Anyway, no one gave me a hard time about the ghetto press pass and it still got me inside the fences. My camera was low on batteries the whole time but I think I managed to portion out some interesting shots. Forgive me for the somewhat random order of the photos...this isn't a chronological account.
The crowd was thick during the awards presentation so I was happy to not have to fight for space. The whole ceremony was pretty long and included Danish dancers, lots of political sponsor-ish things and even a shout out from the Firestone guy. Not the kid that was on the Bachelor, but his Father. After a challenging race and a ceremony that lasted almost as long as their time on the course, these three guys really deserved the podium that day. Tough course and super-windy at about 29mph. Not bad.
Here's a shot of the crowd at the finish for the presentation. It was like this around the whole area but the road was still fenced off except this portion shown above. I like the kids and the cop in particular. After the presentation, Jens Voigt got his bike and just walked right into the crowd toward the Finish. Just took right off, parting people like it was nothing. I think it kind of stunned everyone and they didn't really have time to react. More on Jens later.The course started with a slight descent into a high-speed left hand turn. The road rose up a bit after the corner, straight into a brutal headwind, so the faster guys were really nailing it through the turn and staying in the aero bars at 30+mph. Fabian Cancellara had an early start time and was visibly faster than anyone prior. He shot up the hill, into the headwind at a good 25mph and never even budged from the position above. Once again...the guy is a tank.
Need I say anything more about this photo? The weapon of the one and only Jens Voigt presented by Chuck Norris. The big German rolled up to the awards stage and left his bike with one of the marshalls standing next to me so I couldn't help the close up photo of the name on the top tube. Pro Tour bikes are pretty cool but this particular P3 has the misfortune of being regularly thrashed upon by one of the hammering-est guys out there. I almost felt sorry it due to the beatings it must take.
I couldn't tell who these people were rooting for but if you look carefully, you can see that the lady in the black shirt is actually holding a little dog. You may also notice that the store in the background has more than just olives. During the awards presentation it was interesting to note how rarely American racers get to experience something like this on home soil. Fittingly, Levi had a pretty big group of family, friends and animals there at the finish and everyone was super excited. So big and excited in fact, that apparently there were shirts made up for the occasion. The dogs were dressed more formally.And speaking of dogs...this is a surprising photo of Paolo Bettini stealing a small child's stuffed animal. You can see how he is taunting the young boy as a crowd of people rush over to help. It seems those World Championship stripes have kind of gone to the Cricket's head. Shortly after this photo was taken, Bettini jumped behind the wheel of the bus and proceeded to back over three bicycles before pulling away and throwing the stuffed animal out the window.
* More Photos to come - Stay Tuned