Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tour of California

Fort Street Cycle employee Cam Maysmith and girlfriend Tanya Gadsby went down to watch stage 2 of the Tour of California. Here is their story.

Cam and I had visions of sunny, cloudless skies when we booked our trip to San Francisco. However, when we arrived the skies were choked with dark clouds and the constant rain made us feel like we’d never left Victoria. Though this hardly dampened our spirits for the highlight of our trip: the Tour of California!

The second stage was set to start in Sausalito, a quaint seaside town just across the Golden Gate Bridge. The riders would do a neutral lap of Sausalito before spinning across the Golden Gate and along the highway down the coast.

The morning of the race, we caught a ferry across the Bay and arrived in Sausalito a little weary (it was 7:30am!), but wide-eyed and eager like two kids in a bike store. There was so much to see, it was overwhelming: the team cars and RVs were just pulling into the parking lot, a huge START banner had been erected next to a big tent, and there were throngs of people milling about, most of whom were in cycling gear. The excitement in the air was palpable.

We wandered over to the START line, as the race schedule said this was where you could meet the riders before the race. However, the rain refused to let up and there were murmurs through the crowd that the riders would stay holed up in their team RVs until the last minute. So, with camera in tow, Cam and I headed to the parking lot where the massive team RVs were parked. A crowd three or four people deep surrounded the Astana RV, waiting for the appearance of legendary Lance Armstrong. A similar crowd surrounded the team Ouch RV, everyone straining to see the notorious Floyd Landis.

With everyone so focused on these two celebrities, the remaining team RVs were relatively quiet. It felt like the opportunity of a lifetime to see some of cycling’s greatest athletes. Being small in stature, I was able to crouch down and nudge my way around people’s legs to snap some great shots of Thor Hushovd (who later went on to win stage 3) and Mark Cavendish. Even George Hincapie made a brief appearance before climbing astride his bike and heading to the start line.

After my paparazzi like photo session, we stationed ourselves along the sidewalk of the main road in Sausalito. The riders would do one neutral lap of the town and we wanted a good spot to catch the action! As the riders rounded the corner, the crowd erupted into cheers. We caught a glimpse of Lance Armstrong, and possibly Floyd Landis as the riders whipped past. It didn’t take long for the riders to do the loop and head back down the street. This time the peloton was spread wide across the road and was moving fast. The crowd pressed in around us, but we were determined to get good shots of the riders. So we inched out further. And further. Maybe a little too far… three Rock Racing riders yelled and waved at us to move! It was hard to tell just how close we were to the action, since I was peering through a camera lens. The peloton passed six inches from my head, and all I could hear was the whirr of derallieurs.

After such an exhilarating experience, we vowed that our next trip would be to the peaks of the Tour de France where the fans are crazier and the mountains are grueling.

Tanya Gadsby is a writer, artist, and cyclist living in Victoria BC

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