That’s One Fast Bike Lance Rides

Lance Armstrong rolling into Nevada City

Lance Armstrong rolling into Nevada City

This past weekend I traded in the running shoes and spent some time with my neglected bicycle. Twice this year I have gone on group rides and both times my bike is showing its age even though it’s just over 6 years old. But once you start seeing what other people are riding and the new frames, the new components and the new toys, it quickly becomes a never-ending cycle. Better to live ignorant but content. Dura-Ace or Shimano? Can’t say. Is that carbon? Should it be? What size cassette is that? Couldn’t say… Then you take a stroll through some of the team pit areas and look at the bicycles they are riding and the components and wheels and suddenly you realize things can get very expensive. A $20,000 team car has about $100,000 worth of bikes on the roof. But we all know the secret is that the right equipment makes all the difference. It’s the bike not the rider. The shoes not the runner. The pen not the writer. The camera not the photographer.

This past weekend was the start of the Amgen Tour of California. I’m not much of a professional cycling fan. I don’t know many of the riders (other than the biggest names like Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer) but there’s something about the excitement of a big race coming to town that is energizing. On Saturday, Jody came up and we joined over 100 other riders in Auburn and rode to Nevada City, where we continued on the Stage 1 course from Nevada City to Auburn. Perfect day for a ride and we bumped in Lee McKinley and Dave Malicoat. Jody, Lee and I rode most of the ride together until I took the peloton down the wrong road on the leg from Nevada City back to Auburn. It all happened so fast. I was up front and enjoying the wind in my ears and being on the bike and we had a big peloton heading down Rattlesnake and it looked like the street sign pointed to the road going left so I kept cranking and went left only to hear some complaints behind me. There was a moment or two of mass confusion and two riders crashed, one destroying his rear wheel. About 5 minutes later and confirming nobody broke any bones, we heading back in the right direction and tried to catch the group. Nicole, Lily and Dylan came to see us as we climbed out of the Bear River canyon so I said goodbye to Lee and visited with them. The ride was just over 70 miles, my farthest of the year so far. Here are some pictures from that ride. A complete contrast to last year at this time when I think I was putting in close to 300 miles a week on the bike gearing up for RAAM. I remember too well those training rides at night along Auburn Folsom Road and thinking that would prepare me for RAAM. Looking back, I don’t know how one prepares for RAAM. I had no idea what to expect. You do your best, delicately balancing so it all doesn’t fall apart and then somehow survive. Thankfully, with a lot of support, I survived. Now back to the present…

Sunday morning, Dylan was not feeling well as he has been battling one infection after another the last couple weeks. About 2 weeks ago he was having a hard time breathing and we had him in bed with us and noticed he was wheezing and his heart was beating pretty fast. Nicole took him to the doctor in the morning and came back with a nebulizer. His breathing was only at 92% so 3 or 4 times a day he needed to wear a mask for about 5 or 10 minutes and inhale some Albuterol. He quickly learned this was his bargaining chip for getting to watch one of his DVDs. That seemed to run its course and then he developed an infection on his leg and now he is battling a stomach virus and not keeping anything in the past few days. So Nicole and Dylan didn’t make the trip to Nevada City for the start. But Jody, Lily, Dave and I arrived about 90 minutes before the start and walked through the staging area and could see all the bikes, the team cars, the team buses and most of the riders getting ready. Here are a couple of videos from Nevada City:

Then we raced back to Auburn to watch the riders enter town and ended the day in Sacramento for the finish. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be possible to see all 3 locations but it worked out. At the finish, it’s hard to describe the energy that the crowds and riders build but it is something you can feel and, without warning, will overtake you. Standing there on turn 1, as the pack screams down the road and you see the flashing lights approaching and the helmets bouncing the sunlight, the excitement is contagious. As the peloton flew through the turn, you could smell the rubber. They rode 3 laps around the California State Capitol and they must have been going between 30 and 35 MPH along the final stretch. You could see how hard they were working as they pumped their legs and gasped for air and fought for position. In the last lap, a crash took out some of the riders from the final sprint. In the end, Mark Cavendish from HTC sprinted ahead in the final few meters to win the stage. Most of the riders cruised through the crowd after the finish and showed their battle scars. Hopefully, the Tour of California will be back next year along the same route. Here are my pictures of the day.

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