Thursday, February 26, 2009

TV Motos and TT holders

Here are two very cool jobs that you would kill to have:
Job #1: Drive the moto that carries the Versus photographer at the Amgen Tour of California
Pros: you get the best seat in the house. You bump handlebars with the top name in cycling. You see every move, every counter, every chase, every catch, every damn thing. You have a major say in what people at home get to see.
Cons: Your passenger is top-heavy carrying that camera which makes it challenging riding, you ride rain or shine, you dread being the guy who causes a crash, and it takes weeks to readjust to normal moto riding.
Here's an interview with THE GUY.

Job #2: Hold the rider as they wait to start their time trial.
Pros: you are in everybody's photo, you are holding the saddles of Gods and Kings for 30 seconds.
Cons: a lot of standing, and a dread fear of being the guy who causes a rider to topple over.

Job #3 - Race announcer.
I can give you 32 reasons.
I'll cover this topic in the next post.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I can't really explain the point of this post/video. I guess you just hadda been there.

The whole week was one magical thing after the next, and then it ended.
And that, my friends, is that.

CHP Marshals

The AToC rolls down the road escorted by 10 CHP cars who help establish a presence for the race thereby preventing motorists from driving on the roads while the race is under way. Six patrol cars are in front, and 4 are behind. Our default position in the race caravan is somewhere between CHP's C2 and C5. Preferably in front of C3. We move around a lot, but this is where we like to return.
Now, the way they're lined up, C1 is about a mile out in front. The others are spaced at about 30 second intervals thereafter. So C2 is about 30 seconds behind. Then comes C3, then C4. The car driven by Patrolman Glen Glaser is C5. Then comes C6 which might have the most fun because he gets to ride right in front of the riders, and if there's a breakaway, he will move into the gap between the breakaway and the peloton leaving C5 as the car in front of the breakaway.
Confusing? You bet. And to add to the confusion, if the breakaway has more than a 2 minute lead, then they'll move C3 and C4 into the gap to help maintain the secure envelope. That's the ultimate goal.
So we're trying to key off of C2 and C3 always. And if they're gone (in the gap), we should know about it.
There are also four VIP cars, two MEDIA cars, several motorcycles, and a UCI car in this traffic jam in front of the race.
All the flashing lights make for quite a site coming down the road. There is no sneaking through town for this group.
But if you lose radio contact for some reason, as we did on Stage One, you can lose track of who is where.
And if you're busy playing to the crowds along the route as we were, you can miss the radio chatter, too.
This happened to us a couple of time in the first two days. We'd completely lose track of where C3, C4 and C5 were. And to make matters worse, they all look identical. So when C5 came up onto our bumper and hit the siren, we thought it was C3. Nope, C3 was gone. This was C5. We just about peed our pants. We could see the riders coming up behind us quickly. Close call.
And since we didn't want to be "that guy" who screws up the whole show, we had to find a way to prevent this from happening again. We had to find a way to identify C5 from further away.

Of course, there were other episodes in which we found ourselves too close to the front of the race, but we stayed out of real trouble for the rest of the Tour.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quick photo. And I mean QUICK.

My old friend Gypsy runs the photo finish camera for the Tour. Here's a shot from the finish in Clovis yesterday. Very fast and very close.
Very cool.


It's common knowledge that the NFL inflates their economic impact numbers for the Super Bowl stating that it brings in $450-kabillion to the host city economy. So i wondered how the AToC handles this task. How do they get the information? How scientific are they? How hard would it be to just guesstimate?
I ran into a guy at the Start in San Jose. He was sampling the crowd and gathering information for the marketing arm of the event. I asked him ... because I knew you'd want to know.
Here is Armin Medina explaining some of the process:

So there you have it. The numbers aren't simply fudged. Not by his company anyway.
They take somewhere in the neighborhood of 1500 samples at the start and the finish venues each day. That number changes with the size of the crowd.
Speaking of crowds: Oakhurst, Mariposa, and Clovis were jaw-dropping in the number of people along the roads. I'm sorry we couldn't photograph it. We had our hands full with doing our job. Perhaps we'll try to capture the crowds on video later in the Tour.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


This is the Tour of California:
We have construction crews who get up at 3am and begin building the Start Venue from the ground up in the pouring cold rain. It's cold and windy, but the sound crews have to have the sound up and running two hours before the race begins. Construction crews at the Finish Venues will be working late into the night tearing it down. The local organizing committees have been working on their component of the event for the past 8 months hoping that their town provides a great venue for the race. The moto marshals are riding on slippery roads inches from disaster on twisting mountain roads. The course marshals will spend the entire day either crammed in a soggy van flying from intersection to intersection or standing in the rain keeping cars off the course. Local law enforcement agencies will stretch their resources across their entire jurisdictions doing the same thing. The TV crews and media will scramble to make deadlines. Even the local merchants have decorated their storefronts to celebrate the departure/arrival of the riders.
There are a thousand people traveling in this army, and countless volunteers in each town who put in long days to build the venue and protect the riders and public. There are no slackers in the organization. Each one of them will give their last ounce to make sure that this event goes as planned. And the planners have covered every angle.
When we roll into town with our Tour vehicles, people along the street smile and wave like little kids giddy with excitement. While driving to and from the venue, motorists honk and wave. It's impossible to comprehend how popular this event is. I never thought I'd see the day when farmers along remote country roads would stand next to the roadway waving flags and holding signs with the names of foreign riders. Or the tiny marching band of a tiny high school in a tiny rural town standing in full dress next to the road playing a song at full volume. Or the truckers at the intersection of two California highways smiling and waving and dancing as they wait for the race to pass by.
Yes, Lance is here. The Lance Factor is in full swing, but it's not quite the "inside-out" scene that I thought it would be. It's actually about the same size as it was last year. The only real difference is that the Astana team bus is surrounded by Lance Lovers.
The rest is just a cool event that will be over WAY too soon.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Give me 8 more days like this one.

Prologue in Sacramento - The lucky arrow struck me in the forehead today as I was assigned the task of handling the Start of the Prologue TT while the A Team (Jeff and Dave) zoomed to the finish to catch the shooting stars.
Tip to announcers everywhere: If given the chance to introduce Lance, Floyd, George, Tyler, Levi, Fabian, Ivan, Carlos, and others, here's my advice: write it down and belt it out.
When given only 39 seconds to tell a story, you don't want to stammer, forget, get tongue-tied, or otherwise mess up the chance.
I took the time to write out their intros and rehearse them the night before because when it came time to deliver, I know I would have muffed it had I tried to wing it.
Here's what happens when you try to improvise an important event: as the seconds tick by, your mind races around trying to decide which of the million trivial facts you know about a certain rider is most important/pertinent/scintillating/exciting, and you wind up saying nothing.
For instance, I know a million little things about Floyd Landis. But what exactly do you want to say in 38 seconds when you have 10,000 people listening to you as he sits on his bike waiting for the start? Your job is to educate and incite, not show all you know about the guy. And not blather on.
Script it out. Don't leave it to chance.
Today was a blast for everyone in town. It was a cycling love-fest. There was such a buzz and such an aura surrounding the whole day. The entire crew is hoping for the next 8 days to be the same. Aside from the weather, i think it will be.
Tomorrow we head to Santa Rosa.
Wish you were here!

Friday, February 13, 2009

All Roadies are cheap.

The race headquarters hotel charges $9.95 per day for Internet access in guest rooms. This offer, while tempting to someone with a corporate expense account, is not widely availed by the racing community. This is why we see a collection of top pro riders and staff members sitting in the hotel lobby where the wireless access is free.

After dinner, I'll shoot a photo of a large group of them. I promise there'll be several.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

But first...

How can you come to this part of CA during the week of the Pebble Beach Pro-Am and not sneak down to Monterey to catch some of the action? I can't.
From the practice round...

Or go just a few miles further to Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur...

If the Amgen Tour is about generating economic impact in CA, then I'm doing my part.

Monday, February 9, 2009


The countdown to the Amgen Tour of California is finally in the single digits. Everyone on the Tour staff has been counting since about April. It finally hits you when you watch your local weather and realize that the 10-day forecast doesn't apply to you.
The Amgen Tour of California
Through various sources, I've been piecing together a pre-Tour prediction. By "various sources" I mean reading the patterns of the snow melting in my yard, reading the pattern of birds in flight over Rochester, MI, and the most reliable source I have: wild-ass guessing.
Here's what I see:
- I will gain 20 pounds riding in a car for 9 days eating Jelly Belly beans.
- Levi, who always comes to CA loaded for bear, will be the easy pick.
- Floyd, who has a huge axe to grind, will get little or no positive attention.
- Lance will suck all the air out of the state.
- Ivan Basso will be invisible. Ditto Sastre.
- Fabian Cancellara will come close, but fall short.
- BMC will steal some headlines as they did last year with crazy-long breakaways.
- Crowds will be mind-bogglingly huge throughout.
And when it's over, the countdown will begin again.

I'll be traveling with my camera documenting the scenes-behind-the-scenes. And if I can find a wireless signal in this backwoods pitiful low-tech state, I'll post frequently.
Check back soon!