With live cycling right around the corner, it's time to dust off the old liveblogging mojo. Only, it's tape-delayed and I'm flying solo, but after 8 straight hours of solo kid duty, I'm on the couch and capable of saying almost anything, so here goes!
4:35 -- Skipping past the previous highlights, though I did catch Al Trautwig casually mention the last-9-mile time neutralization of stage two as if it were a perfectly rational matter. I can't address this without using profanity, which I suppose explains why he's still broadcasting Cycling and I'm not.
4:37 -- Levi on his wire-to-wire win: "I've always dreamed of winning the Tour of California..." Sure, Levi's 33 and the race is, well, two. But hey, Cycling's a tough sport. How many blows to the head did it take for Leipheimer's memory to drop everything prior to 2006?
4:41 -- Al tells us the race course has been redesigned in reponse to feedback from the riders. I wonder if ASO has ever registered any feedback from the riders, let alone acted in response.
More on the flip...
4:42 -- New prologue! Risky... Coit Tower and massive city crowds were a fabulous sendoff the first two years. But hey, Palo Alto does have "world class shopping," for those fans who have been trained properly to shop. The Oval could make a nice spectacle.
4:45 -- Stage 1, from the Sausalito Riviera, over Mt. Tam, past wine country to Santa Rosa. I kind of hope someone else wins the prologue so the programming isn't 95% Leipheimer again.
4:48 -- Stage 2 hits Trinity Road... same old. Too far from the line to possibly matter. But it'll be fun to watch.
4:49 -- Who's Lucas Euser? I'd like to know. In fact, I'd like to know about every rider of consequence not named Levi. Also, Al just called Sacramento "cosmopolitan." I rewound it twice to make sure.
4:51 -- New town... Modesto! Which is apparently a main attraction, having some of the world's richest soil. You can even eat it. The stage should be fabulous, climbing up Mount Hamilton. Steve Cozza and his porn 'stache predict it'll break things up nicely, and that's just a prelude to Sierra Road. Only an 18-mile run-in to San Jose means that stragglers will be lost for good.
4:55 -- The postcard stage, along the coastline. Al claims there are redwood forests along the route. This sounds wrong: isn't this madrona and scrub country? Is he off by 100 miles or so? Whatever, either way by the end of the day we'll all wish we lived there.
4:57 -- Live cycling rocks, but don't underestimate the satisfaction of fast-forwarding the usual bizarre array of Versus ads. Well, except the hockey ads. I'll stop for those. Is that a Zdeno Chara sighting?
4:58 -- Solvang ITT preview. Levi, Vandevelde... the Dave Z monotone. Chris Horner's forehead seems larger than I remembered.
4:59 -- Stage 6 is the other, other, other key stage, apparently. Balcom Canyon is 50 miles from the line (sort of a ToC signature) but the race has definite breakaway potential.
5:01 -- Exciting finish! Stage 7 starts with a 40-mile drag up to 4900 feet, which JV says could be a problem after a week of hammering, in February.
5:03 -- High Road Jersey Sighting!!! The unveiling, at last. If you didn't catch it, it's basically a photonegative of the Ugly Jersey. Fun-tastic!
5:05 -- Onto the start list... which, is there one yet? Andrew Bajadali says the Pro Tour is making it harder to win money in Europe, which is pushing guys off to Cali and other solid non-PT races. And there goes Tom Boonen's bare butt-cheek... Also, a Karsten Kroon sighting. In a month or so you'll know why I mention this.
5:08 -- Time to introduce Astana to an American audience. Video of riders getting tested. Kits look more tasteful, less like bad pajamas. No mention of Borat; they really are determined to break with the past.
5:10 -- CSC now...Brad McGee is at CSC now? How many VDS points does he cost? Julich, O'Grady, Haedo and Tony Montana. And they're just Jens! Voigt's supporting cast. For the record, Jens! is my GC pick.
5:12 -- I know I said I was skipping the ads, but I can't take my eyes off the Craftsman CompuCarve machine. It's true, there is a world of difference between a piece of woodwork and a work of art.
5:14 -- Slipstream time! BTW, their entrance music should definitely be Born Slippy by Underworld. Sure, it was featured in a heroin movie, but it's a new era in Cycling. Also, I appreciate the anti-doping coverage, but I can do without the needles and bloody test tubes.
5:16 -- Yay High Road!! Boo more test tubes! Nasty switcheroo by Versus, starting the feature with Mick Rogers before slipping in that he's not in the race. Al's rattling off names now as they flash pictures of Andre Greipel (not mentioned, for fear of what Al would do to his name). Apparently nobody knows yet who's on the start list.
5:19 -- More on testing. If you're tabulating word frequencies at home, the rankings are "the", followed by "California," "blood" and "urine," in that order. Welcome to Cycling, the world's most graphic sport.
5:21 -- Rock & Republic time... quick run through the bad guys... then to cleanse the palate, it's quickly over to the Euros. Tom Boonen and Paolo Bettini! Fab Wegmann and Peter Wrolich! BTL and Tommy Voeckler coming to boost the heart rates of women on both sides of the Atlantic! Nice to see the Continental teams get equal time. Al even mentioned the NRC!
5:26 -- Oscar Freire?!? Did they mention him before while I was typing? Time to resubmit my ToC fantasy team over at DZI's site...
5:27 -- And we're out. A just-the-facts-ma'am rundown, plus syringes. I still have no idea who's coming from High Road. But I agree with the hype: the field and the course look better, which is impressive considering how well the ToC has delivered in its first two editions. Is this the year the weather turns sucky?