Friday, February 22, 2008

ToC Stage 4: They're All Studs Today

Every last one, including Jackson Stewart, who reportedly had to abandon to get treated for hypothermia. Seven hours in the cold, blowing rain. You can't even slap an adequate label on that, it's just plain miserable. A couple of years ago, I got caught out riding solo in a cold and nasty Nor'easter. It was just a 17-mile loop, but I was hanging on for life towards the end. When I made it home and stepped inside, I just stood there, dripping, for the longest time, my body going through all sorts of nasty sensations. I only see out of one eye as it is, and the vision in that "good" eye was blurred for a couple of hours afterwards. I believe the comment I made in my riding diary was: Don't ever do that again. Which is not at all to imply that I have any idea what these guys went through today, but rather to emphasize that I can't imagine. I mean, it's not live combat or anything, but as bike racing goes, a heck of a tough day.

Watching George Hincapie in the break, I kept thinking of his head-to-toe road rash. What does that feel like in the cold and wet, and having to wear clothing on all of it? One imagines he had the idea all day that a stage win would make it worth it, and he did well to at least make the chase, but how disappointing to fall just that little bit short in the end. Watching Dominique Rollin run away with it at the last, in addition to being impressed by the great move, I kept thinking of his bare-nekkid legs! I guess he was pumping them fast enough to keep warm.

Watching Astana toil away interminably at the front until CSC finally took a turn in the last miles, again I thought of France. A team that is willing to do the work, keep things under control, beyond their obligatory defense of yellow. Again, a team you might want to have around in, say, a major stage race.

I finally got the video working today, and watched the last few hours live on the Amgen Tour of California site. The irony was that their cameras were out for over an hour, but credit to Frankie Andreu and JoE Silva (sic) for keeping it interesting. That Frankie is getting good at this commentating thing; he offered some very nice insights from a rider's perspective.

In my best Johnny Carson "I did not know that," interesting to see riders hiking up their jackets just before crossing the line, required to have their numbers showing. Some of them did it, but others were not as attentive. With a day like today, I trust the officials will cut them some slack. Good job to the Kelly Benefit soigneurs, ready with cups of hot tea for their guys at the finish.

David Millar hugging Levi Leipheimer in commiseration after the finish is one of those moments I love in a bike race, but I have to admit my first thought was - no! Slipstream has the dreaded disease amongst them, stay away Levi! David's been going good, though, so hopefully he's still healthy.

More rain predicted for tomorrow - again No! Takes the pure fun out of a crucial time trial, but will no doubt be just as exciting. If nothing else, these days are getting the guys in shape for the Spring Classics. Although I believe the idea was to have fun in the sun before the nastiness Over There. Fingers crossed for the weekend.

Just watched the Versus broadcast. I gushed over Levi yesterday, but I have to say again, I really like the tough, confident competitor he's become. Didn't hesitate for a moment when he looked Bobke square in the eyes and said that yes, he could win tomorrow. Not guaranteeing it, knowing full well who's right behind him, but saying he could - and, the tricky part, believing it. And just when I worried I might be dramatizing the day too much, there Levi says it's in the top three worst days he's had on a bike. For a guy that's ridden his bike most every day since childhood, that's saying something.

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