Amgen Tour of California – Feb. 19 – Huddle is a Geek
Sat, 21 Feb 2009 13:00:35 -0800
As soon as the sun came out, Huddle jumped in the car with his Competitor Radio co-host, Bob Babbitt and Babbit’s wife Heidi janzen and headed to Paso Robles to follow the Amgen Tour of California, Lance Armstrong and all of the festivities.
When he’s not pumping all things related to endurance sport, Bob Babbitt is driving to another event, function, or meeting…wow, Bluetooth too! Yes, this was his first drive with the hands free device. Lucky for him, his wife was there to push buttons. It was amazing to realize that his schedule doesn’t require him to wear a diaper – he stops to pee just like me.First stop was doping control. Babbitt and I were surprised no one wanted to test us for being way to ripped, cut, and buffed out. Say what you want but the athletes in this sport are tested more than any other. The expo at each finish venue is like a traveling family. We ran into one of the nicest guys in the industry – Jim Felt. The man behind the line of bicycles has been around for a long time and got started in triathlon. it’s amazing to see THE main man at his booth representing his product and being available to anyone who had a question.You know you’re a geek when you’re getting your photo taken under the finish line. Bob and Heidi endorse themselves officially as geeks. Nice to see the Amgen Tour of California organizers have a sense of humor. As the name implies, the broom wagon follows the last rider in the race and is there to provide a ride to the finish should any rider decide to abandon…probably not very funny for the rider. For some reason they kept trying to pull Babbitt inside. Yes, it was crowded. Within 30-minutes of the riders finishing, you couldn’t get within 20-feet of the barricade fencing. Cavendish and Boonen led the peloton to the line at such velocity that you got goose bumps from the roar of gears and wind generated by the tornado of the peloton as it whooshed by…AWESOME! Watching the video footage afterwards, it looked like a dry day at Paris-Roubaix with all of the yellow chalk dust – it’s a wonder the guys in back could see.There were A LOT of press passes handed out. We couldn’t believe the number of journalists in the media room…then again, how many were like us – just there for the free food?One of the interviews we had the pleasure of conducting was with Saul Raisin. Saul was very nearly killed in a pro race in France and, after an amazing comeback, is considering Ironman Hawaii. Saul was helping the Wounded Warrior Foundation…amazing guy.Jelly Belly’s Matthew Crane, High Road’s Mark Cavendish, and Quickstep’s Tom Boonen at the stage 5 post race press conference. Nice to hear these guys talk about the day’s race. Amazing to have these legends competing in the states.We ran into Cannondale’s Billy Rudell. Billy was kind enough to do an interview and broke the big news that Cannondale had just signed Chrissie Wellington. At the ATOC, you might recognize some of the names on Team Liquigas that ride on Cannondale’s Super Six Record – like Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali who was 11th on G.C. after the time trial.
I’m a geek and I’m ok with it. Ever since I saw Breaking Away in the late ‘70s (or was it early ‘80s?), I’ve been a geek for bike racing. I don’t have the wool shorts, leather Detto Pietro shoes or dorky Campy cycling cap anymore but I’m no less excited about receiving my Velo News in the mail or watching every race i can find on Versus. I love this sport.
You can imagine the level of anticipation and excitement that has been building since the announcement that the Amgen Tour of California would be coming to San Diego County. It would be like being a rabid NFL fan living in New Dehli and hearing that the Super Bowl was coming to town. The greatest riders in the world would be racing over the same climbs that are in your backyard. Highland Valley. Lake Wohlford. Palomar. Cole Grade. Speak the name of any of these and every local cyclist and triathlete will know what you’re talking about. I can’t wait ‘til Sunday! …and no, I’m not going to be in my underpants running with the leaders at 4000-feet on Palomar. don’t think I didn’t think about it.
My first up close and personal exposure to a UCI Pro Tour event was in Paso Robles at the end of the 5th stage on the first nice day. That’s perfect because I generally won’t ride my bike if there’s a cloud in the sky either.
The expo booths and festivities reminded me of an Ironman but the final build up to the finish of the race was like condensing the 9-hours of emotion and excitement at an Ironman finish line into 30-minutes as the announcer gets the crowd – and I do mean CROWD – revved up for the arrival of the unruly, roaving mass of100+ men charging down the road 4-lanes wide at 40+mph! The awards follow quickly and , then, within another 30-minutes, the tear down of barricades and equipment leaving restaurants and bars full of fans reliving their stories of the day.
The logistics are as impressive as the spectacle of the race and I can’t help watch the fence guys, tent guys, and site guys efficiently pull it all down to move on to the next venue. You realize how tough this race is on the riders but don’t often think about how hard it is on the army of men and women who make it all happen.
We ran into a very tired and beleaguered Phil Ligget out by the TV Satellite trucks. Phil described being sick for the first 4-days and feeling close to pneumonia the night before. How do these guys handle the travel and endless grind?
On to Solvang for the TT.
P.S. There is NO way Riccitello’s going to break 16:00 for 5km. he’ll be lucky to run 2-miles in 16-minutes. Please.