Sunday, September 12, 2004

San Francisco Grand Prix – Race Report
AKA the T-Mobile International

My daughter and I took BART into the City this morning – first one left at 7:50am from Orinda so we got to Embarcadero about 8:30. Scored some great schwag from the Expo and bought a pound of Jittery Joe’s coffee just because I like their whole team concept and they ride Kleins. Also got a poster of Dede Barry, the USA Olympic silver medalist from the T-Mobile team – I was hoping to get an autograph too but I couldn’t find her after the race… I told my daughter the poster was for her (ha!).

Then we got in a position to watch the last couple laps of the women’s race; about 100 meters past the start/finish line, and THERE WAS PHIL LIGGETT!!!! He was in the announcer’s booth with John Eustice and some other local guy with TV cameras and everything. I gave him an excited wave and he returned it with equal enthusiasm; what a pleasant chap.

So daughter and I made a lot of noise every time the girls came by and on the last little finishing circuit Nicole Cooke looked like she was putting it away and sure enough finished well clear of the second place rider. Then as she rolled by where we were, I shouted out to her “THREE-PEAT” (meaning she should come back and win again next year too) and she looked at me and nodded with a huge grin.

We walked around the Expo some more waiting for the men’s race to start and it was still cold and foggy. After the men went out on their first 9-mile lap we started walking up Broadway and found a good place to sit for a while. The course went both ways on this piece of road so we got to see them climbing the gradual grade, and screaming down the other side. I used my daughter’s sidewalk chalk to write a little protest in the middle of the road, it said: “¿NO VUELTA? SHAME ON OLN!” It’s clearly visible from the helicopter shots on the TV coverage – watch for it!

We walked to the top of Broadway between laps, and then turned on to Columbus which was all barricaded off. The crowd was thicker here and it was harder to see and it was still cold so we ducked into an Italian pastry shop for a hot cocoa and watched the next couple laps. Then we walked to the top of Columbus to watch them come around that corner before we started to head back to Embarcadero.

We saw some bike messengers having races to the top of one of the steepest cul de sacs you’ve ever seen. We scored a scuffed-up water bottle chucked from the peloton. I got really good views of lots of famous riders including FredRod, Levi, CesarG and all the JJ’s, Eki, Georgie, and the Posties, even Magnus B – the heaviest guy in the UCI and winner of Paris-Roubaix this year; the Filmore and Taylor hills must have been torture for him.

By early afternoon it was sunny and warm. We planted ourselves again near the middle of the Broadway stretch and Jason McCartney (a USA Olypian from my home town of Iowa City) had more than a two minute lead on a hard charging peloton. He made a move like this in the Olympic trials and held on to take the solo win. So that was pretty exciting but he blew up and got passed on the very last climb of the race. I was on Embarcadero again when soon-to-be winner Charles Dionne came by very close to us and I yelled to him “SWEET! SWEET!” and he had the biggest grin anyone could wear who’s in as much pain as he must have been. He was shaking his head in disbelief and nodding with euphoria at the same time.

To celebrate the end of the race we went to an outdoor diner called the “Automatic” or something like that. I had a $4 beer and my daughter had a $4 milkshake and some $3 French fries. A wonderful day of bike racing in San Francisco.

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