Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Tour de Golden State
Due to an unexpected happenstance on Monday night, I spent the last two days at home--which meant I spent the last two days watching the unabridged live recordings of stages three and four of the Tour of California. Since JAR and I watched the full recording of the first stage on Sunday, I've now watched more uninterrupted minutes of the 2012 TOC than I did of the first five TOCs combined, and I can't say I'm disappointed. While it's true that the more elite factions of the pro cycling peloton are split between this race and the Giro (in which I was very excited to hear that Taylor Phinney won the prologue), the absence of some of these riders has had little obvious effect on the competitive force of this race. And while my original idea was to write an epic meditation on the geographical beauty and indomitable stage race spirit so evident in the TOC, I also have big plans to watch the Giants-Cardinals game this evening, so I'll limit my observations to a top ten list of highlights and insights:
1. By the end of Wednesday, the yellow jersey, the sprinter's jersey, and the best young rider jersey (in addition to every stage victory), all belonged to Peter Sagan--and yet, this jersey/stage sweep still belies how exciting this race has been to watch. Should you need further evidence, I encourage you to watch the video footage of the last twenty minutes of stage one, in which Sagan punctured his rear tire within 10k of the finish line, patiently waited for the slowest wheel swap in pro cycling history, drafted off the team cars with terrifying speed, and sprinted victoriously for the win past every single other favorite.
2. Freddie Rodriguez, one of my favorite sprinters, is not only in the TOC--he's in fifth! It's been too long since I saw him ride in a televised pro race. Tom Boonen, Dave Zabriskie, and Tom Danielson are three other long-time favorites that I'm happy to see.
3. Bob Roll's interview with Peter Sagan in Italian? Further proof that Roll is one of the great sports journalists at work today. Also, the most inadvertent.
4. Seeing Clean Bottle man standing proud in his full-body bottle costume on top of Patterson Pass Road above Livermore literally made my day. Thank you, Clean Bottle, for reminding me that real dreams never die!
5. This picture, taken by my favorite Sagan (Ana Makins-Sagan), of the peloton flying by the Cliff House on its way to Aptos on Monday.
6. A little bit of me died when I heard Phil Liggett say that Highway 49 was named after "1949, the year that the road was built". But because Liggett is my favorite sports commentator of all time, I'm going to pretend that it's the fault of whomever briefed him at NBCSports this morning.
7. What California lacks in giant parade floats of costumed Haribo characters, it more than makes up for in antlers-clad spectators.
8. One of the benefits, in my mind, of the TOC and the Giro taking place at the same time is that more domestic cycling pros have the opportunity to make their mark at a televised, international level. It's been wonderful to watch teams like United Healthcare and Orica-GreenEdge race alongside RadioShack and BMC, and in some instances, for the riders on these teams to place high. Similarly, I've really enjoyed watching the riders on Team Colombia-Coldeportes, in no small part because I've long been a fan of "El Tiburon" Victor Hugo Pena (and because they race on bellissima Bianchis).
9. What do I have to do to win a stuffed podium bear? Never mind--don't answer that.
10. Ah, California. My love for you only continues to grow as I watch the greatest cyclists in the world spin through your verdant valleys, along your breathtaking coastline, and into your magnificent mountains. No other state could truly lay claim to "America's greatest cycling race"!