Ekimov nears the finish-1 Zabriskie Warming Up-1 Landis Warming Up-1 Podium-1-4 Specialized Angel prays for her wings-1 Sierra Climb-1-1 Paolo Savoldelli Floyd Landis Danielson's Pass

January 31, 2007

Team Discovery roster for Tour of California

I'm countin' down the days to the Tour of California. VeloNews just posted info from Disco's training camp, including their roster for the Tour of California:

  • Leipheimer
  • Basso
  • Hincapie
  • Danielson
  • Cruz
  • Vandborg
  • Jason McCartney
  • Tomas Vaitkus

Should be awesome.

March 9, 2006

Shooting cycling photographs with a Canon Digital Rebel

Ekimov nears the finish-1It's easier to imagine that we could be like cycling photographer Graham Watson than it is to imagine we could be like Lance Armstrong. I cycle, I take photos, and I take photos of cycling. I know that I will never, ever, do a time trail at 50+km/h. I do believe that, given the exact right lighting conditions, Photoshop, and luck, that I might someday take a photo that looks indistinguishable from a professional photograph. After ten months of practicing and events, that hasn't happened yet, but the three stages of the Tour of California got me a bit closer. I haven't taken a lot of great photos, but I've made plenty of mistakes, and those perhaps are better learning experiences.

So, if you're a novice like me and have a Canon Digital Rebel 300D or similar and want to take better cycling photos with it, perhaps my guide to my mistakes here will help you out.

Continue reading "Shooting cycling photographs with a Canon Digital Rebel" »

February 28, 2006

Stage 3 autograph hunting

Before stage 3 I managed to collect some more autographs -- Julich, Landis, Zabriskie, O'Grady, Vande Velde and Voigt -- by biking over to the CSC and Phonak team cars just as they were arriving (autographed photos are in the extended entry). The only photo that wasn't my own turned out to be a terrible mistake, but one that Jens Voigt handled gracefully. All of my photos of Voigt were blurry, so I chose one from the Cervelo site, which had a nice, high quality photo labelled 'Jens Voigt.' Apparently Voigt was used to this photo because after saying, "this is so stupid," (hopefully referring to the Cervelo Web site admins) Jens nicely pointed out the 'S' on the bike (for 'Nicki Sorensen' I believe).

d asked me why I was such an autograph hunter and I gave some answer that I don't fully remember anymore, but no longer agree with. For photos and backpacks at least I think it's a chance to bind an object to a specific memory. An autograph is like a photo to me, which must make my autographs in the extended entry photos2. I don't have terrible recall for memories, so if I can get Dave Zabriskie to autograph my backpack at the SFGP so that I can glance at it and remember our adventures sneaking Jill into the CSC VIP tent on a day of fun at the SFGP, I will. Then I'll take my camera and get a shot of flowers growing out of Bjarne Riis' head and my day will be complete.

Continue reading "Stage 3 autograph hunting" »

February 27, 2006


Al made into the VeloNews Monday Mailbag:

Some friends and I went to the prologue, and couldn't wait to see the coverage on TV. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed in what I saw. At first I was pretty frustrated because of what I'm used to in OLN Tour coverage, and the WCP race DVDs I have.

But, as the race started to move over the familiar roads my friends and I ride, I began to change my mind. It finally hit me that at least there is a race, one, and two, regardless of how bad pizza is, it's still pizza. So regardless of how bad it's been. (and it seems to have steadily gotten better), I'll watch it, record it and probably watch it again when I need a cycling fix or a way to pass the time on the trainer on the one or two days it might rain here in the San Francisco Bay area in the next few months,.

If you're unhappy, get over it. The race organizers must have gotten the message by now, and are most likely taking the appropriate steps to improve the way the race will be shown on TV. Amgen has sunk a ton of dough into the title sponsorship, and I'm sure they will do whatever it takes to make sure they take the race to level of the one in Georgia to save their image and endear themselves to cyclists.

I pretty much agree. As I mentioned early, I think the coverage got a lot better. It was important to whine a little bit so that they patched things up, but now I think it's time to praise Amgen and AEG for helping to put on an awesome event, for buying eight days of ESPN2 coverage, and for giving us live video and text feeds to give us our early year cycling fix.

A friend of mine helped run the Boston Marathon site when the first started allowing you to check where an individual rider was. They ended up getting an order of magnitude more traffic than expected because of people checking to see where their friends were and had to bring a lot more servers online to cope. These first time hiccups can be hard to fully anticipate and I'm sure that next year's ToC coverage (online and on TV) will be even better.

February 26, 2006

Tour of California: Stage 7

Olaf Pollack again! Seven stages with three riders (Pollack, Haedo, Hincapie) getting two stage wins a piece. CSC and Lotto tried to get their rides up through the sprint but were outsprinted by Pollack yet again. Pollack's win came with an additional prize: the green sprinter's jersey, which he took away from Hincapie.

Navigators, Prodir, Colativa, and Kodak/Sierra Nevada put riders into an early break that got way ahead due to a crash in the field that was one of the few downpoints of the Tour -- Tom Peterson (Best Young Rider) and Sebastian Lang (yesterday's Most Aggressive Rider) were among those that got scrapped up and Lang had to abandon. The breakaway built up a lead of 7:50 before the peloton started to nail it back.

photos by Graham Watson

By all accounts, this looks like it was a very successful inaugural year. The riders were gushing in their post-stage 6 interviews, the California towns were loving the extra visitors, and the attendance may break a million, which makes for both happy organizer and happy fans. And what's not to like? It's freezing cold in Belgium, where many of the pro team teammates are off racing Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne and Omloop Het Volk, and, as Floyd Landis put it, where else can you race everyday and eat an In-n-Out burger afterwards?

Stage profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):

stage 7 profile

February 25, 2006

One more stage

Going into the final stage, which should be one for the sprinters, I thought I'd breakdown the race by team to see who will be the most motivated to pull their sprinter around the 7.65 mile circuits in Redondo Beach. My pick for most motivated: Lotto Davitamon, given Chris Horner's post-stage-5 promise: "We’ll get [Fast Freddie] a stage. We’ll help him get to the line; we’ll get him the stage win."

Teams that should be happy:

  • Phonak: 1 stage win and should win overall
  • Gerolsteiner: 1 stage win, two days in the overall lead, and King of the Mountain
  • Discovery: 2 stage wins, a day in the overall lead, and currently in the green sprinter's jersey
  • Toyota: 2 stage wins for the brand new team
  • T-Mobile: 1 stage win
  • TIAA-CREF: Best Young Rider Classification should be renamed Best TIAA-CREF Rider Classification as they occupy the top three spots.

Maybe happy:

  • CSC: should win Team classification and should take second and third in the overall. They've been sending riders on breakaways to try and get a stage win for themselves, but too many teams seem motivated to bring them back.

Teams less happy:

  • Lotto Davitamon: Fast Freddie has been close, but no cigar. The peloton also won't let Chris Horner get away and Cadel Evans is 7th overall.
  • Prodir: Ricardo Ricco and Marco Pinotti keep showing up all over breakaways and sprints, but currently nothing.
  • HealthNet: tried to setup Gord Fraser (4th in today's sprint), but nothing yet. Nathan O'Neill is currently in 5th overall.
  • Kodakgallery/Sierra Nevada: Jackson Stewart has made a good showing (Most Aggressive) and Ben Jacques-Maynes had a good breakaway on stage 2, but no stage victories.
  • Navigators
  • Credit Agricole
  • Jelly Belly
  • Colavita
  • KB Home

Tour of California link roundup

Tour of California: Stage 6

Olaf Pollack got T-Mobile on the stage winners podium as they outgunned the other sprinter teams for the finish. T-Mobile had been looking strong in the sprint setup but found themselves twice beat by Haedo. Olaf Pollack was last seen gritting his teeth as he got trounced by Haedo in stage 1, so this is sweet revenge for him. This is also T-Mobile's first victory for the season.

Stage 6 photo by Graham Watson Stage 6 photo by Graham Watson Stage 6 photo by Graham Watson Stage 6 photo by Graham Watson

photos by Graham Watson

It was almost a Gerolsteiner day from start to finish as a Rene Haselbacher of Gerolsteiner attempted a last-minute breakaway at 500m to go that was caught just before the finish line. Gerolsteiner was out to protect Levi's lead in the King of the Mountain competition and they managed to win nearly every mid-stage competition except for the first KOM climb:

  • Second KOM climb: Sven Krauss
  • Intermediate sprint: Sven Krauss (Kopp second)
  • Third KOM climb: Fabian Wegmann (Leipheimer second)
  • Fourth KOM climb: Sebastian Lang (Wegmann second)

Stage links:

Stage profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):

stage 6 profile

February 24, 2006

Tour of California: Stage 5

Hincapie again! (very similar again, in fact)

This was a fairly predictable stage. Going back to my previous entry, Voigt (CSC) did go on a breakaway along with Ekimov (Discovery), Lang (Gerolsteiner), and Reistad (Jelly Belly), but they were all caught on the final climb. Leipheimer attacked and took the KOM lead. The peloton then came back together on the descent and all of Discovery went up to the front, setting up another sprint win for Hincapie. Leipheimer's attack for the KOM points was a threat to Landis' lead, but Levi probably didn't expect to get away for the stage win (update: he didn't, but he went for it anyway... and he didn't care about the KOM points but they'll defend it now). Barring any major incident, Landis has it all wrapped up. Maybe we'll get to see Gord Fraser get a stage win or Haedo could go for a hat trick.

Photo by Graham Watson Photo by Graham Watson Photo by Graham Watson Photo by Graham Watson

photos by Graham Watson

There some rearrangement in the non-GC classifications. Hincapie took back the the green sprinter's jersey from Haedo and Leipheimer's attack on the final climb got him the KOM jersey that he wanted.

Today was the first day that I got to really try out the live coverage on the Amgen Tour of California site. Very, very nice. The live video feed wasn't working for me yesterday but it came in fairly well today, except near the end of the race, where perhaps a lot of people decided to start tuning in. Wish the Grand Tours (Giro/Vuelta/Tour) would have live video and status updates of the same caliber. It saves me from having to listen to Bob Roll mispronounce for an hour.

Stage links:

Stage profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):

stage 5 profile

Stage 5 underway

Today's the last day for anyone to make a move on Landis' lead in the overall. Phonak defended their lead well yesterday, but today's stage has a category 1 climb near the finish that provides some opportunity for separation. Discovery cracked Landis on a climb in the Tour de Georgia to wrest away the overall lead, but that was a mountaintop finish on the much more difficult Brasstown Bald. The winner of today's stage will have to descend down into Santa Barbara for the win.

The word descent always brings Paolo Savoldelli to mind and Phonak would probably let him get away without much fuss as he's not a threat for the overall. The word breakaway brings to mind Jens Voigt, who seemed to be testing his legs at the end of Stage 4 but came into training camp a little down from shoulder surgery.

As I see it, there's three ways this stage can go down. Either an early break by a non-GC threat gets away and dukes it out for victory (e.g. Savoldelli, Voigt), or CSC and Discovery try to put a ton of pressure on Landis on the final climb to see if they can eek out a minute -- not sure that Julich/Zabriskie/Hincapie have the descending skills for this -- or it all comes together for a sprint finish at the end. I'm leaning towards non-GC threat breakaway, but I certainly haven't been very good at predicting this fun Tour. At the very least I expect to see Levi fly up the final climb to see if he can jump into the KOM jersey by day's end.

February 23, 2006

Tour of California: Stage 4

Big Sur-01Haedo again! Wow, and to think that after his first victory Bob Roll was still having trouble pronouncing Haedo and now the rider has two of the five stage victories so far. I know that this is early in the season for the pro teams, but second-place Freddie Rodriguez and the other big pro sprinters have got to be feeling a little stung, especially as Haedo rode Fast Freddie's wheel to victory out of the final bend.

The live text feeds for this race were crazy to follow The hilly Pacific Coast Highway provided endless opportunities for riders to attack and there seemed to be an endless barrage of attacks. The peloton wasn't letting most of the attacks last very long, but a ten-man breakaway managed to sneak away that was whittled down to a two man break of Discovery's Gusev and Navigators' Chadwick. It was Toyota and CSC that reeled in Gusev and Chadwick with about 6km to go so that their sprinters would have a chance -- Toyota's effort was the most rewarded. A partial list of riders who attempted a breakaway includes: Horner, O'Grady, Barry, Danielson, Voigt, Raisin, Creed, Bak, Zampieri, Savoldelli, Pinotti, McCormack, Ekimov, Kreipel, Gusev, Chadwick, Lewis, Johnson, Frattini, and Marino. Don't even ask me to count how many breakaways there were.

Photo by Graham Watson Photo by Graham Watson Photo by Graham Watson Photo by Graham Watson
photos by Graham Watson

The race organizers definitely didn't expect the queen stage of this Tour to be so fast. The official site lists the finish ETA at 3:22-4:19 PM. The actual finish time was about 3:10, which is a screaming pace (25mph) for such a long and undulating stage. Apparently the Broom Wagon collecting riders abandoning got full enough that it had to dump riders off at a feed point.

In the stages mini-KOM battle, Leipheimer outbattled Kohl for the first KOM point, which may mean that Levi is interested in walking away with a KOM jersey before all is said and done. Levi gained one point on Kohl and is now trailing 20-15.

CSC has three stages left to pull something off. CSC rider Lars Bak was voted Most Aggressive for his presence in five breakaway attempts, but Chris Horner's presence ruined the break with the best chance. CSC also did a lot of work up front near the end protecting Julich/Zabriskie and trying to setup Stuart O'Grady for the sprint, but was unable to place.

Stage links:

Stage profile (from offical Amgen Tour of California Site):

stage 4 profile

February 22, 2006

Personal Tour of California coverage concludes

I feel lucky that I was able to see three Tour of California stages in person. President's Day bought some additional flexibility in rearranging my work schedule, but three appears to the be the max it will give. I was surprised by the big crowds even on the weekday stages, which bodes well for future Tours. The most rewarding day was definitely riding with the biker's pilgrammage up Sierra Road, cheering with the crowds as Levi broke the race apart, zooming down the hill at 30-40mph on my bike, watching riders pass by again at the bottom of the hill, and then careening in a car over to downtown San Jose to watch the podium presentation. Time trials are great for photography, but strategy, attacking, and big climbs are why I love cycling and there's nothing like being able to experience the pain of ascending and thrill of descending in person.

The reward of Sierra road is paralleled by my disappointment in ESPN2. I finally had the chance to watch the Stage 2 coverage and saw a race removed of its heart. If I was an ESPN director and looked at the stage 2 profile, saw a really big hill at the end, a hill considered one of the decisive factors in the entire Tour, I think I would show riders going over that hill. There are no screenshots of me on TV, because there was no coverage from the top of the climb. If you were watching on TV, what you saw was:

  1. Michael Creed's being caught halfway up Sierra Road
  2. Commercial break
  3. Levi/Landis/Kohl descending from the mountain, with a quick explanation that the entire peloton broke apart

I know that they have footage from the top because, in addition to the six helicopters I saw hovering over my head filming it all, there was a split-second clip of Levi and Kohl at the top in the ending montage. I hope there is a DVD of this someday, otherwise a lot of cycling fans missed a great attack by Levi. I also hope there will be a DVD because I am not very confident that ESPN2 will do the remaining stages justice and I might find myself reading the VeloNews and CyclingNews live update feeds rather than trying to watch poorly produced video programming.

I'll keep updating here with stage summaries culled from the various sources I can find. Technorati wasn't pointing me to any other Tour of California blogs, but I just found out about Sharkspage, which has some great photos from the stages so far and is doing a good job of finding some of the ToC out on the Web. Flickr has also recorded 2273 photos tagged 'tourofcalifornia' so far, including great ones by bigempty and mnorri. Finally, there's always VeloNews, CyclingNews, and the Official Amgen Tour of California Site, all guaranteed to be of higher quality than ESPN2 coverage.


With three stages of photos under my belt, I now feel comfortable asking, what is up with Jason McCartney's mouth? (left: stage 3, right: prologue)

Jason McCartney nears the finish-1 Jason McCartney

If you zoom in on the first image you can see that it's even on his knee...

Tour of California: Stage 3

Landis Warming Up-1 Landis Approaching the Finish Line-1 Landis, Julich, Zabriskie, Tour of California Podium

The stage 3 time trial was a thrill. Fabian Cancellara, Vladimir Gusev, and Nathan O'Neill set the big times on the day before the final flight of main contenders. O'Neill was the one who showed that the 37-minute barrier could be broken with his time of 36:55. These times were a lot slower than expected, which can be attributed to a big headwind and yesterday's grueling Sierra Road climb.

Jens Voigt Approaching the First Climb-1 Vladimir Gusev Near the Finish-1 Stage 3-01

The first of the main contenders to get things roarding was Dave Zabriskie, who got the crowd charged as the announcer shouted out that DZ had the fastest time by 31 seconds. With that margin I thought for sure that my pick for the stage winner (DZ, of course) was solid, but then Floyd Landis came screaming in 26 seconds faster -- the first (and only) run to break the 36-minute barrier. Landis' margin was so big that the remaining contenders were losing with 1km to go: Julich, Leipheimer, Hincapie. Julich was following the curb so close that I didn't even see him until the last second, but those extra road savings weren't enough. Hincapie had a huge press fleet of cars following him, but nothing ahead to stop the wind.

Chris Horner nears the finish-1 Hincapie on final approach-1

Floyd Landis' 29-second lead in the overall is large enough that his fellow riders don't seem to think there is much chance left as there remaining stages aren't challenging enough to produce big gaps. Landis has looked strong in every stage so far, so even on a tough stage it seems doubtful that he'd be caught out. The only chance I see is taking advantage of the weaker Phonak team. A lack of teammates cost Leipheimer on stage 2. CSC or Discovery could use their deep rosters to really challenge Landis much like Discovery did in the Tour de Georgia when they launched Danielson to victory. At the very least, CSC needs some sort of victory to take away from this inaugural event: Gerolsteiner, Discovery, and Phonak already have had their stage wins and leader's jerseys.

Ekimov isn't competing for the overall, but I like this photo enough that I'm just going to paste it here:

Ekimov nears the finish-1

Read on for a photo summary of my day at Stage 3.

Continue reading "Tour of California: Stage 3" »

February 21, 2006

Tomorrow's Tour of California Stage 3

Al and I will be heading down to South San Jose to watch the individual time trial. There's a big initial climb, but the latter part of the course looks like a runway. My prediction, not having made any so far, is that Zabriskie will take the overall lead tomorrow. Zabriskie has been in pretty good form but has had trouble controlling his equipment: at the beginning of the prologue climb he had shifting problems that may have cost him the win; during the Sierra Road climb of stage 2 he pulled out of his pedal and couldn't catch back up with Leipheimer.

Stage profile (from Amgen Tour of California site):

Tour of California: Stage 2

Sierra Climb-1-1

Hincapie in the Leader's JerseyStage 2 was as big as it was supposed to be, with George Hincapie taking the stage win and overall lead. Those of us who watched from the top of Sierra Road thought that Levi Leipheimer had the advantage and would protect his jersey. Leipheimer, Landis, and Kohl were over the top first, with a long string of riders behind them. Cycling is a team sport, though, and it was the combined might of Discovery that won out. Michael Barry and Jason McCartney pulled Hincapie over the top and on the descent they managed to link up with Tom Danielson, who was in front of them. A nineteen-man group formed that was able to slowly reel in Leipheimer, Landis, and Kohl. Michael Barry launched George Hincapie across the finish line for first place. Chris Horner followed in second, later saying that he didn't realize that he had a teammate on his wheel to help out. CSC had Zabriskie, Julich, and Vande Velde in the same group, but none were capable of outsprinting Hincapie and the various breakaway attempts on the final stretch failed.

Part of me was cheering for Ben Jacques-Maynes, a local Kodak rider who had his eyes set on the San Jose stages. He made a go of it with a three-man breakaway with Michael Creed and Mads Kaggestad, but Gerolsteiner was able to reel them in on the Sierra Road climb.

Podium-1-3 Hincapie Points Kohl KOM

Video (shot by Al at 200m from the summit):

The thing to note from these videos is that Levi had no teammates closeby, Hincapie had three immediate teammates and two more not too far behind.

Stage links:

Stage Profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):

Read on for a personal account of the race from the top of Sierra Road down to the bottom and then over to the podium presentation, as well as personal photos from the race.

Continue reading "Tour of California: Stage 2" »

February 20, 2006

We're on ESPN2

offtopicartisan and Al told me to watch the ESPN2 coverage of the Prologue carefully. It looks like our position on the course was good for more than just great views (hint: I'm the one with the giant camera):

us on TV us on TV

FYI: the guy with the beige hat sitting on the course in front of us is photographer Casey Gibson, so his prologue shots on VeloNews are like having our own pro photographer to document our point of view.

Tour of California: Stage 1

Haedo wins

all photos by Graham Watson

The collective wisdom today was that today would be a finish for sprinter's and that Freddie Rodriguez would make a go of it. The pre-race analysis was correct, but I don't think anyone put Juan Jose Haedo of Toyota on their short list of potential winners. The sprint setup was led by Fast Freddie's Lotto Davitamon team, which couldn't keep the pace fast enough. T-Mobile took over going into the final bends and seemed to have the advantage, but, as the sprinters emerged from the small dip before the finish, it was Haedo who was far in front of the rest of the pack and took the win easily (online video ). T-Mobile's Davis took a distant second and CSC's Stuart O'Grady third. Toyota is a brand new team and this is a very big first victory.

graham watson photo graham watson photo graham watson photo

Kodak's Jackson Stewart made a go of it today. Stewart's name was already getting ingrained in my head as he was the first rider up the hill during the prologue and also one of the two Kodak/Sierra Nevada riders that was at the introduction of the San Jose stage routes. Stewart and Jean Marc Marino of Credit Agricole broke away from the pack today and built up a lead of over three minutes. Discovery's Gusev and McCartney attacked the peloton on the final climb before Santa Rosa, which pretty much spelled the end of Stewart's/Marino's breakaway as their lead was slashed. Stewart and Marino were caught as the peloton reached Santa Rosa.

If it's any sign of the popularity of the Tour of California, I'll note that both CyclingNews and Amgen's official Tour site had trouble keeping their live update feeds running. Amgen's site was completely knocked out and CyclingNews was up and down. The crowds were reportedly huge in Levi Leipheimer's hometown of Santa Rosa -- possibly in the 30,000-50,000 range -- and Leipheimer's home crowd got to see him don the leader's jersey for another day as he was able to finish with the pack and maintain his overall lead.

No Flickr photos from me for this stage. I had to pass on this stage as four hours of driving for a probable sprint finish was a bit too much and I'm already taking time off work to watch Stage 2 and 3 in person.

February 19, 2006

Favorite prologue photo

Dave Zabriskie getting some private warm up time:


photo by frenquency

bigempty also has some excellent photos from the prologue finish

Stage 2/Sierra Road info

stage 2 profile

Al tracked down some info on spectating along Sierra Road, which is the site of the Tour of California's first big category 1 climb:

  • there is no public car parking along Sierra Road
  • Sierra Road will be closed to car traffic beginning at 9am on Tuesday
  • bicycle traffic will be allowed until 15 minutes before the racers arrive
  • There are several places where you can park near the bottom of the hill and there is also a light rail station nearby.

It would appear that Al and I will be testing our own legs in ascending the climbs ourselves. My photos will be evidence of how far we make it up. The official Stage 2 info page estimates the actual arrival time on Sierra Road between 1:45 and 2:13PMm, with the San Jose finish about 40 minutes after that.

One final note from the prologue

I love my photo printer. Printing my own photos is fun, but what is also fun is downloading hi-res press photos and getting them autographed at events. After today's prologue, I wandered to the top of the hill and managed to stand right where Levi Leipheimer decided he was going to walk. The result:

Leipheimer autograph

I just need to work on the sharpie. I've used similar techniques with a Flickr photo to get Ivan Basso's autograph and my own photo photo to get Dave Zabriskie's autograph.

Tour of California: San Francisco Prologue

Levi Leipheimer Tour of California Levi Leipheimer Post-Race Tour of California

Coit TowerThe prologue was so much fun to watch. We got a great spot on the final bend going to the finish line and go to see all of the pros warming up. Jackson Stewart's opening time of 5'38" made us wonder how long it would be before the magical five-minute-barrier would be broken. Discovery's Old Man Ekimov was the first to really start pushing the barrier by setting a time of 5'14" for the rest of his teammates to follow. Ekimov's time didn't last very long, but it was Tour-de-France-Prologue-Winner Fabian Cancellara who really set the next standard with an impressive 5'03". Discovery's Jason McCartney quickly followed up with a slightly slower 5'03" and it seemed that the five-minute barrier could be breached at any moment.

Ekimov 2 Jason McCartney

We had to wait quite a bit of time. It seemed that the major teams sent some of their fast men (Ekimov, Cancellara) early to set a good pace for the rest of the team, but the middle part of the race was filled with 5'10"s. The most exciting event of the middle part was when Olivier Kaisen came around the bend. The riders started at one minute intervals and every time a rider approached the crowd would begin to cheer. You could use the gap between cheers to estimate how fast a rider had gone through the course. As Kaisen started to pass, a second, louder cheer started coming from just around the bend. Discovery's young hope Tom Danielson came zooming around the corner and passed Kaisen at the finish line:

Tom Danielson Danielson's Pass-2 Danielson's Pass-3 Danielson's Pass-4 Danielson's Pass-5

We settled back down again for awhile until we heard the news that Bobby Julich was on the course. The roar from around the bend as Julich approached was awesome and his time earned every bit of it: 4'58.19. I keep telling myself that my Bobby J and Cancellara photos are so blurry because they were so much faster.

Bobby Julich

The final part of the race was big rider after big rider also trying to break the five-minute barrier and Julich's time. Giro di Italia champion Paolo Savoldelli (5'04.83), Floyd Landis (4'59.55), Dave Zabriskie (5'02), Cadel Evans (5'05), George Hincapie (4'59.11). (update: in the prologue video, you can see Zabriskie having shifting problems at the start of the Coit Tower ascent, which certainly cost him valuable time).

Paolo Savoldelli Floyd Landis Cadel Evans George Hincapie

Al and I started talking at this point after watching big name after big name fail to beat Julich's time. Simoni, Leipheimer, and Rogers were the only big riders left of note. I put my money on Levi as the only rider left that could beat Bobby J's, but I didn't really believe it.

Leipheimer Climbs to the FinishEven with big name after big name, the crowd roar for Levi can be called huge. Leipheimer came flying up the final leg (video), so much faster than we had seen anyone else finish. His final time of 4'53.43 clobbered everyone else's efforts, and neither Simoni nor Rogers were even close.

Stage links:

Photo sets:

Stage profile (from official Amgen Tour of California site):

prologue profile

February 15, 2006

Tour of California roster released

tour of californiaThe Tour of California roster has been released and it looks pretty spectacular:Julich, Voigt, Zabriskie, Landis, Evans, Horner, Rodriguez, Leipheimer, Simoni, Savoldelli, Danielson, Hincapie, and more. VeloNews has interviews with Leipheimer and Landis that discuss their Tour of California and season plans.

January 18, 2006

Tour of California Full Route Announced

Tour of CaliforniaThe full route and maps are available on the Tour of California site. They include departure times, estimated arrival times, elevation profiles, and both Google Maps and pdf versions of the road route. Stage 5 goes through Solvang, where both Discovery and CSC are training. It should be a good test of who knows the Cat 1 San Marco Pass better. If work dies down a bit I may just have to road trip down, but if not I'll have to be content with the Cat 1 climb up Sierra Road in San Jose for Stage 2.

January 16, 2006

Tour of California update

Tour of CaliforniaAl and I went to the Tour of California Stage 2/3 route announcement at the San Jose City Hall Rotunda. There was a lot of speeches for very, very little information, but it looks like the best place to grab a spot for stage 2 will be on Sierra Rd. I've driven up Sierra Rd before and it's steep. I'm hoping to catch the riders climbing up that, then hop in my car and make it to downtown San Jose for the finish. It's hard to tell if this is possible. Despite all the speechifying about wanting lots of spectators, they didn't give out any information about estimated arrival times, instructions on when the roads would be closed off, or where the good lookout areas are.

Stage 3 is a bit easier to figure out. The riders will start on Bailey Ave and do a 17 mile loop consisting of McKean Rd, Uvas Rd, Oak Glen Ave, Willow Springs Rd, Hale Ave, and Santa Teresa Ave, ending at Los Paseos Park. I'm hoping to watch riders going up the McKean Rd. hill and then darting over to the finish line. The area is pretty darn remote (near IBM Almaden/Bernal Rd), so there may not be enough road to cut between different parts of the course.

They said to expect another big announcement in a week or so, presumably another major team that's entering. Last week, CSC announced they would be racing with Zabriskie, Julich, and Vande Velde. Gerolsteiner, Discovery, T-Mobile, Phonak, Saunier Duval-Prodir, and Lotto have also been announced, so the field already looks to be really good.

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.