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ATOC Prologue Report...

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Well, I drove up to the grandparents yesterday through what passes for biblical weather in Southern California (in the rest of the world I believe it's referred to as a "mid-afternoon inconvenience).  As Gavia promised, the Grapevine (the main pass in to and out of the Los Angeles basin for those of you not from Cali) was covered in snow along all the eastern slopes from a blizzard that had passed through.  The result being that I didn't actually arrive until about 11PM last night.

No worries though as I didn't have to get to Sacramento until about 11 this morning for the festivities to begin.

This is Interstate 5 near Frazier Mt. Park.

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While there was pretty miserable weather that had the potential to rain things out, it managed to hold off until the very end, with only the last three or four riders coming through with sprinkles.  The Capitol building was gleeming as white as our governors teeth for the majority of the time.

I drove out to the light rail system past Sac and then took the Blue Line in to avoid all the traffic closures.  It dropped me off about six blocks north of where the "Festival" was.

What a major disappointment that "festival" was.  I mean I was expecting a couple of cycling related booths, an Amgen tent maybe, kettle corn, cotton candy, hot dogs, beer, something.  It was a freakin' bicycle trade show.  I know, I know, I'm in the minority here thinking that it was a major waste of space, but I was hoping for something more festive than a bunch of booths with people handing out business cards.

So it was that I avoided the entire festival area as much as possible and went to go see people actually USING the equipment rather than just hawking it.  The team RVs for Astana and Jelly Belly were parked next to each other and it was a MASSIVE spectacle watching the difference between the two.  One had tumbleweeds blowing around it... the other you would have thought they had an albino gorilla on display... it was a freakshow!

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A little bit of hard looking and searching did yield at least one familiar rider without a crowd mouth breathing in front of him...

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After wandering about the team buses we still had some time to kill so we went off in search of a place to grab some food and drink.  On the way past the finish line, I was accosted by a travel group of Armstrong Hare Krishnas Livestrong PR people that pressed gigantic pieces of yellow chalk into my hand.  People were scribbling "HOPE" and "LIVESTRONG" onto the pavement so I responded in the only possible way I thought was appropriate...

 

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Had I had more time to think (and more chalk) I would have written "WHY DO YOU LOVE CANCER JIMBO" and "SHUT THE F*CK UP DONNY" too.

Having marked the territory exclusively for PodiumCafe, it was lunch time.  We went to a place called "Grange" in a hotel somewhere northish of the race course for a magnificent bottle of wine and a pretty decent meal.  Really besides the wine, the best thing was the Bretagne restaurant manager that spent a good twenty to thirty minutes explaining a set of sommelier training perfumes he had and how badly he wished that I would educate myself similarly.  Seriously guy, I'm already teaching myself the difference between Baroque and Classical music ... I don't have time to understand why soil imparts a chickory bouquet to a Medoc.

 

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Finishing up with lunch, I realized we were going to be too late to see Jens! which bummed me out a little.  Nevertheless, I was far from disappointed at seeing my first race up close and in the flesh.  Getting to the course a little later than everyone else meant all the primo places were already taken so I took up a spot after the finish line where I could see the finish gate, see the crowd go wild as the rider headed to the checkered flag, see the team car peel off, and then the rider would come past on the slow down roll that you always see them taking. 

The wide open casualness of it shocks me, completely.  The closest I've ever gotten to a professional athlete is Spring Training.  As soon as these guys are off the course, it seems that much of the swagger of their stature dissappates and the next thing you know, Levi Leipheimer is rolling buy you on a $20,000 bicycle with jeans and a sweatshirt on.  Bizarre.

Anyway, there I was... after the finish... looking like I had my racing form for handicapping purposes...  If Ruthann hadn't posted up the rider numbers, I'd have been totally lost.

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Here's a couple of shots I got that actually turned out semi-decent.  I had totally the wrong gear along for this sort of thing...

 

Tommeke...

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Floyd...

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Apparently, Big George got screwed with a mechanical (flatted?) and when he came through the finish, he was definately not pleased.  When Fabian Cancellara blew across the line he just kept going and going like a Swiss Bunny he had so much kinetic energy in him.  George though... he came across the line and boom... done. 

 

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And of course, the rider that everyone was there to see and no one could stop talking about...

Levi Leipheimer...

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(Ok, you all know that I'm the ghey-for-armstrong-trekki-disco-fanboy [well, me and Will].  Count me officially sick of the Lance hooplah already.  Great for cycling... fine... great for the fight against cancer... super... but man, it's ponderous.)

So, the weather tomorrow is supposed to be brutal.  40 degree temperatures, 45mph wind gusts... rain, hail and even a small chance of snow.  My grandparents have the heater going though and it's nice and toasty here with my beloved Don Julio.

G'night all...