Monday, June 7, 2010

Tour of California: Stage 8

At 6:00 am they had already set up the VIP catering and guarded portable crappers. Rows of cars already claimed spots along the road; we found a spot just before the switchback and the last 400 yards of the climb. The climb lay before us in the valley, coiling around the edge of the ridge; we could see a rider or two down below on the road. It was cold.

And I'm serious about the guarded crappers--I was forcibly stopped from using them. I suppose you can't expect the State of California to dig a long drop every 20 feet along 100-miles of road each stage, but still...

As we'd done on Friday for Big Bear, we unloaded and headed onto the course. This time, we'd be doing the 20-mile lap that the riders would do four times.

The descent was violently twisted, complex and fast, but smooth.

I took the loop three times. Each time, more and more people cheered. More flags, more DJs. More tutus, hulas, devils, angels, wannabes, and clergy. And more beer.

The Pope has extraordinary balance. He also came by, sprinkling us with holy water from his water bottle.

He then climbed onto an outcropping where he stood for much of the race, his arms raised in benediction.

A giant water bottle showed up.

For several spectators, the mountain wasn't quite difficult enough to climb on a mere bike. They attempted the climb on big wheel bikes...


 Spartans or on unicycles...

...with parrots on their heads or Lil' Batman at their feet.

Along for the ride were Peter Sagan and Jens.

So Levi did not win again, and Dave didn't either. Lance cut his cheek, and Floyd raised a pretty nasty stink for a guy who didn't even race.

The best thing about seeing a race like this has very little to do with the riders. I mean, we already know what it feels like to struggle, to suffer, and to almost always not win. We know what racing feels like; we just don't know what it feels like to see fans, and to be a fan.

This Saturday, for example, at Church Creek, we had exactly one spectator. Tom drove ahead of us and took some pictures of the four of us in full team mode.

That, I guess, is what I take away--the joy of not racing.

It's a beautiful thing to sit around and watch other people killing themselves.

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