Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pre-Race notes

The safety record of the Amgen Tour of California is remarkably clean. When you think of the logistics involved in rolling 1000 people in 200 vehicles across 1400 miles of road past a million spectators standing on the side of the road, it's surprising how safely they do it.
So far, we've had a few minor incidents involving spectators and staff. One problem is that the spectators who ride up the mountains to watch the race lose control of their bikes when they ride back down after the race. So we've had a couple of accidents like that. We had one heart attack by a spectator along the route. Those aren't on our record. We also had an incident with a TV camera boom hitting a car. That one's ours.
Our risk management consultant has been traveling with us all week, and he said that the biggest risk that we generate stems from sleep deprivation. Many of the crews who are building each day's venue are working 18-hour days. They're actually urged to nap when they're not working.
Prior to every stage of the ATOC, the drivers in the caravan get briefed on the day's course. We're alerted to where the spectators will be, where the rough road is located, and where the tricky descents are.

Speaking of tricky descents, we went over the top of Mt. Hamilton (just east of San Jose) earlier this week. The general rule in mountain stages is this: get over the top and go like hell to the bottom. We can't have any delays on the way down because the race can sneak up on us very quickly. So look out below! We have a closed road with a police escort for about 20 miles of descending. This is why I sign up for this job.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rumors

Here in Solvang, they have a special place for you to sit when discussing rumors:
The humor in that photo, for you non-inner circle types, is that here in the tourist town of Solvang, CA is where we got wind of the latest bombshell in the Lance Armstrong Doping Debate. I have never seen so many surprised looks on people faces at the news that longtime Armstrong lieutenant George Hincapie has testified in the investigation. Tyler Hamilton had launched a salvo earlier in the week. No one was too blown away by that. But when George spoke, the cycling world listened.
Now we sit and wait.
This post is not going to discuss the inner workings of the case.... yet. My job is only to point out the humor in the photo above. And to let you know that more news is most assuredly coming.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Mobile P.A.

Just an example of what we do on the road during the Amgen Tour of California.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Top Billing

We were supposed to start today's stage at Squaw Valley, but more snow up in the Sierras forced us to move things down into the foothills in Nevada City. )There was ice in the shadows on Route 20. Not to mention some awesome scenery. It would have been a gorgeous stage, but safety remains the priority.) Nevada City was an obvious choice for an alternative launch site, really. We started the Tour there last year, and they have a long history of bike racing there.
In less than 12 hours, Nevada City put together an amazing party. They rerouted the course a few miles to pass through downtown, they secured a million intersections, and came out in force to provide an awesome send-off for this event.
Absolutely amazing. Could your town do that?
I got really lucky today, too. I got the call at 9am that I'd be handling the Start venue all by my lonesome. That means that I had the opportunity of a lifetime interviewing the likes of Thor, Andy, George, Christian, and a bunch of others.

That's Andy Schleck of Leopard Trek answering some probing question that I had posed just moments ago.
So we finally got to racing, thanks to the folks of Nevada City.
All in all, a really fun day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Amgen Tour of California

This is what we woke up to find this morning:
Hello from the Ritz Carlton in North Lake Tahoe, CA. (I just had to throw that in.) Stage One of the Amgen Tour of California was cancelled today due to unsafe conditions - or as we Michiganders call it: normal riding conditions for most of the year.
We were actually starting to roll when the call came through. 5 minutes before the actual start of the race, the California Highway Patrol, Media, and VIP cars began to roll slowly out of town. We were the talking to the crowds from our Mobile PA vehicle as we rolled along. Everything was going well until the radio crackled with the disappointing words: "Stand by for an announcement." We paused in the road at a standstill. The crowd knew something was up. "Today's stage is cancelled." We turned around and headed back to the barn making the announcement as we went.
It was the right call to make. Unfortunate, but it had to be done. For you doubters in the room, here's some video that I shot just 30 minutes ago on the route.

With the recent death of a rider in the Giro d'Italia, now was not the time to be cowboys and try to race it. The conditions appeared to be improving when we took a lap of the course at 9am. In fact, the sunlight and clouds were creating an amazing backdrop. At 1pm, the pavement was dry. At 2pm, all he'll broke loose again.
I feel badly for the construction crews who were out at 4am building the venues in a snowstorm and for the people along the route who were out there waiting for several hours. They were huddling together in campsites set up on the KOMs (King of the Mountains climbs). The temps were in the upper 20s. The winds were HOWLING. Yet, these bike race fans were camped out and ready.
We're packing extra provisions for tomorrow's stage which goes over Donner Pass.