|The Ritchey posing at the entry of the AMGEN campus in Thousand Oaks|
|The race start in downtown Sacramento|
|Before the start of Stage 1: Brad Wiggins, left, former Tour de France Winner, |
and former World Champion Mark Cavendish
|Two other good-looking chaps: My friend Lee was here |
with the women's team that he manages
|Sacramento has some amazing architecture ...|
|... beaches ...|
|... and rail stuff (don't forget the American Rail Museum!)|
|Wild turkeys just off the American River bike trail in Sacramento|
|Riding along the American River|
|Hélène and I share a well-deserved post-race bottle of Zin|
|The ascent to Mt. Diablo|
|Phil and Paul do the TV commentary, but Dave and Brad whip the crowd into a|
frenzy in those few minutes before a stage finish
And I was assigned to it.
What you need to keep in mind is that a bike race is simply that: It's just a bike race! But then, a Broadway production is nothing but that, and neither is the Superbowl. There's a lot of glitz on the front, and a lot less glitter on the backside of the production. The only difference may be that the backside of the curtain is accessible to almost everyone. What other entertainment venues do you know of where you have the fans come within literal inches of the performers? It's a wonderful sport, and I am thankful to be a (meaningful) part of it.
|Yes, they paid me to drive along the Big Sur highway, ahead of the race caravan|
|Hélène decided that she will come back with her husband to vacation here|
|The elephant seals at Piedras Blancas beach, near Santa Barbara|
|I love the zoom on this little Olympus SH-50!|
|One of two adjacent beaches, with a total of 15,000 elephant seals|
What are the rewards, you ask? Well, we get a whopping 105 euro a day, and our travel and accommodations are paid for. But if you do the math, that's way below minimum wage, so the questions is still on the table. Speaking for both Hélène and myself, there is definitely the love for the sport and the desire to give back to it. For some of us there's the undeniable rush of rubbing shoulders with the world's best cyclists, the dudes you read about in Velo and the guys you see on TV. And then there's the travel.
|The view from our hotel at Pismo Beach|
|California living, Pismo Beach|
To drive down the Big Sur coastal highway between Monterey and Cambria and not have to spend one red cent of your own, now, that's what I call a beni. Or to be at the top of Mt. Diablo or in Santa Barbara and stand right there, yes, on the line, when the world's best climber or the best sprinter in the business comes by, and you have that unbelievable 360-degree view, well, I think I know some folks who'd sign up for free to do just that. And let's not forget those 105 euro a day....
|Driving toward the stage finish at Mountain High ski resort|
|My old friends, the Joshua trees, whom I once mixed up with redwoods|
|Sunday afternoon molasses on the 101 coming from Ventura and trying to go to LA|
|And here the Ritchey balked: No way we were going to go down only to come back up!|
California is an amazing state, and we got to see so much of it. There are so many beautiful areas, and one thinks, wow, if only I could live here. And then you check into real estate prices, and you look at the ever-present insane traffic, and the realization sets in that visiting is maybe not such a bad thing, after all. I hope that in future years I will again get the opportunity to come out here for this premier bike race on the Americas, because I had a ball. But I won't move there, I don't think.
|He took the first and the last stage: Mark Cavendish is the sprinter to beat at the moment|
|Nice to receive the upgraded seat a day ahead of boarding ...|