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!

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