Category: San Francisco Grand Prix

November 22, 2005

Gain a race, lose a race

San Franscisco Grand Prix-13Q: What happens when Armstrong retires and the biggest star in your sport is no longer there to attract TV cameras?

A: The San Francisco Grand Prix is no more as the sponsor has pulled the plug.

It's hard to tell what happened as there is so much disagreement from both sides, but the facts appear to be somewhat irrelevant. Several members of SF's Board of Supervisors claimed that San Francisco Cycling hadn't paid the police bills for last year's event. San Francisco Cycling claims they received the bill one working day before the Board of Supervisors started making their charges. The same supervisors making the charges don't want the city to subsidize the costs of the annual race. Although the race is estimated to bring in $10.4 million in cycling-related tourism, some businesses are complaining that they see less business because of the closed off route. Both sides admit it was a mistake to run the race last year over the Labor Day weekend.

The SFGP was something I really looked forward to every year -- it was the driving force behind my purchase of my 70-200 camera lens. It was a chance to make what I saw on TV with the Tour de France more real. You got to see the fleet of support cars, the police clearing the streets in advance, the wind whip up as the peloton flew past, the team directors hitting the gas to slingshot their riders forward, the water bottles flying at you.

Much of that will be there for the Tour of California, but without the star power of the SFGP the scale will be much, much smaller. I love the smaller events -- there is a greater level of accessibility and less crowds to fight -- but the sports fan always wants it all.

September 6, 2005

Barclays SF Grand Prix 2005

Al, Jill, d and I went to the Barclays San Francisco Grand Prix on Sunday. There was no Armstrong this year due to retirement, but there were plenty of big names to go and watch: Basso, Hincapie, Leipheimer, Horner, and Zabriskie. Zabriskie only did a couple of laps due to prior injury to his right hand and Basso dropped out as well, but the rest raced strong.

The race was dominated by Team Discovery, which sent Michael Creed on an early breakaway as a carrot for the other riders to chase. Creed stayed away for nearly 50 miles before being caught by a breakaway that included his teammates Jason McCartney and Ryder Hesjedal, along with HealthNet's John Lieswyn. Hesjedal and Creed couldn't hold on and it was McCartney and Lieswyn that looked in control of the race. They were caught on the final lap by Gerolsteiner's Fabian Wegmann, who had tag-teammed with his teammate Andrea Molette to catch the lead pair. Wegmann had better sprinting legs and became the first non-North American to win the race.

Finishing Sprint

If you want more of a summary, I suggest reading the VeloNews article.

For all intents and purposes I had an all-access pass to this year's race. The security guards seemed not to notice me sneaking past them, though I had help from Al and Jill who had tickets into the VIP section. They fed me food from the VIP tents and we shook hands with OLN commentator Bob Roll. d and I both managed to sneak into the grandstands to watch the finishing sprint (Al scouted out the position of the guards) and then we jumped into the photographers-only area in front of the podium for the prize presentation. We then went over to the CSC tent and managed to get autographs from Dave Zabriskie, Ivan Basso, and Bjarne Riis. Al had found a wristband on the ground and decided that sending in Jill was the best strategy, which turned out beautfully. Their CSC hat has got a bunch of great signatures on it and my backpack has a left-handed Dave Zabriskie signature (his right hand is injured), which is charming in its own way.

autograph autograph hat

(note: I didn't have any photos of Basso to get autographed so I printed this one taken by Flickr user wuertele)

Partial photo listing (full photoset). d should also have photos of the event, which will hopefully be posted as well:

September 15, 2004

TMobile 2004 Photos

I got back all my photos from the T-Mobile race. Unfortunately, my first roll was ruined by stale film, but there's still more than enough photos to surf through. All the more reason for me to get a Digital Canon Rebel.

T-Mobile 2004 Photos (127 photos)

Note: none of the timestamps for the 35mm film photos are correct, though I did try to approximately place them so that the flow of the photos would be reasonable. If you're sharp enough to be able to tell the difference (hint: digital photos are blurry) then you can gauge the time correctly.

For reference, US Postal's number assignments:

12 Viatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) 13 Jose Azevedo (Por) 14 Michael Creed (USA) 15 Pavel Padrnos (Cze) 16 George Hincapie (USA) 17 Jose Rubiera (Spa) 18 Benjamin Noval (Spa)

September 12, 2004

T-Mobile International 2k4

I got in a lot of sports watching this weekend. I got to see USC beat up Colorado State 49-0, and the Redskins defense beatdown the Bucs 16-10 (the offense was a bit lacking). The biggest event of the weekend, though, was watching this year's T-Mobile International (Al and Jill came along, which was great, because I'd never been able to convince anyone to go with me before). As always, the race provided a very exciting finish.

It was a bit of the old and new in this year's race. Armstrong did not start for the first time, and the free "Go Lance!" signs were missing (sad, because I really wanted to get a 6x sign to go with my 4x and 5x signs). The US Postal merchandise tents seemed eager to be dumping old merchandise and was selling 4x and 5x champion gear at a discount.

Previous winners Chris Horner and Charles Dionne were back, but with Horner's Saturn team now defunct, and with Dionne perennially vying for a new contract every September, both were now racing for the local Webcor team.

With three laps to go, everyone (including myself) had thought that the US Olympian Jason McCartney had won it all -- he had a lead of over 4:30, which with 15 miles to go seemed unassailable. When you're watching the riders go by, a 4:30 lead seems like a gigantic distance, especially when the Muni officials are able to let six trolley cars safely cross the race course in-between the leader and the next rider.

US Postal pulled riders back from chase groups and formed an alliance with Webcor to chase McCartney down, but their coordinated pace still did not seem quick enough as McCartney took 1:30 lead into the final lap.

Horner did the pulling for Dionne, and Dionne launched a killer attack on the Taylor hill, which became McCartney's undoing. Hincapie, despite all the efforts of his US Postal teammates, didn't have it in him to give chase, and only Fred Rodriguez gave any pursuit (after wasting time trying to recruit others to help chase).

I got to see Dionne and Rodriguez come around the final bend, and the gap was simply too much to be chased down, so Dionne became the first rider to ever win the SF race twice.

I was amazed to listen to Rodriguez's interview after the race, in which he talked about his crash during the race and mentioned that after the crash he couldn't use his left leg to pedal anymore. So not only did he catch back up to the pursuit group after getting his bike replaced and seat adjusted on the fly, but he was also the only person to give chase to Dionne at the end and did so with only one leg working. It's easy to see why he's the US pro cycling champion.

Dionne repeats as T-Mobile champ

September 14, 2003

T-Mobile International

I spent all day at the T-Mobile International bike race in San Francisco. The main attractions were Armstrong, Vinokourov, Simoni, and Garzelli. However, despite all this star power (which is awesome to see in an American race), it was the local teams that came to play. Armstrong, suffering from a stomach flu, dropped out after 50 miles, and Saeco largely stayed under the radar. It did appear that Telekom was trying to do it's sponsor right and placed riders in the main breakaway groups, but Saturn managed to deliver an excellent one two punch with McCormack (current US champion) and Horner each attacking on the final laps.

Horner, who suffered a flat tire bridging up to the breakaway group, took on a tire from the Mavic neutral support car and quickly caught the leaders. McCormack then attacked, was reeled in, and then quickly followed by an attack from Horner. Horner's attack turned out to be the last as he was able to build up a sizable lead and cruise to victory. McCormack also attacked again and sat in the second place position.

US Postal managed to launch a last minute attempt by Ekimov to try and catch McCormack, but it was too little too late. Compared to last year, US Postal looked very disorganized and never controlled the pace, except for a single lap where Armstrong took control of the pace... and then promptly dropped out. With Tour riders Hincapie, Landis, CheChu, Beltran, and Heras serving duty in the Vuelta, and at least two riders (Armstrong, Padrnos, and possibly one other) dropping out, this was about all that could be expected. It was impressive to see Ekimov motoring around Embarcadero Plaza, and it's too bad that he couldn't steal the day.

- Horner and Cooke win in San Francisco (Velonews)
- Race Summary Minute-by-Minute
- cyclingnews.com Race Summary

Update: added cyclingnews summary, and I also wanted to note (now that I've watched my TiVo recording of the event) that Armstrong predicted Horner to win the race while being interviewed at the start of the race. Not bad.

September 15, 2002

San Francisco Grand Prix 2002

I'm excited - I got to see Lance Armstrong race for the first time in my life. He didn't win, but the race was still a blast and he put in a good effort. Armstrong quotes at the end of the race said that it was basically a race of attrition, and he wasn't able to put enough distance on Charles Dionne on the final hills. Lance was pretty much stunned that Dionne won the race; it was pretty much "Charles who?" IMHO, Charles Dionne cherry picked his was to the race win. I didn't see him pulling ever, though that might be my bias.

I also got to see Robin Williams. Some stupid PR person decided that it would be a good idea to give the super-rich Robin Williams a Saturn. Robin Williams responded as best he could: "[the Saturn] will go nice in my garage, and its cheap" Gary Fisher and some Olympic athletes were also there to do a quick short lap race.

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June 1, 2002

Robin Williams on the SFGP

I took viagra before the race... I should be able to race hard and long - Robin Williams, SF Grand Prix