Friday, February 22, 2008

Day 5 - Watch Tour of California

Today was the Stage 5 Tour of California Time Trial in Solvang. We had a day off with no organized rides planned, which gave us lots of time to take in the race. I don't really follow professional cycling itself so I went into today not knowing much about any of the athletes or teams. I am ending the day knowing A LOT about who is who in the sport, how races work, how to spectate, and how things work behind the scenes. Since this was the time trial, it's really not too much different than watching the bike in a triathlon.

I woke up leisurely, ate my breakfast, and went to the hot tub to stretch myself as well as I could. Then I went out for an easy 75 minute spin on the time trial course. It was raining on and off so my bike got all dirty and I got covered in mud. Sometimes I wonder if it is worth all the cleanup time for such a short ride.

Our hotel is about a block from the finish line of the time trial and the festival. I spent a lot of time at the festival going to all the vendor booths and talking to people. Some of the highlights were seeing all the Zipp wheels at the Zipp booth, looking at the Slipstrem Felt DA team edition bike at the Felt booth, seeing Chris McCormack's Specialized TT bike that he rode at IM Hawaii this year, and just being saturated with all the bike excitement and energy. The Herbalife booth was having a contest on their computrainers to see who could have the fastest 1/4 mile sprint time. I gave it a shot and posted a time of 29.81 sec - my average power was 360 watts which was higher than anything I have done all week at camp! Funny how I did that on a badly fitting bike with platform pedals and in jeans with no warmup. Well it turned out that at the end of the day I missed women's 5th place for a prize from Rudy Project by only 0.1 seconds!!! Maybe my new specialty should be sprinting in street clothes.

The race itself was totally inspiring. I got right up to the front at the starting platform and saw all the pros preparing themselves from less than 10 feet away. It was awesome to see their routines and their bikes. All the top guys wear radios packed in the tip of their aero helmet so they can get feedback from their following car. Who knows what else you could store in that helmet. Taken out of context, time trialists look pretty goofy with their lycra suits, pointy hats, and tricked out bikes. Almost all of them used a disc wheel on the back and deep wheel on the front. Today was the first ever real life racing test of the Powertap on a Zipp disc wheel and will determine the upcoming release schedule for it. The most common bars I saw were the Easton Attack TT and the Zipp Aero Vuka. As the athletes were in line to start I saw them massaging their muscles, doing deep breathing, stretching hamstrings, flipping through their gears and getting it to the right one to start, and sitting down to focus. The focused calm is exactly how it needs to be done.

The finish line was very close to the start so it was easy to jump from one to the other. As they came in one by one, they were moving so fast you could blink and miss them. The crowds were at least 4 deep down the shoot so it was a little hard to see. They had some large screen monitors with live course footage going and finish line closeups so it was almost easier to watch that. I hung out with Patrick from the camp and he's an expert on this stuff. I got filled in on details of all his favorite athletes. He pointed out small details of form that distinguish the top time trial specialists and was able to answer all my questions about what was going on.

All in all, it was an awesome day. We finished it off with dinner at a nice restaurant and as we were eating the entire team Rabobank came in. This may as well be the Tour de France. They got me, I think I am on my way to becoming a cycling nut.

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