Saturday, February 21, 2009

Race: Angeles Forest Breakaway

Long story short: Did my homework last night, so when I pulled up to the Highway Patrol car blocking the main road in to the spot where I hoped to watch, I already had a backup route in mind.

Took me a touch longer to get there, but as you see, I beat the racers to my perch.

There might have been a couple dozen other folks standing around. No teeming crowd, nobody standing in front of anyone else. You can see folks in the picture above chalking the street: “Lance + Levi Livestrong,” “Go Big George,” that kind of thing. Great crowd, everyone in a good mood. We were all way out in the middle of nowhere (no cell reception—not even TXT!), and we knew we had a plum spot.

The racers were going to come around a bend about a half-mile away (on the left in the first picture above, obscured by some treetops), then down a slight hill, then climb up toward us. We would have plenty of warning, and we’d catch them working uphill, so going more slowly. This was after the big King of the Mountain summit for the day, which again would make for slower (more tired) riders.

The usual vehicles patrolled the route: Coupla Highway Patrol cars, some race vehicles, some CHP motorcycles. A car came through with loudspeakers and gave us a thorough update on the race status: 10 breakaway riders, and they rattled off names of each one. George Hincapie was in the break, and I did the math fast and realized he was going to try to repeat his win of the same stage last year. (Last year this route was the final stage, and George won it in the pouring rain. This year, same route, but there’s still one more stage to go tomorrow.)

The car with the loudspeakers headed on about 25 yards up the road and asked, using the loudspeakers, if they were giving away any of those chocolate chip cookies. It was that kind of crowd—nobody taking anything too seriously, nobody in a hurry to be anywhere else but here. Nobody jockeying for position: Everyone had a great seat.

Oddly, there was no rain.

When the chopper started moving around overhead, I knew the racers were getting close. The air team provides video as well as support for race radio communications, which can be very tricky in mountain canyons.

And then the break was here.

As predicted, we had a generous amount of time from when we first saw them till the moment they rode right by us. I was even a little surprised that it took them as long to reach us as it did. But I wasn’t disappointed.

Second from the left in this picture, #21 is George Hincapie. He’s a remarkable powerhouse, the only guy who can say he rode with Lance Armstrong on every single Tour de France victory (so far). In his own right, he’s a strong racer, with multiple national championships under his belt and some other hard-won victories. And he works hard, publicly, in the fight against cancer. I’ll admit it was a thrill to meet him last year as part of that fight.

I was pleased that he was in the breakaway.

The main course was yet to come.


Kangamoo said...

So it was the sunshine that slowed them down. I tell you that 3B is the smart one.

Kangamoo said...

I might also mention that it is hard to write in chalk on the course if it is raining.