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....