Life On Two Wheels

Along the river and toward the mountains a morning shadow shimmers across the road. The rays of the first light jet through the trees and across a figure gliding upon the road. His breath trails in short spurts, petrified as it hits the icy air. All is quiet except the slight sound of the athlete as he summons himself for yet another days work. Soon the rest of the world will bustle with life as well and the brief simplicity of cyclist and nature will disappear into the everyday struggle of life in full motion; the errands and intervals, the appointments and intersections, and the deadlines and finish lines OutPaceTheRace

Saturday, February 25, 2006

ToC- Feb 22 - 26, '06

Santa Barbara, CA to Thousand Oaks, CA- Stage 6
February 25, 2006

I’ve always maintained that early season races need to be held in an environment that’s suitable. California is just the place and to be racing in such an area with such good weather is almost as exciting as riding with the top pros. Put the two together and you’ve got an unbelievable race. I was stoked from the beginning to be competing here, but with the performance of our team against the caliber of the teams in attendance leaves me excited for the rest of the season. Of course I’ve learned some lessons with the experiences here, but it has seriously jump started the learning process that would’ve taken perhaps the whole season…
Today’s race took us over some sobering terrain, some of which I could hardly crawl over due to the severity of the grade. We essentially rounded the corner knowing that there’d be a climb and found a steep, narrow road going up to the top of a mountain. You could literally feel the groans; know one expected something so daunting as that which lay ahead of us. We didn’t have easy enough gears so everyone ended up grinding up; some better than others. I managed to grind my way over in the front group, but it was a very stretched out front group literally winding half way down the “wall.”
Despite the severity of the climb most everyone managed to get back together and it came down to fast circuit style of racing at the finish. The sprinter teams organized well for the finish and managed to put down an incredibly fast pace coming into the last couple laps. When you’re riding that fast on a flat circuit so close to each other it gets fairly “gnarly,” but we mixed it up pretty well with the other guys and managed to finish strong. Apparently tomorrow should be similar to today’s finish, so it will be fast and flat for the entire race. I’m looking forward to it. I’m kind of starting to “dig” the fast racing around here…

San Luis Obispo, CA- ToC Stage 5
February 24, 2006

After donning the best young rider’s jersey for the last couple days I’ve finally come to realize just how chaotic the logistics are for a race of this magnitude. Most of the best riders in the world are here and to make sure that they make it from point to point is truly an amazing feat. Getting it done smoothly is an entirely different animal.
The strange thing about the whole logistics issue is that it’s relatively simplistic, but when you throw in all the different variables and complications it gets so hectic that you wonder how they can do one stage, let alone eight. When I finish the race and realize that I’ve got to get to the podium right away things get blurry pretty quick. If there wasn’t the “guy” sitting there to make sure I’m heading in the right direction then it would likely be impossible for me to actually find the place without fainting on the spot. With that said, I now have a deep respect for those who put on events of this enormity.
After finishing yesterday’s 140 mile race I felt fine, but when I got on the bike today it felt as though I hadn’t slept for weeks. Feeling like that and knowing that you’ve got another 105 miles to ride was not a good sensation. Luckily I managed to get my legs back when it started going fast, but the whole eight day stage race is a new thing for me and my body hasn’t quite adapted to the pain yet. Knowing that my legs will come around eventually every day is a relief and quite a confidence builder when you see the field of pro-tour riders shrinking with each new day.
I did notice something most peculiar today though. Now that I’m wearing the best young rider jersey, other riders seem to be taking advantage. They must think ‘he’s young so we can push him around,’ I find it most peculiar, because previously this wasn’t the case. I guess you’d kind of expect it, but for it to actually be happening is somewhat sad and funny at the same time. I must say that it’s most unbecoming of them to rile the young- just watch your back...

ToC- Stage 4
Embassy Suites, San Jose, CA
February 23, 2006

You’ve always heard that stressful events bring out the true character in someone, well, I think the tour here in Cali is a great example of an event that would do just that. I’ve noticed that as the stress gets stiffer and our glycogen levels get lower, my team mates and I react different. To be honest I’ve got to say that they’re reacting like a team mate ought to. If one of us catches flack then we all do, it’s like a big happy family. Actually, I think that the efforts of the staff make life a lot easier for the athletes.
Today’s stage was a thrillingly beautiful experience. I can’t say that I had a lot of time to take in the scenery, but I got a chance to glance across the panorama a couple times… I heard about the rest of it from people in the area, “this is a great area, you guys are really lucky to be racing here.”
“Uh, yeah. What was that blue stuff?”
The rolling hills with the side wind from the sea never seemed to end, especially with Floyd’s team, Phonak, defending all day. The pace absolutely never subsided. Guys were trying to get away all day, but every time someone high in GC got away too Phonak had to chase. Quite a raw experience really.
The weather here’s been holding out well. Today it was in the 70’s. I don’t think that that’s a characteristic temperature of California in the winter, maybe the sun but not the heat. Most of us got caught off guard without sun block, so we're a bit cooked- only rare though.