’ll go out on a limb and guess that Johann Bruyneel probably has a better grip on this race than I do sitting here behind a computer screen.

Hey…it looks like our NorCal boy Mike “Havoc” Sayers is in the break as well. I didn’t see the footage but apparently Havoc got intimate with a parking meter or post or something yesterday and ended up stacking as the field entered Sac-Town. Not a great way to enter the hometown circuit for Mike but…that’s bike racing I guess. Sayers is a big player in the NorCal cycling scene and is doing some great stuff with younger riders. I almost started working with my old High School (Tam High in the MV) for the league he has created but the old jobby job prevented my participation. Anyway…good to see Havoc up front and riding well.

CSC is basically just sitting in behind Disco right now. Bjarne’s boys are sitting pretty with JV presented by Chuck Norris in the break and no real incentive to help with the chase. Such is the burden of leadership for Discovery and Leipheimer.

Need a time gap…come on…hmmm, the gap is up to five minutes now. This could be interesting. Discovery is going to have to get out the leash pretty quick here and no one seems to be in any mood to help.

Okay, now Rabobank is working on the front and Liquigas seems to be interested now but I can’t think of why they would make the effort here. Between McCartney’s move and now these teams helping I am starting to wonder if I really know anything about this sport. If not…I’ve been doing a pretty good job at fooling people for the last 20 years.

HealthNet presented by Chuck Norris (oh wait…sorry) presented by Maxxis has three guys in the break and are putting in a good effort. They must have gotten word that Rob-A-Bank is helping the Discovery chase. But with Milne, O’Bee and Gritters (all decent to good sprinters) up there, I can’t imagine they’ll burn too many matches. This is a weird break.

The gap is now 3:50 and one of the HealthNet guys I just mentioned is going up the road from the break. It looks like O’Bee but I can’t seem to get an update. While I’m waiting for confirmation I’d like to take this time to inquire just how many times you think Kirk O’Bee has heard that annoying old O.B. tampon commercial song? My guess is WAY too many times and I apologize if that just made you actually sing the jingle in your head because it will not go away for a while. “O.B…it’s the way it should be…keep it simple…and set yourself free.” My bad. Sometimes my memory is annoying.

Okay, my bad again. It’s actually Milne off the front and not O’Bee. I guess he’s trying to get a little gap before the climb but…Sierra Road is wicked and I have to think he would have been better off saving a little bit and hoping to stay with most of the break over the top. Once again…I’m questioning whether or not I know what the hell I’m talking about because these guys are doing things that I do not fully understand. But then again I am sitting here with no volume or race reports and doing my best George Costanza impersonation so I’m not sure I have all the details. Bear with me here.

I just read the VeloNews update in an effort to determine if I should just stop this project and apparently they agree with me about McCartney’s move. What was that? Rabobank is still confusing me with their effort at the front of the peloton though. They’ve got two guys in the break but seem to be determined to help bring it back. Slipstream has someone up there now as well. At least that makes sense to protect Donald in second overall and maybe the climber’s and young rider’s jerseys for Peterson and Tolleson. I’m confused otherwise.

Okay…I am officially getting dizzy trying to watch this on-line coverage. Between the pixilation, choppy camera work and the stop/start feed, this is getting rough. I don’t want to heckle the AToC website too much because hey…a live feed is a live feed but I have had a difficult time with the coverage so far. Under-promise and over-deliver I always say. I’m still annoyed that I couldn’t even open the webpage yesterday and had to revert to the written updates. Couldn’t load the page once between noon and 4 o’clock. Anyone else have that problem?

Milne is still off the front but it looks as though Slipstream is starting to put the hammer down in the main field. Leipheimer is nestled in behind Hincapie who I have to think will be trying to return Levi’s favor from the USPRO Championships this past summer. Levi basically took one for the team (or future team at least) so that Big G could get the win in his hometown. Cycling is super cool and maddeningly frustrating that way. Levi took a lot of shots for the work he did in that race and I think most of them were fired out of sheer jealousy. Don’t talk smack about a guy that has clear motivations to work for someone else when you couldn’t stay on his wheel…please. It has been said that Levi was the strongest guy in the race but hey, if he wants to sacrifice himself for someone else, who the heck are you to question his motives? You don’t think GH is a good enough guy to repay the favor down the road somewhere? Please. The only person with a little beef could have been Bajadali but even then…the two strongest riders went 1 and 2. Nuff said.

It looks as though the break is starting the climb to Sierra Road. Voigt (p/b Norris), McCartney and a few others are on the front. Heather Mills-McCartney (sorry Jason…couldn’t help it) is starting to dig but the other guys are having none of it. Uh Oh. J-Mac may have made Voigt mad because he is getting into Beastie Boy mode as Paul Sherwen is fond of saying.

Basso is pulling for Levi in the main group as McCartney keeps trying to live up to the Wings moniker. This guy is super strong. He’s actually kind of like an American Jens in many ways. Always attacking and occasionally making it stick. You gotta like that.

Levi is going now on Sierra and Horner is trying to follow. Oooh…it’s on now. Leipheimer, Horner and a Rabobank guy (Rasmussen?) are off the front of the main field now but Levi is all alone up there. Where is Danielson? Come on Tommy D, what’s up?

Voigt and McCartney are alone in the break now and just flogging each other. These guys would be good boxers I think. Just slugging it out with each other. Maybe they’ll get honorary spot in Chuck Norris’ fight club thingie on Versus.

Whoa! Levi, Horner and the unnamed Rabobank rider have bridged up to Voigt and McCartney. Levi is putting some serious smack down now. Not sure what the gap is to the peloton but they need to get moving if they’re going to catch these guys. I think LL is trying to get some breathing room before the TT on Friday. Horner is looking really good but where are the other CSC guys? Voigt’s been in the break for a while but I would have expected Bobby J to follow the Leipheimer/Horner move. They had to know it was coming. Levi is regulating on the front now as Bettini and some T-Mobile guys push the main field up the road.

The leaders are getting to the top and there is a group of…5 now. LL, Chuck Norris, Wings, Smiley Face and the unknown Rabobank guy. Gotta get the Rabobank name.

Okay it’s not the Chicken but rather Geslin in the break as they begin the rolling descent into San Jose. Not sure how tall Geslin is but he looks like Tree Farm next to Levi. But then again…so do I. Big dude though and in some pretty good company here.

Whoa…we may have a bridge here as Peterson from Slipstream and Kirchen from CSC try to close the gap to the break. Only 20k to the finish and Horner is now driving the front. Actually the break is working really well together and may be hard to catch. Lots of horse-power in there although I’m not sure what the motivation will be for Jens Norris and Geslin to contribute. I have to think they are looking out for the stage win now while LL and Smiley will be going for GC and Wings will be working to keep LL in front. And cool.

Speaking of which…McCartney is gapping the break on the descent now. How does a guy from Iowa become a great descender? I can understand the climbing because it’s windy in the mid-west but when did he practice going downhill?

Bettini and another small group are now 35 seconds back. If the Cricket makes it up to the break he will win for sure. No one up there now will be able to match the Italian’s kick if it comes down to a small group sprint. He is virtually unbeatable in a scenario like that. Just ask Erik Zabel and Alejandro Valverde.

The gap is back to 1:00 now as Levi drives the break downhill despite being a little guy. Whoa…a sketchy high-speed turn almost forces a few of the guys off course but they have come back together. LL looked like the only one who knew that was coming.

Geslin and Voigt are totally sitting on now – as I predicted – and are letting Wings, Smiley and LL do the lion’s share of the work. This is going to be tough to call but I have to think Voigt has the advantage although I must admit I know nothing of Geslin’s finishing kick. It’s pretty safe to say that Levi will not contest it though as he is putting the hammer down now. They are on the flat finishing stretch to the line now and going really hard. Horner is putting in some good turns as well but Levi and McCartney are the big engines at this point.

15k to go and Bruyneel pulls up to the break with none other than LA himself riding shotgun. How’s that for motivation? It is a testament to Levi’s coolness that he wasn’t thrown in the dumpster by Lance after he left the team a few years ago. It’s tough to dislike a good guy even when Lance is notorious for blowing up most bridges to former teammates.

By the way…Horner has been rocking the cycling cap under the helmet with the bill turned up and I’m not sure how I feel about it. My initial reaction is an unfavorable one but it goes against my nature to criticize Smiley. One of my all time favorite riders.

The gap is holding at 1:00 and I think this group is going to stay away. Too much horse-power and too many big names. Who’s going to chase? T-Mobile? The domestic teams? This may just work out.

Ughhh…McCartney is out of the saddle and burning. Whoa…Levi put it down and a gap has opened. Voigt closes quickly followed by Horner but I think Wings and Geslin are done for. I can’t believe how quickly Jens Norris closed that down. Wow. Like a roundhouse kick to the chin.

Okay…Levi is basically a motorcycle right now. Just killing it. I think it’s going to come down to Horner and Voigt for the finish. Gotta root for the American but I couldn’t think of a better top 3 for today than these guys.

They are rolling through and working well together but here comes a big group behind…into the last turn…and it’s…Jens Voigt!!!

Levi and Horner come through in second and third just ahead of a hard charging group of about twenty or so riders. The main field comes in a minute or so later, led by the Slipstream boys.

Wow. Great stage. Levi cemented his place as the man to beat but Voigt got some extra time bonus seconds to close the gap and Horner looks very strong. Depending on the weather conditions for the TT in Solvang…this could get really interesting. I’ll put up another post later after I check the TV coverage. Now I need to go take a Dramamine or something after watching that live feed coverage. I feel queasy.

No comments: