Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ivy's League

The Rock Racing Girls created quite a buzz when they took over duties as Podium Presenters. In previous years, the presenters were quite conservative, refined; I'd say Wimbledon-esque. The Rock Racing Podium Girls were ALL Hollywood. It was a huge change, and people had their opinions about it. I know I did. They exuded "attitude" and appeared to be more into the too-cool-for-words image of Rock and Roll Runway eye candy than anything else, and they didn't appear to be appreciating our scene. As a cyclist, that hurts.
At Palo Alto, they stumbled through the jersey presentation which, to us in the cycling world, came across as disrespectful.
But then in Santa Rosa and later Sacramento, I noticed a change. Not only were they getting their on-stage performance dialed in; they were also smiling at the right times during the presentation. It's like that cruise ship commercial in which the teenage kid never smiles because she hates her parents, but then she cracks and starts to have fun.
I believe I detected the beginning of the transformation that we've seen before: people coming into our sport disaffected only to get hooked like a Halibut.
So I asked one of them about it.

OK, so it's not Hemingway or Chaucer. But it's a start.
I fully envision Ivy spending her entire paycheck on a tricked out Colnago and then making up excuses as to why she's unable to work next weekend.
Of course, I envision more than that, but do I really need to go into all of it?

Keeping Track

The previous post showed the Mobile P.A. car. This photo shows how I keep track of what was going on in the race so that I'd know what to say when we encountered spectators. (And let me tell you, the Tour of California had a gazillion spectators!) (I round up.)
Now, it may look like a mess to YOU, but it's completely clear to me.
In the breakaway, we had Jason McCartney from CSC, Rory Southerland from Healthnet presented by Maxxis, Taylor Tolleson from BMC, Oliver Zaugg from Gerolsteiner, Yannick Talarbardon from Credit Agricole, Dimitri Champion from Buoygue Telecom, George Hincapie from Team High Road, Danny Pate from Slipstream Chipotle, Tom Zirbel from BISSELL, and Michael Creed from Rock Racing. And they had a 3:15 second advantage over the field.
Now the white board sits waiting for the trip to Georgia.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Office

Just a quick look at the car (and set-up) that we drove at the AToC last week. This is more for the benefit of my co-workers who just can't figure out what I'm talking when I try to explain my two week absence. "You did what?"
I normally start by referencing the scene from the Blues Brothers in which they're trying to fill an arena for their benefit concert. ("Hey! You on the beach!") When that explanation fails, I need a visual. Thus, this.

Our vehicle in Georgia will be shrink-wrapped in the United Community Bank colors. And I'm certain that the Tour of California will recognize the attention-getting power of this vehicle next year and will wrap it in something appropriate.
I'll let you suggest some possible sponsors for it. Keep them clean.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

King for a Day

If you're a domestique rider, you spend your entire career living in support of your team leaders. The higher your number in the team sequence, the lower stature you enjoy. The team leader is always number 1, therefore, on the QuickStep team, 2x world champion Paolo Bettini is number 21. So of course, my post today deals with number 28, the support rider named Jurgen Vandewalle.
In the stage (#4) from Seaside to San Luis Obispo, he had a flat tire. Normally, he'd be on his own to get it fixed and find his way back to the bunch. But since he was higher in the standings than any of his teammates, something strange happened: Former world Champion Tom Boonen and Current World Champion Paolo Bettini immediately stopped and waited for him to get his wheel change. Then they paced him back to the front group.
During the race, I'm told that Jurgen was overcome by emotion at the gesture by Boonen and Bettini. Since my access is a little less immediate than the credentialed media, I had to wait a couple of days to get this soundbite.
Here's what he had to say this morning.

Cool story.

Cub Reporter Poses Threat to My Career.

Check out this up-and-comer bike race announcer from Solvang interviewing Bobby Julich prior to the Solvang Time Trial!
Sorry for the poor audio, but there was a crowd, and I'm shooting this with a tiny Nikon PhD camera. (PhD stands for "Press here, Dummy")

I figure I have one or two more years before this phenom comes up and pushes me into retirement.

Friday, February 22, 2008

About Photography

It's hard to shoot bike races and not have them all look the same. VeloNews' Casey Gibson is one of the best in the biz, and his photos are amazing. I caught up to CG before Wednesday's start in Modesto and asked him whatever I could think of.

You can check out more of his work at his website. And find a gallery or two at
He earned his bad-hombre status yesterday by sitting on the back of a motorcycle for >7 hours in the cold driving rain during Stage 4 coming down Route 1. He will likely finish thawing out sometime in May.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An interview with Frank Pipp

The headlines carry stories of the winners, but I'm more interested in the non-climbers in the back who are racing to beat the time cut and avoid elimination from the remainder of the race.
Yesterday's stage went up a wall of Mt. Hamilton. It was the toughest stage (on paper) for this year's tour. (I say "on paper" because today's stage was actually more grueling due to the enormous headwind. More about that later, though.)
I asked Frank about the climb, and how a former criterium specialist would make it through such a monster stage.

Some good insight there from one of the nicest guys in the peloton.
By the way, the descent off Mt. Ham was as insane as your can possibly imagine. It was twisty and winding for about 15 miles. Uncomfirmed reports were floating around regarding air sickness bags in the VIP cars. I'll check into that. And I'll post a video of us trailing a CHP down the hill with howling tires. It was a b-l-a-s-t.

Tour Radio from Sierra Road

Here's some audio from yesterday! Only available by clicking here.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

AToC tidbits

Random Notes:
- I was hired to perform the announcing duties in the advance mobile PA, but at 5am yesterday, they called to tell me that they needed me to fill in at the Rider Sign-In Stage where each rider actually signs the sheet next to his name. It's basically a parade of all the top cyclists in the world, and I get to pull out the ones that I want to interview. If you're a bike race fan, please know that I want you to live vicariously through my experiences. And this one was - beyond the shadow of a doubt - the most fun I've ever had. And I remembered - albeit too late - that Dave Zabriskie loves to give one-word answers to rookie announcers. Ouch.
- Nelson Vails is a blast to hang out with. The former Olympic sprinter is my driver in the mobile announcing car. We bop around the front of the race updating the many crowds that gather at intersections and in towns. (not much work getting done in Occidental CA yesterday. Everyone was out in the street!) Sometimes we zoom ahead to the Sprint or KOM positions and put on a show for the crowds who gather there. Nelson is one of the most up-beat and positive people you could meet. He's a great ambassador for the sport, and he's a bit of a goofball. I'll relish the next five days.
- There are three basic audiences that I'm speaking to along the route. Group 1 is the bike race fans who have ridden to the remote stretch of road such as "Trinity Grade" or "Sierra Road" to watch the peloton tackle the climbs. They want specific race information: who's in the breakaway? What's the split? Etc. Group 2 is the casual spectator who came out to the end of their driveway to watch the parade of color streak by. Where are they? Where's our local hero (Levi Leipheimer)? Do you have any free stuff? And Group 3 consists of the people who got stuck in traffic and only what to know one thing: What the hell is this? And how much longer do I have to wait for the road to be re-opened? OK, that's two things. Sometimes we come up to a large group of people and find all three groups mixed into a mob. I have to answer all those questions in about 30 seconds. I'll record it tomorrow and let you listen to it.
- Saw a woman in a wedding dress along the route today holding a sign that read: Marry Me, Mario!" She obviously has the hots for Mario Cipollini who, at the age of 41, has come out of retirement to race in this event for the Rock Racing team. Seeing Mario finish third in today's stage indicates to me that he passed on her offer. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they had a small ceremony.
- I had dinner at the team dining room last night at the invite of Tim Walsh, a AToC Board member and probably THE guy who came up with the idea to do this little party. Great guy. Normal as your or me. Or at least me. And like a kid in a candy store, he's enjoying riding his bike around NorCal and watching the race like the true bike race geek he is!
- Dinner in the team dining room is rather odd. First off, every team's off-bike uniform is black, so it looked like a secret cult of thin goths. And when the CSC team sang happy birthday to one of their guys, no one else in the room sang. It's nothing at all like band camp.
- Today's 90-mile solo breakaway by Scott Nydam was fun to watch. He's a local guy who trains on the roads we raced on today. I asked him about the feeling that gave him. He said it was poetic and surreal at the same time.

If you're a rider, then you can already imagine what he went through. Imagine your last training ride, and then imagine that Boonen, Bettini, Cipo', Levi, and the gang are chasing you. And you probably imagine that your favorite race announcer is out in front telling people how long it'll be before we open the damn roads!
- I had a local CA resident in my car on Monday (Mike Durie) when we went up the coast from Sausalito to Santa Rose. I liked getting him riled when we came in view of the Pacific Ocean and I straight-faced asked, "What lake is this??" (I guess you gotta be from Michigan or Wisconsin to see the humor in that.)
More to come! With pictures or video or both!
Now go ride!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Playing Catch up

In a strange unexpected turn, I learned yesterday that I'll be announcing the Start of today's prologue time trial in palo Alto. I wasn't expecting that, so I had done almost NO research on any of these riders.
Yeah, I know Bettini and Boonen will be here, but other than that I hadn't checked the team rosters. The type of announcing I was going to be doing didn't really require that breadth of knowledge. So normally I sit in the back of the room at the announcer's meeting and listen to Phil and Paul and Jeff and Dave talk about all the big stuff while I pick my teeth with someone's business card.
"Jamie, you're all set for the Start, right?"
"(spit) huh?"
Those words threw into motion a frenzy of wiki-google-VeloNews research bringing me up to speed on who these guys are and what they've done.
I never worked this hard on anything I studied at NMU.
Ask me anything about Spanish rider Iker Camano Ortuzar. I can tell you that he's the 2005 U23 Spanish Time Trial Champion. Yesterday, I would have thought those letters were an eye chart in an opthamologist's office.
I'm excited at the opportunity. With nine or ten world champions and Tour stage winners and countless national champions, this is, without a doubt, the most prestigious roster I've ever held a microphone for.
I just hope I remember which end of the microphone to speak into.

Showing Off the Broom

The Tour starts tomorrow. We spent the day today getting our stuff ready. We go through all of the pre-race briefings and focus on the important task of producing a safe and memorable event for the thousands of spectators who will watch this Tour travel 650 miles. There are 900 people in our entourage. 190 vehicles. 600 credentialed media members. It's a huge event.
But before we hit it tomorrow at Noon on the campus of Stanford University, we had some fun sightseeing in San Francisco driving the Bissell Clean Sweep Broom Wagon.
Michigan-based Bissell, along with sponsoring a pro cycling team and many other cycling-related programs, has sponsored the Broom Wagon for this year's Tour of California. And they supplied the race with a shrink-wrapped van that makes an indelible imprint on the race. We had to take it out and show it off downtown. It also helps generate interest in the Amgen Tour of California.
Sarah, a.k.a. Broom, handled the steep city streets without incident. We saw the Painted Ladies and the GG Bridge. We drove through the Presidio and out to the ocean. But I didn't tell her what waited over the top of the hill on Lombard Street. If you've never driven it, go do it.

Fun time. Now go buy a vacuum!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tour reports coming soon. In the meantime...

A little distracted here in Southern California. Tour starts this weekend. Reports to follow.
(Photo: from San Clemente pier.)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Radio Tour PodCast

I finally figured out how to create podcasts. (and oddly, my spell-check continues to underline that word in red. Does Steve Jobs still not believe that's a real word?) You'd think a radio and TV major from CMU would be able to have reached this point sooner.
Alas, I was over-complicating it. It was Mac Goddess Theresa (4th grade teacher in Pacific Palisades who brought me up to speed.)

OK, so here's what I have for you: sounds from a bike race.
Go figure!
OK, so try this link:
It's a huge file and it's probably a little lengthy download. Be patient. It's good stuff.
If it doesn't work, don't worry; I'll cut it into four parts next week.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Seriously, I'm looking everywhere for material for this blog.
I'll strike gold in California next week.
Until then, you get a picture of a duck.