If Solvang, California were a food, it would be a sweet, jelly-filled Danish pastry. If it were a bike race, it would be the Amgen Tour of California. And if I were more creative I would be able to come up with a better way to start this post.
Anyway, I love this freaky little town and think that the TT in Solvang may be the single coolest event in North American bike racing. The day’s temperatures flirted with the mid-70’s and the Califosi (does that count as a new word?) were out in full force, turning the town and beautiful 15 mile course into an virtual amusement park of bike racing goodness.
Having attended the event for the third year now, it is clear that attendance was significantly higher in 2009 than previous editions, to the point that spectators were packed 10 deep along portions of the course and jammed the expo area like sardines. Even along the more remote stretches of road outside of town there was rarely more than a few hundred meters between bunches of people clanging cowbells and cheering the racers.
As for the racing itself, LL Cool Heimer proved that he is the sole owner of this stage and anyone who wants to steal it from him will probably have to take up residence in the Central Coast in order to uncover his secrets on this TT course. David Zabriskie came as close as anyone has to accomplishing the feat but still ended up 8 seconds shy of the three-time winner. Saxo Bank’s big Scandanavian Gustav Larsson took the third step of the podium and continues to prove that he is one to watch in big races against the clock.
Michael Rogers put up a respectable performance but at one point it was announced that his first split was a full two minutes ahead of Zabriskie. Now…for those familiar with bike racing (or physics) it was pretty clear that there was no possible way that any human being could go two minutes faster that DZ over 7.5 miles but that did not stop a number of people from going crazy in the crowd. Thankfully Big Dave Towle came to the rescue and brought some sanity back to the event by stating that Rogers would have to be flirting with the sound barrier in order for the split to be correct. Needless to say, the time check was not right and I politely informed some people standing near me that it’s not really possible to go 40mph for that long. Sorry Mick, not this time.
On a final note, through the much-appreciated goodwill of MissingSaddle and the Jelly Belly team, I was able to accompany Danny Van Haute in the infamous bean-colored Lexus as we followed Stage 5’s Most Courageous rider Matthew Crane along the TT. I will document this experience in greater written and photographic detail shortly but suffice to say, it was pretty rad and I am quite thankful for the hospitality. I first met Van Haute as a 15 year-old junior racer back in the day but I never anticipated kicking it in the car with him during the biggest race in the country. Who knew? Stay tuned for more on that soon.
Stage 7 into Pasadena has the potential to be a bit tricky but I anticipate another bunch finish with Captain Cavman taking yet another scalp ahead of Thor and Tom. Rose Bowl here we come.