Wow, what a way to start off the US racing season! Ten days touring California, loosing personal affects, driving way too much and dealing with crazed Lance fans. Though I am beat, I want to do it again.
This year yours truly was working the expo with Trek and thus part of the traveling circus entertaining the crowds at each finish line. Each day began with a two hour setup, followed with a full day at the booth and finished with a two hour tear down before driving a hundred plus miles to the next town. Somewhere in there we had to eat and try to get some sleep while attempting to keep up with projects back at the office. Yep, a full schedule at full tilt.
Interested in hitting the road with the race circuit? Let’s run down some of the fun and not so fun stuff from this year’s event:
Having worked traveling stage races in the past I can say I have some experience with long transfers. Some of those transfers have felt pretty gnarly after a long day of changing wheels or when you have to get up at the crack of dawn to drive an hour to the start line. Having just participated on the Expo side of things, I feel it may be worse on the traveling circus. For teams and the support crew, each day ends with a stay in a hotel either in the finishing town or where the next stage starts. This keeps the transfers down to a minimum. For the folks in the Expo each day ended with a long drive to the next finishing town. Considering most stages were long road races the average drive for the expo folks was over a hundred and twenty miles. Yep, long days.
From experience you learn to come prepared for a variety of weather conditions. Each of us had our favorite rain gear on hand and it was put to the test this year. My gear included water-proof shoes and a long ‘pit’ jacket to keep from getting wet. The rain this year was so bad it poored down my long coat and socked the lower portion of my jeans. This lead to wet socks and then wet feet. Yep, water proof shoes only protect from the bottom up. Needless to say, we cleaned out a sporting goods store of rain pants and wellies while in Santa Cruz. As the race went on the weather improved and we were in shorts and skirts by the time we hit Southern California. Maybe the 60’s aren’t shorts weather but when you live in a winter wonderland, its hard to turn down the chance.
With thousands of people cruising the expo keeping track of personal affects can be daunting. This year our group lost an iPod and a cell phone amongst other stuff. Though on-site theft occurs, its the late night break-ins that really suck. After assembling our bikes the first night we moved our tools and gear back into the trailer. Due to the weather we opted to keep the assembled bikes in our rooms. Lucky for us that saved our Expo potential. That night our trailer was broken into and we lost both our (my) tools and the single bike we had stored within. Yes, we had a quality lock and no, they didn’t cut the lock. Instead they beat the lock mechanism until it broke and the lock had nothing left to hold onto. Rumor has it Giant was worked on the same night but their parking space was close to constant traffic and thus not a viable option for the thief.
The next night the Astana vehicle was hit and Lance’s new time trial bike was stolen along with two road bikes. Needless to say, once the word got out about Lance’s bike ours was forgotten. Hey, if anyone finds a marble gray tool box or argyle Madone road bike in Sacramento, let us know.
In case you hadn’t heard, Lance is back. Along with Lance’s return came the throngs of Lance fans, cancer survivors and those supporting cancer initiatives. I have never experienced crowds of this magnitude in the States. Heck, its pretty rare to see crowds that large in Europe.
During the early part of the week Trek had on display one of Lance’s 1274/27.5 bikes. This made our booth very popular with the Lance fans. By mid week we had Lance’s back-up time trial bike on display as well. This created quite a stir especially considering his 1274/27.5 TT bike had been stolen a few days earlier. Let’s just say the expo traffic stopped at the Trek booth as people fought to get their photo taken with the bikes, take photos of their children with the bikes, touch the bikes, pretend to steel the bikes and ask us a lot of questions about both Lance and the bikes. My roommate mentioned I was answering those questions in my sleep by the end of the race.
The final night was capped off with a gathering at the Elephant Bar. Tech crew, support crew, team staff, riders and expo folks all took a long breather over some beer and great stories. Ready for next year…you bet we all are.
Thanks to Drew Axt and Dave O’Connell from Trek for photos