United's Cervelos, Tour of Cali Stage 1 Report

Feb 21 2006

Well, I don’t have internet today, thanks to the clowns over at Adelphia, who are currently charging me money so I can be taunted by that one orange light on the bottom of the cable modem that tells me it’s not working. Thankfully, I’ve got dial-up internet via cell phone thanks to the clowns over at Verizon. Unfortunately, it sucks down my phone plan minutes, so I’ll probably publish a better post tonight at 2am, after the ToC stage, when cell calls are free. As it stands now, all I’ve got to write about is yesterday’s Tour of Cali stage. Actually, no, I can report to you all that I’ve been talking with the Toyota-United Team, and the Cervelo TT bikes under Cruz and Baldwin are a result of United simply not making TT rigs at the moment. Team Owner Sean Tucker wanted “the very best” for his squad, and bought some Cervelos. That’s a pretty rousing endorsement for the red and black rigs, almost as rousing as Haedo’s win was for the team’s regular ride.

Anyway, last night’s viewing was a bit disappointing. First off, Gonzaga-Pepperdine ran long, so the show didn’t get underway until 2:10am EST (hope all your VCRs and TiVo’s caught the ending) and the racing didn’t get underway until 2:17 or so, because some suit decided five minutes of talking and a commercial break was the right way to get things going. Beyond that, the camerawork was downright clownish – I guess the Europeans have better roads, or better steady-cams, or better cameramen, or maybe all three, because any time there was a hard corner, or bumps or shadows, everything got really hard to see. The fact that there were any images at all betrays SOME sort of aerial coverage (how else are you gonna bounce the signal from the bikes back to the finish line?), but they had not a single chopper shot the whole evening, and they were sorely missed.

The normally rocksteady commentary team were, perhaps affected by the lower-level of play around them, well off their games. Paul called California the “sunshine state” (forgivable mistake for a foreigner), but Bob Roll, in explaining that these long breaks seldom succeed, elaborated that you seldom see big names like Jens Voight, who rode nearly 500k off the front in the ’04 TdF, took the maillot jaune via breakaway in ’05, and nearly won LBL in the same fashion, going of the front. Most annoying of all were the balding, hipster-glasses-wearing commentator and Clif Bar rep who robbed me of a minute of my life explaining that Clif Bar was buying clean energy to replace all the gas used in the ToC. Rather than just say this outright, they introduced some sort of (presumably medicinal) hemp jersey, tried to hide it from Paul Sherwen, and yelled at each other a lot. Maybe my lack of awe towards this race is subconsciously rooted in my seething dislike toward this sort of “only in California” crap.

Finally, the break got reeled and and we were onto the circuits. It was very criterium-esq, nothing like the bald-faced attempts of Giro organizers to get some blood on the pavement. For some reason, though, even with the easier parcours, the camera team was unable to get that beautiful footage of the final laps that puts the hair on the backs of every cyclists necks on end as the field comes into l’ultimo kilometro. Lotto, Gerolsteiner and T-Mobile took turns battling for a lead-out train, but in the end, the finish line camera was hopelessly distracted by a group of lapped riders and stymied by shadow, and by the time the sprint action became clear, JJ Haedo was clear by a country mile. He had time to ease up, look back, start cranking again, look back again, and then sit up and celebrate; he began with the traditional “Universal Man” pose, with the arms out at 10 and 2, but then began punching with his right arm while keeping his left extended, as if slapping a massive stand-up bass. Behind him, former Giro Leader Olaf Pollack and former TdF leader Stuard O’Grady looked foolish.

And that was Stage 1. The post-race interview lady seemed to yell, constantly, for no reason. The 2-man break (one USA, one Euro) got the “HealthNet Move of the Day” prize, probably because the camera had missed Haedo’s jump in the final. The activity of the riders continued to indicate the tune-up status of the event, with attack after pointless attack coming on the one big climb of the day. Just riders out gunning up the engines, trying to recreate that sear of lactic in the thighs, to gauge where their training is and prepare for future events. Bob and Paul tried to play it up, but with the field kinda sitting up behind all like “whatever, it’s gonna come back together”, there was a palpable lack of urgency surrounding it all. Still, there’s a race to be won, and prizes to be had, and no doubt some serious gauntlet throwing to come over the next few days.

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