Sunday September 14 - T-Mobile International Bike Race in San Francisco
My daughter and I took BART into the City at 8:30am. There was a Raiders game on today also so there were a few crazies in costume and face paint sharing the train with us… my daughter (3-1/2 years old) must have figured that's just how some people dress to ride BART because she didn't seem to find it odd.
We got to the Embarcadero in time to see the last two laps of the women's event. Nicole Cooke of course has been winning everything this year so it was no surprise to see her cross the line well ahead of anyone else. There was a LONG pause before the men's race started so we went to check out the booths in the expo. I got to see the 2004 Dura Ace gruppo up close at the Shimano booth, and there were dozens of bike and component manufacturer booths as well as booths for local bike shops, nutritional products, and everything else you can imagine. The Saturn display was probably the best - they had a virtual bike race thing where people would ride bikes on trainers that were hooked up to some kind of computer display and two-by-two they would race each other while the TVs showed their progress as animated characters. It was so crowded in the expo though that we didn't stay long and only scored some token schwagg.
We spend some time checking out the Mavic support cars - they had a motorcycle with about 10 extra wheels on it and the extra bikes had quill pedals with toe clips - so they wouldn't have to try and match pedal types. I'd heard that's what Mavic offers on all of the races they support but I needed to check it out to be sure. The wheels were all Ksyriums (mostly SSCs but some Elites too) with Mich Pro Race tires. I don't know what they did about Campy/Shimano compatibility on the cassettes. I should have checked to see how big their low gears were too but I didn't think of it.
The men's race finally started about 11:15 with a few parade laps around the Embarcadero. I was about 100 meters beyond the start line and after the huge field rode by there was one guy from Sierra Nevada/Clif Bar that had a mechanical problem and stopped. The Mavic car pulled up behind him to help but the Sierra Nevada car pulled up too so Mavic left. The Sierra Nevada mechanic ran out and changed the guy's rear wheel but had some problems with the chain. I don't think the rear wheel was even the problem but he gave the guy a push and ran back into the car and just after the car was gone the guy stopped again with the same problem. He stepped up on the curb into the crowd (across the street from me) and threw his bike to the ground in disgust. I understood his frustration but thought that was a pretty poor display for the sponsor. Anyway on the second parade lap the Sierra Nevada car got him going again and then had to "adjust his seatpost" from the moving vehicle… towing him back into the main field at about 60mph! Everybody was cheering for him to make contact… it was kind of cool. Postal guys were wearing their Champs Elysses jerseys - the gray ones that no one had seen before the final TdF stage. I got good looks at Lance and Eki, Gilberto Simoni, and Vinokourov. I was looking for Guerini and Garzelli but I couldn't pick them out. There were reports that Lance might not ride at all because he'd been sick so it was nice to see him suited up even if he wasn't going to do the whole ride (he didn't finish).
So after the parade laps around the start, the field took off up Broadway and then they had the celebrity race. The pack split up right from the start and Robin Williams was the second rider past my spot. I think I heard that he was first across the line though. His Honor Willie Brown was supposed to be doing the race but I'm sure he wasn't there. There was also a guy in a huge shark outfit - maybe the mascot for the San Jose Sharks - looked like it made riding very difficult but he was a crowd favorite - there was a report though that he took a shortcut and didn't complete the entire course.
The men's race splintered up pretty quickly after the start - as this race has always done. We walked up Broadway to see the riders from different vantage points but after the third lap my daughter decided she'd had enough and threatened to have a fit if we didn't head home. So we scored another free mini Clif Bar and a balloon and made our way back to the BART station.
Ken Papai is a great photographer who has hundreds of super photos on his site - I'll post the link here when he gets the bugs worked out, but here's one example:
(for some reason I can't make it link - please copy and paste to browser)