Thursday, May 20, 2010

Watching the Tour of California Stage 3

Tuesday was an early dismissal day for Nimue. Tuesday also held one of the local Tour of California stages. The temptation to play hooky was very, very strong. On these short days, especially this close to the end of the year, not a lot of import happens in a second grade classroom. Fortunately, Nim's teacher sees the value of direct experiences and is an avid cyclist -- he thought it was great that we would take her out of school to see the race, so Chad and I took the day to ride over to the race course with Nimue on the tandem. Her only assignment was to report back to the class afterward.

Though the weather forecast called for sun, it was drizzling when we left the house at 9am. Chad tried to convince us that it was merely marine layer condensing on us and not real rain -- either way, it was wet, so we made sure to pack rain gear along with our picnic lunch. Though it may have been fun to spectate from the top of Tunitas Creek Road (one of our many beloved local climbs), we opted to head for a point further down the hill on Highway 84 to meet up with Chad's friend Dave (also not as hard work for me to get to on the tandem). This spot had the advantage of being on a slight uphill slope just past the feed zone, and we figured the cyclists might be going a little slower there so we could see them better.

We staked out a spot on the shoulder where there was a good sight line down the hill a couple hours before the riders were expected, but Nimue managed to keep herself entertained.

Chad's friend Dave had brought a thermos full of espresso; we enjoyed this along with the salmon salad sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and nutella sandwiches out of our pack, while watching many spectator-cyclists on their ride up to the top. I suspect there were many chilly people up there by the time the race started, as not everyone was wise enough to bring a backpack of warm layers to put on while waiting like we did.

Along with the string of spectators looking for their spots, we got to watch the string of support vehicles and cops wind their way up the hill for quite some time. As the time the racers were expected approached, the anticipation rose every time another car came around the corner, in the hopes that the riders would be coming soon. Many, many fake-outs. We cheered and waved at them all anyway, and Nim continued to be interested and happy.

Ooh -- a race marshal! And we can hear the group down the hill ringing their cowbell and hollering!

There was a lead group of five riders a couple of minutes ahead of the pack where we were. As we had hoped, we got a good view; the riders were recovering between the big hills and finishing up their mid-stage feed.

Above: Eric Boily (SpiderTech) and Will Routley (Jelly Belly)

Nim finds the Jelly Belly team especially amusing as they have jelly beans not only on their jerseys, but also on their helmets.

Below: Blurry shot of who I think is Levi Leipheimer (I think that's right as he seemed to be the Radio Shack guy wearing longer socks like this rider on the TV coverage we saw later that day).

Blurry shot of the peloton. It's interesting to see what you get when randomly snapping the camera in the direction of the action without actually looking at it.

Line of team cars and stragglers out of the feed zone.

The best thing about our viewing spot was its proximity to the end of the feed zone, as one can often pick up discarded items as souvenirs. A very cool rider on the Radio Shack team spotted cute little Nimue, deliberately tossed his empty feed bag to her, and checked back to make sure it went where he wanted it to. She was a bit surprised when it hit her, but was quite pleased to score the little red Team Radio Shack bag, which she showed off to her classmates when reporting on the race. You can see the red bag in the air and the rider who tossed it to her in the photo below. I pulled the picture out of Chad's iphone video of Nim watching the race :)

Stuff we retrieved from the road after the race went by.

Our spot was good -- enough other people in the merry band on our chosen shoulder that the happy anticipatory camaraderie of strangers developed, but not so crowded that anyone was uncomfortable -- and the whole family had a blast. Quite a worthy and memorable way to skip school/work/life for a day!

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