Monday, February 18, 2008

ToC Stage 1 - Dyn-O-Mite

Alright, alright. Here we go again for Stage 1 of the Amgen Tour of California, with a familiar winner on a familiar course. As another famous J.J. (Evans from Good Times and Chicago, not Haedo from CSC and Argentina) once said, “Dyn-O-Mite!”

Let’s go to the tapes for a recap of the action:

Stage 1 of the ToC is nearly identical to the previous two editions of the race, taking the riders on a beautiful trip from Sausalito to Santa Rosa. Fabian Cancellara is in the yellow jersey and will probably stay there, but with 98 twisty miles and a bunch of sprint bonuses ahead, there’s no telling what could happen.

I always chuckle when I see this stage described as “fairly flat.” I’ve ridden it before and I can tell you that it is not flat. In fact, with the exception of the final run in to Santa Rosa and a few select waterfront stretches, the entire course is basically a twisting roller coaster with a few tougher climbs thrown in for good measure. Trust me, it’s not flat but it is one of the most beautiful routes in the world.

The stage starts in Sausalito, a quaint little waterfront tourist town just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. But the real fun begins quickly after the neutral roll out as the field enters my hometown of Mill Valley and begins to climb the lower slopes of Mt. Tam. After a quick dip through Muir Beach the course then heads down toward Stinson Beach and the site of my very first real bike ride along Bolinas Lagoon.

Fun Local Fact: Believe it or not, both Tupac Shakur and I went to Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley for a short time. We weren’t in the same grade or anything but still. Then he moved to Oakland and I moved to Boulder. The rest is history.

Shortly before passing the turn that leads up the world famous Bolinas Ridge Road, BMC rider and Bay Area native Jackson Stewart leaves a small breakaway group and gets a pretty good gap. Fresh off a win at the legendary Cherry Pie Criterium in Napa, Stewart is showing good form and is, at least from what I understand, kind of a big deal.

Well, the pie he won last week must have been pretty good because the gap is building. Fast. So this is probably a good opportunity to point out that a quick Googling of “Jackson Stewart” reveals the unfortunate reality that this is also the name of a character on the television show Hannah Montana. And if I’m not mistaken, this show somehow involves Billy Ray Cyrus. That sucks for Jackson Stewart.

What also sucks is how many times Phil Liggett is going to call him Stewart Jackson. Which ever name you put first, the BMC rider is now shooting through Bodega Bay while David Millar escorts Tyler Farrar to some sprint bonus points near the Salt Water Taffy hut.

Fun Local Fact: Bodega Bay is the location of Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary thriller “The Birds.” It is a cool little town and the birds are actually quite friendly.

So it seems that (Ms) Jackson (if you’re nasty) Stewart has a pretty massive gap as the field hits the base of the Coleman Valley Road climb. Danny the Pate is up at the front with all the other players, including Levi, Cancellara and even Big Tom Boonen. There are some surges over the top but everyone will certainly come back together quickly.

The final eastbound run to Santa Rosa proves to be too much for Jackson (5) Stewart and he is caught by a group of about 60 riders. I am not sure if the split in the field was a result of the climb but it certainly makes for a safer finish in the downtown circuits.

Fun Local Fact: Charles Schultz, creator of the Peanuts comic strip, was a long-time resident of Santa Rosa. They even named the local airport after him. I think it’s called Peppermint Patty Municipal Airport.

Quick Step and CSC are regulating the front as we near the final stretch. Bettini goes too early with Boonen on his wheel. And it’s…J.J. Haedo by a couple of bike lengths!!

The finish is tough to see because it comes out of a tunnel on a little rise but you got the sense that it was in the bag when Cancellara sat up and put his hands in the air about 20 meters before J.J. even crossed the line. After a textbook set up by Bjarne’s boys, the big Argentinean jumped first and no one could match him for his 5th ToC stage win.

I guess you kind of have to step up when you have Jens Voigt, Bobby Julich, Stuart O’Grady and Fabian Cancellara (in yellow no less) selling out for you. Not to mention The Bald Eagle, Bjarne Riis waiting in the bus. This is not a group of guys you want to let down.

Unfortunately the finish in Santa Rosa was once again marred by a crash involving one of the race favorites. This time it was George Hincapie who hit the deck just before exiting the tunnel leading up to the line. Bad luck for George again in Cali but it looks like he’ll be okay.

I’ve been trying to think of other J.J.’s but the one that keeps topping the list is certainly J.J. Evans from Good Times. I don’t know how the comedic stylings of Jimmie Walker would go over in Argentina though, so I kind of doubt that Haedo is familiar with his namesake.

Regardless, it should be noted that the popular ‘70’s sitcom about an African-American family living in a Chicago housing project actually has a pretty strong tie to the cycling world. Stumped?
The legendary John Amos played James Evans Sr. on Good Times a few years before tackling the character of Dr. Conrad (Kevin Costner’s colleague at the Sports Institute and father of Randolph) in the classic cycling movie American Flyers.

So that’s it for Stage 1, as J.J. Haedo takes another one for CSC and Fabian Cancellara retains the overall lead. The links to guys named J.J. and bike racing are obvious but I still have one question.

How do you say “Dyn-O-Mite” in Spanish?


poursuivants said...

As Lenny used to say from Good Times-

“My name is Lenny, and your time is my time, and your money is MINE!”

CSC slapped the ToC again!

They will slap it "One More Time" on Friday with the TT-Go Fabian!

CaliRado Cyclist said...

I wish James Sr. would have slapped Lenny around a little bit.