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.

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