Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tour of Cali Comes to the 'Hood!

Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California steamrolled into my neck 'o the woods yesterday -- Merced to Clovis! That 100+ peloton of spandex-clad national and international cycling superstars rode right over the same roads I've been training and riding on for 9 years now...up around Oakhurst, down Walker Grade, by Millerton Lake, down Broken Bridge, over Friant, to Copper/Willow, and into downtown Clovis. Where they were warmly greeted by me....and bazillions of other adoring fans.
Denise and I rode our bikes to the finish area, locked 'em up, and proceeded to walk around for a few hours before their anticipated arrival time. ESPN radio was there...
...and look who their announcers were!!!
None other than Dr. Felicia Gomez -- friend, colleague, and former pro racer for Aaron's, Webcor Builders, and the Canadian National Team (and who sold me one of her super cool racer-chick bikes recently!).
And Tim Loper, husband of friend and Velo Bella teammate, Tracy. How cool is that?!!
Of course, every person in the Central Valley who rides a bike was there, so I ran into lots of old friends. Here, I'm with (l to r) Terry, Rhonda, Lourie, and Denise. With the exception of Rhonda, we all started riding together about 9 years ago with the inaugural Team in Training program.
New Bella Brittany joined us, too, and we stopped by the "Got Milk?" booth for a little photo op....look closely for our mustaches.
And then I ran into Barb and Chris Grealish, friends from Boulder, who are traveling with the Garmin/Slipstream team this week as their chefs. Chris liked the Rabobank armored truck, so that's where we did out photo shoot. In the evening once they'd fed their Garmin boys, I hung out with them in the motor home they cook out of -- and Barb made me one of the chicken and sweet potato tacos she'd just fed the racers. Dee-lish, and I've got the recipe now to prove it.
The crowds were great, and we hung out at the finish line. Being the shortie that I am, though, as people packed in, I couldn't see a darned thing -- not even the Jumbotron. I had my media pass in my backpack, but didn't think it'd be cool to use it when I wasn't working...perhaps I shouldn't be so ethical. Ah, well, still too much fun, as the energy of the crowd gets you going.
Just like at the Tour de France, you know the racers are coming when you hear the helicopters...
...and the stage podium: Mark Cavendish took the sprint (who else?!), Tom Boonen nipped second, and JJ Haedo was third. Note the cowboy hat on Cav's head...a little Clovis touch.
And Ty Hamilton took the "Breakaway for Cancer" jersey -- essentially the most aggressive jersey -- as he initiated a three-man break that was out all day until they got caught in the last mile or so. Was great to see him there, and poignant since his mom is battling breast cancer currently. He threw his baseball hat and his cowboy hat out into the crowd -- Ty is a really good guy. Plain and simple.

And having the Tour of Cali fly through my backyard?!! Priceless.

Stay tuned, as I'm trying to make arrangements to hit the last stage in Escondido....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Training Camp, Stage 2 -- Tour of Cali Women's Crit

I'm afraid that I've neglected my blog for Facebook once again, and have put up a large photo album, complete with captions, am now out of time -- MUST GET SLEEP! -- to do a reasonable blog entry. But, thought I'd slap up the link to my VeloNews article, as it's already up, complete with some of my snaps!

And share just a few highlights:

*Getting an official Tour of California media pass -- backstage access, baby! (Am I a total bike dork, or what?!)

*Writing my article in the luxury of the Tour of California press center at the Hyatt...snacks,
video feed of the men's race, zillions of journalists and photogs from around the world, and
JUST THREE TABLES BACK FROM GRAHAM WATSON!!! Really, I'm such a bike geek...

*Seeing people out in DROVES to watch the women's race, even with terrible weather

*Getting a note on my Facebook wall from Kat Carroll, now of Team Tibco and also a US
National Team member, thanking me for the "great coverage" this weekend.

*Talking at length to Bob Stapleton, owner of Team Columbia-High Road about his team. His
passion and high regard for this sport and his racers is humbling.

*Talking at length to the director of the women's race, Laura Charameda, who definitely is an
effective ambassador for women's cycling.

*Getting a "Nice article!" from Value Act Capital Lisa "the Huntress" Hunt when she spotted
my story up before I did.

*And of course, arriving home to the MANSION to a very warm welcome from the women of
Value Act Capital, who were in the middle of their team meeting.

As friend Sherry Clark wrote on my Facebook page tonight...I have the "best faux job in the world!" Or did she say "coolest"? Either way, 'nuf said.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Training Camp, Stage 1

Ahhh, a day in the life of a professional women's cycling team -- at training camp.

Morning photo shoot.

Time for silly-ness, as team director Lisa Hunt poses with a piece of artwork to replicate a retro Coppertone ad.
Time for the sponsor-inspired artsy shot.
An afternoon ride in the rain. And the sun. And the wind. And the rain. And some more rain.
I drove the "follow-car" and carried extra clothes because of that rain.
Evening team meeting to discuss team strategy for the next day's race. I'd share it here, but have been sworn to secrecy.
After dinner, a tire clinic from team sponsor Michelin reps, Ralph and Monica. You have no idea how fascinating the Michelin man Monica shared with us, he's over 100 years old, started as a smoker, drinker, womanizer, and was overweight, and has now gotten off cigarettes with the patch, stopped drinking, taken diversity training, and slimmed down substantially in the 90's "health boom."
Ralph taught the women of VAC some great tips for mounting new tires on wheels.

Day over, everyone's off to sleep to rest up for the Amgen Tour of California Women's Criterium in Santa Rosa tomorrow. Life is good.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

ValueAct Capital

Am off to VAC's training camp in Healdsburg right after work tomorrow -- whoot! Will hang with the ladies of ValueAct Capital (and the pic above is from a past season, so there'll be new ones soon) for three days as well as cover the Amgen Tour of California Women's Criterium in Santa Rosa on Sunday. All for Check it out! Women's racing rocks!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hot Koalas

Kirsten -- friend from Bridgeport -- has been living Down Under for some time now, as her beau is from there. She just sent these pics of thirsty koalas shot during the crazy heat wave Australia's been having. Cute, but a little scary that the furry little guys are so desperate for water!

And this little guy looks just like I do at the end of my work days lately....

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Yosemite Snowshoeing

Now in my tenth year of living in Fresno, I FINALLY made it into Yosemite to do some snowshoeing! Having grown up on the east side, we didn't have access in winter, as Tioga Pass would close at the first sign of snow. Last Sunday, friend and colleague (he's an ag econ prof at Fresno State), Dwight, organized a snowshoeing trip with a few friends, and invited me along.

This is a snap of part of the group taking stock of our gear once we arrived at the trailhead to Dewey Pass, which is actually the parking lot of the Badger Pass Ski Area in the park. As you can see, not much snow....but enough for us to tromp around on for a bit. Well, 10 miles.
Is Dean a giant, or is this igloo by the trail really tiny?...
We followed signs like this yellow one to Dewey Point. Many of the trees were covered, like this one, with bright green lichen. If I've spelled that wrong, or even called it by the wrong name, please feel free to correct!
We reached Dewey Point right about lunch time, and enjoyed our lunches with this view in one direction -- note Half Dome in the righthand side of the frame.
And this was the view right in front of us -- we were even with the top of El Capitan! Of course, since I've only driven below El Cap on the Valley floor, I wasn't even sure that's what this was initially, as it looks so different from this perspective. But amazingly majestic still, of course.Of course, the incredible weather brought out others, too, so we found a nice couple from the Bay Area to snap our group's pic at Dewey Point. Left to right: Janice (an econ prof), Dwight, Dean (friend Lizhu's husband), me with gloriously windblown hair, and Leslie (Dwight's girlfriend and a school librarian).
Then we looped back down, and in the last few miles, went through a beautiful flat meadow.
I don't have professional photography equipment, obviously, but it had been so warm for so many days that the snow in this meadow was in the form of very big fragile crystals. Beautiful.
And those trees...breathtaking.
Fingers crossed that we'll get more snow -- of course, we really need it for bigger reasons than my wanting to snowshoe some more, but the additional snowshoeing will certainly be a bonus!