Archive for February, 2008

Three Creeks Trail Update (Willow Glen Spur)

| February 26, 2008 5:38 pm

submitted by Paul Metz

From Ken Yeager, County Board of Supervisors:

Greetings,

Today, the Board of Supervisors unanimously supported a memo that Supervisor Blanca Alvarado and I wrote regarding trails. It directed County of Santa Clara staff to participate in the Three Creeks Trail (formerly the Willow Glen Spur Trail) Technical Advisory Committee with City of San Jose staff. As long-time advocates of this important project, we wholeheartedly support these efforts to move forward on the development of this trail, and they welcome the opportunity for continued collaboration with the City.

The City is requesting a contribution of $4 million toward acquisition of parcels along the eastern alignment. Any potential contribution would come from the Parks Charter Fund and would need Board of Supervisors approval. Such funding would enhance the County’s existing investments, which are intended to develop much-needed urban trail connections within Santa Clara County .

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call me at 299-5040 or contact me via e-mail at Ken.Yeager@bos.sccgov.org.

Ken

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 7

| February 25, 2008 6:20 pm

by Rick Madden

Once again rain pounded the start city all night. Things were beginning to wind down and we were thinking about getting home to our families.

Just one more stage to go, and our van Captain announced that we dodged a bullet…we would have the start and the finish, keeping us out of the Millcreek Pass KOM area. At almost 5,000′, the weather was going to be brutal. I talked to assistant technical director Eric Smith after the race. He told me that he pre-drove the course at 4 AM, and it was damn cold at the top.If you ever wanted to be a pro cyclist, this is the time to review your priorities…you just can’t sit out a stage when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The weather was a mixed bag at the start, with cool temps and a few passing showers. We were inside the neutral zone, so it would be uneventful for us. The peloton soft-pedaled by me at a right hand corner…I heard lots of chatting in French and German as the boys past by my flag. Per usual, they were so close to me I had to hold my flag arm straight up as I would have clocked them if I had continued my flagging motion.

The van picked me up and we proceeded straight to Pasadena. The Captain and I were stationed right by the Rose Bowl at a downhill to flat transition. I have never seen the Rose Bowl before…a bit of sports history and architecture that has to be seen to be appreciated.

We listened to race radio, and it didn’t sound pretty…42 degrees and hail coming out of the mountains. We hunkered down as a steady rain threatened to drown the spectator’s spirit…but Pasadena, as many other cities in the Tour, were prepared to tough it out and cheer for a dogged bunch of riders who were probably looking forward to the end of the stage.

For about four laps a Bissell rider stayed away, but the fifth time around Big George and his small entourage caught. The finish was about 4 km from just across the parking lot at the crow flies. We heard the announcers rooting George on, and by the cheer from the crowd we knew one of the favorites had clutched a victory.

It was now time to shed our Tour decals and supplies in the Rose Bowl parking lot. All the marshals prepared the vans to be returned to Hertz. Many people needed to be shuttled to the airports for evening flights. For the rest of us, a party was planned in Pasadena.

Some got dressed up for the event, and others like myself just attended in jeans. I heard the teams started showing up at 9 o’clock or so, but I had already left for the hotel. The final scene I viewed at the party was priceless…Phil and Paul kissing one of the female organizers as if they were podium girls…what a hoot.

A few observations about the week…
This year’s experience was completely different than last years. We had no KOM’s and most of the time were relegated to the flatter terrain. Given the weather, that was probably okay with me!
This is a fun experience, whether you are a traveling marshal or a local volunteer. But if you are seeing lots of racing action, you aren’t working hard enough! If you want to just spectate and take pictures, best to do it on your own. Marshals also get little snippets of the total race picture…I can’t wait to watch the Versus tapes and see what I missed.

The Tour organization is massive and they are good! It was surprising how smoothly everything goes even when crunch time comes.

Thanks for reading this past week…I hope you enjoyed. Be sure to drop a line and tell me how you liked the series, if you hadn’t done so already. Marshal Rick signing off for this year’s version of the Amgen Tour of California Marshal Report!

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 6

| February 24, 2008 6:56 am

by Rick Madden

As I wake up this morning, one mile from the start of the final stage to Pasadena, the rain continues to fall. Last night it was really coming down. This has certainly been the coldest, wettest Amgen Tour of California (AToC).

Yesterday we had drops in one of the wealthiest communities in America and one of the most impoverished towns the tour goes through. Montecito is just outside of Santa Barbara and just drips with money. If the folks in Woodside ever need some tips on how to spend, I think that they could find some mentors down here. Montecito was the end of the neutral zone, and we saw four riders go off the front right from the get go.

Our next drop was in Santa Paula, about 20 miles south of Ojai. This appears to be a fairly poor community who loves to see the tour coming through…at least the residents do. Of course it was Saturday, but everyone came out of their houses for the event of the day. One of the marshals procured a box of bright yellow bells Friday and we each took a couple to hand out to kids.

The police force seems to be small in this town, so they contracted with Oxnard police for some extra forces. My impression is that the Oxnard cops really looked down their noses at the folks in this town; one commented to a marshal that he would never live in Santa Paula because it was full of felons. However, it seemed like a great place today as the peloton roared by.

A funny story I heard about Santa Paula; last year the Tour officials had not secured the proper permit to ride through the town. As the Chief Marshal was driving into town, he got a call from the mayor, who was running down the road to meet him with the permit in hand. Apparently he was anxious to be on the tour this year! Many of the small towns we go through are very enthusiastic. Earlier in the week almost every resident in Patterson turned out for us.

Celebrity sightings today were Jimmy Conners walking his dog on course in Montecito, Larry Hagman and Efrem Zimbalist Jr in Santa Clarita. I didn’t even know Larry and Efrem were still alive, but apparently they like bike racing. It was a great circuit finish…Super Mario and Fast Freddy may have touched wheels, because a pileup happened about 4 km into the second lap. Mario pulled himself back up to the group and pulled out a top 10 finish and got a big round of applause from the crowd for his effort. Freddie didn’t seem so lucky and finished last, struggling to get to the line.

We have the start and the finish of the race today. We haven’t had a KOM yet this race, but with rain and high winds expected, maybe we are lucky. Today’s KOM is the highest of the race at about 5,000 feet.

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 5

| February 22, 2008 6:29 pm

by Rick Madden

TT day in Solvang…this one will be the tell-tale for Levi.

My roomie David and I had the windows wide open in the overheated hotel all night, the the rain kept on coming. When I woke up this morning, I dressed in my rain gear prepping for a wet day. As we drove south from SLO toward Solvang, the skies brightened up some…a good sign for everyone. The winds were light and everything appeared to be looking up.

Solvang was a madhouse…they really go out for this event and the crowds were thick. We procured our supplies for the day (we get liquids, box lunches and fresh batteries for race radio) and headed out to our drops, where we would spend the day.

The rider count is down to about 105 riders now, so we aren’t going to be out here too long. At 11:15 an amateur TT started…although everyone was probably moving at a good clip, they seemed to be going in slow motion compared to the pros. I saw Big George warming up…he really cut his hair short!

One of the things I like to do before going on the course is wander through the team car area. Having the credentials helps with chatting up with the riders and crews…they know we are are out there to help them and show their appreciation by giving us a little respect. Not that they would not normally…I find most of them to be very humble and friendly, at least when they are not under pressure. The other day I spent a few minutes chatting it up with Teddy King of Bissell, who rides with some friends in Rochester, NY.

The TT cranked along with me at a right hand corner signaling to the riders and the motors leading them out…things didn’t get too exciting until the final 10…David Millar was coming by fast, but Levi was blasting away at the competition again. I gotta say, the little guy is tough. He dusted the others and took the stage.

Probably the highlight of the day was when our van picked up a couple of photographers that were hitching a ride…we got to spend about 30 minutes winding through the streets with none other than Graham Watson, pic taker extraordinaire. Very cool.

I also got to spend some time with the ACTC Vagabond, Jerry. He was dressed in street clothes and driving a car! He is doing well and headed north for awhile.

Tomorrow is Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita…you’ll hear from me then!

Tour of California – Sierra Road

| 1:21 pm

by Bob Thompson

Click to see video

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 was the big day. The crowds were there on Sierra. We gathered at Connie and Eric’s house. Here are some still shots of us eating, watching the race progress on the internet, and enjoying the wonderful sunny weather while we waited for the riders to arrive.

Soon we could hear the helicopters approaching and we knew the action would soon begin. I switched the camera over to video to catch the excitement of the sights and sounds of everything that was about to happen. Most of us stayed until the last rider and the broom passed before going down the hill to Piedmont.

Piedmont was flat, smooth and fast. You could see and feel the speed passing the cheering crowd.

Kris and I headed downtown to the finish. We were just in time to see most of the crowd leaving after the award presentation. The band was still playing and tricksters were flying their bikes thru the air.

I’ve put this all together in one short video that I hope you will enjoy. The opening music is the Washington Quickstep. Today is George’s, the first president’s – not the rider’s, birthday. Quickstep is one of the favored teams.

Click to see video

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 4

| February 21, 2008 10:00 pm

by Rick Madden

Most of you were at Stage 3 from Modesto to San Jose, so I won’t bore you with the details. I will pass on the gossip that came up this morning…the Mt. Hamilton/Sierra one-two punch may not appear in future ToC tours…there were gripes about it being too tough/too early in the season. Maybe Bettini griped…he was looking very tired on Piedmont yesterday.

I also heard that the University Police on the top of Mt. Ham was going overboard with the spectators, telling cyclists that they could not be up there to watch. I guess CHP took over the situation and tour organizers kinda told him “uh, we kinda like the spectators up here!”

I started Stage 4 off at Bixby Bridge on Big Sur. My crowd consisted mostly media looking for the big money shot on the bridge. That never materialized, as the gusts were probably hitting 50 to 60 mph, cloudy skies and bands of rain passing through. Rock Racing came through about an hour before the peloton, with Tyler Hamilton leading the group. Micheal Ball was supposed to be riding with them, but apparently found the comfort of his Rolls too much to pass up.

One car rolled up and asked what time I expected the peloton. The driver proudly introduced himself as my nemesis, Elk Man. He was eying Bixby Bridge, probably in hope of getting some TV coverage. You may have seen him yesterday on Mt. Hamilton.

What Elk Man didn’t realize was that I was the marshal who had him physically pulled off the course in San Jose last year and detained by the police. I reminded him of that incident, and  informed him that we wouldn’t have any problems as long as he stayed off the course. I guess he didn’t care for that too much and headed down the road in search of a better location. I love Elk Man hunting…

I was dropped off about 9:00…the first sighting of the small breakaway group was about an hour and a half later. There was six riders about 30 seconds ahead of a chase group…the last rider in the break actually got blown to a dead stop in the middle of the road as he came around an exposed bluff. He circled his bike once and jumped back on…. it was like this for these guys all day.

My van picked me up about an hour after the caravan passed by me. We headed north and cut over to Salinas, then south on 101 to SLO. We appeared to be the first marshals to arrive in SLO, so we manned the course from 300 meters to the finish line. I was stationed at the 50 meter mark at a crosswalk…the judges want nobody inside the french the last 100 meters, so we knew we would have to shut down the crosswalk as the race got within city limits. However, we still had an hour and a half to go before the race reached us.

The crowd, considering the weather, was great. They had stood out in the cold rain for quite awhile before we arrived and were prepared to continue to do so until the sprint. The announcers were earning their money keeping the crowd enthused and interested. We watched as they were handed fact cards about each racer, passing tidbits of information to the crowd.

Seven hours after the start Rollins crossed the line, with Big George leading the chase group. It was anti-climatic to say the least, after all the waiting.

The flu is taking down many of the members of both the teams and the support staff. Health Net told on of the marshals that a few of their riders were riding sick.

Tomorrow is the Solvang TT, and the weather doesn’t look like it was improving much. Keep your fingers crossed…it should be exciting with some TT specialists chasing after Levi’s yellow jersey!

This Marshall’s Eyes, Stage 2

| February 20, 2008 9:00 pm

by Rick Madden

I gotta tell you, for an adrenaline junkie, being a marshall can be a fast ride. Fast moving vehicles, choppers flying overhead and riders breezing within inches of you. But in every race you have to expect slow corners with little action. This was one of those days.

It started out rainy in Santa Rosa. Marshall Team 8 moved out at 8:30, and hour and a half before the riders started. We drove on-course the entire route, over both KOM’s. The first over Trinity grade was steep, with many switchbacks. Perhaps a preview to come tomorrow?

The riders were taking their time, negotiating the wet roads with caution, trying not to burn their candles before the 11,000 feet of climbing tomorrow. All but one BMC rider, who extended out a 12 minute gap. He took both KOM’s but was caught in the flat terrain around Davis.

My first drop of the day was about 60 miles into the ride at a t-intersection. My crowd today consisted of two farm workers and a rider from Vandenburg AFB that wandered down my lane. The peloton steamed by effortlessly at about 1 PM; the team cars decided that my corner was a great time to relieve themselves so the caravan came to a stop and the zippers dropped. I climbed into my van and we were back on the road following the caravan.

Our second drop was in Sacramento. I was in the same area last year and had a great time on a cloudy afternoon. However, the rain was closing in and the true Californians found shelter in their offices.

Last year I remember the riders riding within two inches of the curb and warned the spectators about not becoming too intimate with the riders. One of the local volunteers pointed out a 6 x 6 inch cut in the concrete to let storm water through a driveway transition. The cut ran parellell with the riders, so the probiblity of an accident was likely if a rider hit this. I proceeded to stand on course, flag raised high to warn the riders of the danger. Lucily, none of the riders rode the curb today. We ended the day without incident. Big Tom Boonen cruised to his first win in America, and Super Mario was close behind in third.

Tomorrows stage will be a challenge for the marshalls. We haven’t spoken to our captains, so none of us know our drops for tomorrow. It’s all good for me, as we will be on my home turf for a day.

There will be no email tomorrow as we will be staying in Big Sur. I’ll be back Thursday with a report on the Big Sur coast and the TT in Solvang.

Tour of California from the top of Mt. Hamilton

| 8:32 pm

by Franz Kelsch

This year’s stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California included a 103-mile route from Modesto to San Jose, with no less than five King of the Mountains climbs, including the ascent of Mt. Hamilton (HR-above categorization at 4360 feet) and the category 1 Sierra Road. This was the first time the tour went up Mt. Hamilton.

While most club members probably decided to go view Stage 3 from Sierra Road, some of us decided to go up Mt. Hamilton, a hill I have climbed many times from both sides. Before leaving home I made a quick check of the Lick Observatory weather gages on the internet to find a current temperature of 30 degree. I shoved some more clothes in my backpack on top of my digital SLR camera I was going to lug up the hill.

It had also been raining all night and the roads were wet. I was therefore no surprise that only two of us showed up for that ride up Mt. Hamilton. We left at 10 am and soon we were making the 20 mile climb to the summit. We kept he pace brisk because we were not sure if they were going to close the road. As I passed by Quimby road, an officer told me that they would stop us at Kincaid. I thought about turning around and biking over to Sierra, but decided to drive on. Around noon we made it to the summit where we were stopped by the sheriff who said we could not go further.

Spencer

Franz

We were waiting around to see what would happen when we noticed the sheriff was gone and people were biking through, so we jumped on our bikes and headed toward the back side. We descended about a quarter of a mile and laid our bikes on the side of the road on the hill side, along with another 15 bikes that were already there.

It was not long before the sheriff came along and told us that all those bikes had to be moved and we had go down further if we wanted to watch. I headed down the backside for about a mile to find a spot to take some photos. It was a hair pin turn, so I figured that the riders would need to slow down a bit while I snapped the pictures.

It was maybe another hour before the riders arrived. There was a lead pack of around 15 riders.

Lead Pack

The lead rider was Ruberia with the Astana team.

Lead Pack

Also in the group is David Miliar with Slipstream (fourth in the white jersey) and Levi Leipheimer with Astana a bit further back.

Several smaller groups or individual riders then followed.

The climb had clearly done damage to the field. The peleton finally arrived.

Peleton

Peleton

The peleton was followed by more individual riders and small groups.

Maybe a total of 15 minutes was all that was needed from the lead rider to the last rider. I jumped on my bike and started to head back up to the summit. It was a fast descent back to the valley floor and I could feel the temperature increase by the minute. By the time I reached the bottom I was way over dressed. Too bad I missed seeing the riders on Sierra Road but I was very glad I made it up Mt. Hamilton.

See all the photos here.

This Marshall’s Eyes, prolouge and Stage 1

| February 18, 2008 10:00 pm

by Rick Madden

Yesterday’s TT to the Stanford Campus should have been more exciting for me than it was….I was stationed on the backside of the quad, inside the french (that’s what they call the fencing for those non-race fans) under a beautiful California sun. I was about 400 yards from the finish line, similar to last year’s finish at Coit Tower. I even had the same Versus cameraman nearby that was there last year!

Before the race, our marshall team secured a start list. Last year in San Francisco, I was offered cash and other sundry bribes by numerous spectators for my start list. Finally I gave it to a guy who had a big voice and was willing to call out all those tongue-twister European names to the crowd. It only made sense that I would get the same reaction from the crowd here on the Stanford Campus. What a difference a year makes!

I could hardly muster a volunteer to announce the riders here at this prestigious university! One spectator commented that folks in Palo Alto were more conservative than the wild San Fran group. I finally gave up my list to Joe Farinha, who brought the SJBC junior up to the race and let the crowd figure it out for themselves.

Watching the big dogs crank it out while tucked into a corner on the roadway was a ball. You all know the outcome; the world champ Cancellara takes the win again. But being yards from the Zman, Super Mario and Levi was as cool as you can imagine. Even though I was only three feet closer than the crowd, being on the inside of the french with an unobstructed view is about as cool as you can imagine.

This morning for stage 1 we had two drops; my first was about a mile north of the Tomales feed zone. As I arrived at this very bucolic spot I only saw an empty road and a huge, tow behind bbq stoked up with a few bags of white hot coals. Oh, and a few cases of cold beer on ice in the cooler. Soon a rancher named Lauren arrived and claimed the refreshment spot. Lauren’s family owns several hundred acres on three of the four corners I was standing at, and was an enthusiastic race fan. He had invited all his neighbors to come enjoy the his hospitality and this great event.

Soon I had a crowd of about 100 folks who were pumped up and pounding beers. We cheered as Jackson Stewart of San Jose cranked by almost 12 minutes ahead of the peloton. I called him a local boy; the crowd told me that San Jose wasn’t local to them, but still gave him a rousing cheer. We had a long gap between Jackson and the pack, so the crowd mingled, discussed cattle prices and laughed at the frantic drivers trying to get ahead of the road closure.

Once the pack zipped by, tossing water bottles and not looking to concerned about Jackson, I watched for my ride into Santa Rosa. The CHP vehicles are decaled as C-1 through C-10, so I always know when the entourage is coming to an end. C-8, C-9, C-10, the Bissell Broom Wagon and the marshall van right behind it with the side door open. I threw my day pack into the vehicle, was pulled in by my fellow marshalls and was right on the pelotons tail headed toward Valley Ford.

A bunch of unclaimed shwag was lining the road, and C-9 kept stopping the vehicle and a state policemen would jump out and grab it out of the ditch. I still can’t understand why people chase all this crap! We swung off at the Bodega Highway while the entourage continued north on hwy 1 toward Coleman Valley Road and the second KOM of the day.

Once in Santa Rosa I grabbed a sweet, sweeping right hand turn. Versus was set up on the corner, so I knew I would have a great spot to see the riders. We had about 6 LOC (local organizing committee volunteers) to control the crosswalks, so my corner partner Julie and I could concentrate on working the crowd. We gave verbal warnings to the folks that pushed their banger sticks (or whatever you call those stupid things) over the french, told them that the riders like to push right out to the curb’ say ma’am is your dog on a leash?

Within a few minutes the peloton rushed into town for the first of three laps. I heard later than Jackson made it into town by himself, but by the time he reached me the pack had reeled him in. One of the marshalls said he was looking dog tired!

One of the dreaded bang sticks flew out of somebodys hands and I chased it down just before the peloton rushed by…close call! Three laps and JJ Haedo takes the stage…I make the way to the finish line just in time to see two very cheap looking Rock Republic (Rock Racing) girls flank him for the big photo op kiss. Ah, to see the TdF podium girls would be a welcome change!

Tomorrows stage doesn’t bring too much excitement for me…we will be caught out in the flats between Winters and Davis, then into Sacramento for the final circuits. I’ll be sure to pass on any information seen by This Marshall’s Eyes!

Additions to the ACTC Website

| February 11, 2008 8:33 am

by Franz Kelsch, ACTC Webmaster

  • The March Ride schedule has now been posted.
  • A new mailing list has been added for mountain bike riders. So far 25 people have subscribed. Click here to subscribe (ACTC members only). See this page for information about all the ACTC email lists.
  • Since we are approach the double century season, several articles have been added by Franz Kelsch to the training section of the website:
    • An article on training for your first double century
    • An article on nutrition during a double century
    • An article on tapering before a double century or other long distance event