Astana Camp II

Astana Camp-55

Astana Camp-14I woke up at 5am this morning to head up to Santa Rosa and shoot the Astana team training camp. Levi has been choosing the routes as its his home turf and today he selected a six-hour route for the"Queen Stage" of the training camp. Levi's BMC pal Scott Nydam even showed up -- a little late, so he had to draft up to the group using Liz Kreutz's moto. Casey Gibson was also out on moto today. Graham Watson was on scene but I think he may have stayed in, having just flown in from the still-in-progress Tour of Qatar (now that's a pro schedule).

They rode up northwest from Santa Rosa, down to the coast on Meyers Grade, and then back to Santa Rosa via Coleman Valley. I joked that Levi was punishing the media by choosing a course with virtually no passing opportunities for the official media day. Then again, the coast was absolutely gorgeous with giant twisty descents, so we were well rewarded with the few photo opportunities we had -- about six photo ops for the entire six hours, barely better than an actual stage race.

I rode mostly in the back of a pickup truck driven by Phil from Road Bike Action. It's thanks to his bold driving that we had as many photo ops as we did. I learned that shooting from the back of a pickup truck can be tougher than shooting from a moto, even if it's more comfortable. The bed vibrates and bounces quite a lot, especially on bumpy country-side roads. I had to shoot at 1/1000th to avoid camera shake and still lost photos to busted compositions or focus issues.

Astana Camp-60The group seemed to stick together for most of the ride. The big attack came on Coleman Valley. We weren't far behind, yet the group was already shattered by the time we first got a glimpse of them. Lance, Levi, and Contador were already way up the climb. Apparently Contador won the climb, but only by seconds. So yeah, Armstrong's fit.

Astana Camp-2Even if it was Levi's turf and even with Grand Tour Triple Crowner Contador in the house, it was hard not to feel that everything revolved around Armstrong. Perhaps it was the bright yellow kit that made Armstrong impossible to miss in any photo. Or maybe it was his custom-painted bike put out for display (different from the Tour Down Under Bike). But it probably wouldn't matter if he rode with a bandanna-mask like Contador and rode in the middle of the pack. It's Lance Armstrong and he's back.

Astana Camp-36

Astana Camp-8

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Comments (1)

MB:

Dig the vineyard shot.

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