Thursday, June 23, 2011

Stage 3 - Horner Takes Control!

Although the Tour of California was a week-long race that stayed exciting right up to the final stage, the most decisive moment of the entire race occured on Stage 3, and Clare and I were there to witness it.  The Day started out mellow enough, in the town of Livermore, California. Greg Henderson of Team Sky had taken over the leaders jersey the day before and he was flying the gold jersey before the start.

The peleton rolled out at a pretty slow pace under cloudy skies that were threatening to rain. Although Stage 3 was the shortest stage of the race, it had some serious climbing in it and the riders didn't seem in any hurry to get to the climbs in the second half of the stage.

We drove into San Jose and walked up the Sierra Road which was the final climb to the Stage 3 finish. We expected it to be epic and we weren't disappointed.  Ryder Hesjedal came through first, looking like he was in the red!!

But right behind him came Levi, Chris Horner, and Andy Schleck. Right as they were passing us, Horner started to turn the screws a bit and he began to open up a small gap (above). Just beyond us Horner passed Hesjedal, and by the time he hit the finish line at the summit he had pushed the gap to 1:15 over both Levi and Andy!  Hesjedal slowed way down and finished 1:36 back.

The rest of the field filtered by in small groups behind the leaders.  Peter Velits of HTC looked strong as he passed, but he would wind up 8:14 behind Horner!

Brent Bookwalter of BMC is an up and coming American rider who finished a respectable 14th on the stage, 2:33 back.

Ben King is another young American who rode well on the stage. He has a few years ahead of him before he will be a real dominant force, but he is headed in the right direction.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tour of California - The Riders

Although the Tour of California is not a Pro Tour race, it still manages to draw some of the best teams in the world of professional bicycling.  And even though the Giro D'Itlaia is going on at the same time (drawing many top riders), the Tour of California manages to get a solid field of the sports top stars.
Every edition of the Tour of California has featured world champions and this year is no exception. Thor Hushovd is here with the new Garmin-Cervelo squad.  He is the current road race world champion and he was easily recognizable in his world champions rainbow stripes.

I was able to get a few good pictures of Thor and the rest of the Garmin-Cervelo squad before the start of Stage1 and Stage 2.

The other world champion racing in California this year is Oscar Freire. I believe this is his first time racing the Tour of California, and although he didn't win any stages he really animated the break during Stage 2 and almost held out for the win.

Many of the winners of this years classics are racing here in California. This is Nick Nuyens, winner of the Tour of Flanders. And below is Johan Van Summeren, the surprise winner of Paris Roubaix.

To round out the classics winners, Matthew Goss, winner of this year's Milan San Remo is also here racing for HTC.

This year there are some new faces in the peleton represent some of the up and coming stars of the sport. Ben King, the current American road race champ is here with Team Radio Shack. Ben is wearing his stars and stripes kit.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tour of California - The Bikes!!

So, one of my favorite parts of going to a professional bike race is getting a chance to see all of the absolutely cool bikes and bike paraphernalia that is at the cutting edge of the sport.  The first bike to really catch my eye was the Pinarello Dogma ridden by Team Sky (above). I'm partial to Pinarello, being Italian, and they are extremely cool too.  This one was ridden by Stage 1 winner Ben Swift.

The Dogmas ridden by Team Sky are very different than the ones ridden by Bissel that I posted pictures of last year. Just looking at the fork and head tube of the Team Sky bikes you can tell that these bikes have something really funky going on.

Next on the absolutely sweet bike list is the Cervelo S3 of Thor Hushovd.  Personally, I don't care what bike you're riding, if you're rocking the world champion's rainbow stripes the bike just looks so much cooler.

I'm not a huge Trek fan, but the Radio Shack Madones look very cool. For pure aesthetics alone they are one of my favorite bikes in the pro peleton.  This is Jason McCartney's ride parked in front of the Shack bus. I dig the bear graphic on the bus, and it is also one the bikes, at the top of the seat tube.

One of the newest and sexiest bikes of the pro peleton is the Specialized Venge. HTC was rocking them for the first time in the U.S. They are done up in a matte black finish that looks super stealthy.

BMC is a company that doesn't really excite me as far as bike design is concerned, but like Radio Shack, BMC really does have a great look. From their kits, to their bikes to their team cars (above), I love the way they roll.

I could go on for a long time raving about all of the great bikes from this years Tour of California but I'll hold myself back.  However, one bike that has to make it in is the Focus Izalco of Team Jelly Belly. They might not be a Pro Tour team, but they sure do ride Pro Tour quality bikes. The paint job of course just seals the deal for me. I love it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Team Leopard-Trek

Andy Schleck, Jens Voight, and several other riders from Team Leopard-Trek are here to contest the Tour of California. There is definitely a somber mood surrounding the riders, following the death of their teammate Wouter Weylandt in the Giro D'Italia. Andy Schleck (above) seems particularly distant from the fans and the media attention, compared to last year when he was all smiles and very accessible.
Jens Voigt was his usual, affable self though. He conducted several interviews before each stage and spent a lot of time posing for pictures with fans. No wonder why everyone loves Jens!
Still, the team is here to race, and they are carrying on as best they can. Linus Gerdemann (above) was in the mix for the sprint on Stage 1 in Sacramento.
The team has brought a number of young riders here to get experience in preparation for the Tour de France and other stage races to be held throughout the summer.  It is doubtful that a guy like Stefan Denifil (above) will make the Tour de France squad, but a good showing here might help his chances to get on for the Vuelta or the Tour of Switzerland.  He actually had a pretty good scare on Stage 5 when he crashed pretty dramatically. But, he survived it relatively unscathed and was able to finish the race. More on that here:
Here is a picture from Cyclingnews of his Stage 5 crash. Whoa!! That is the Leopard-Trek team car nearly running him over!
Many of the teams are choosing to remember Wouter Weylandt in their own way. Team Radio Shack are all carrying stickers memorializing Wouter on their bikes (WW 108). This one is on Haimar Zubeldia's Trek Madone.
Team Leopard-Trek had some nice looking Madones of their own. The one on the outside belongs to Martin Pedersen. That is a really small frame with a really big crank!!
Here is Jakob Fugslang giving it everything on the climb up to the summit of Sierra Road on Stage 3. Andy Schleck had already passed by with Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner. Shortly after they passed us, Horner dropped them both to solo for the win and take a commanding lead on the GC.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tour of California 2011 - Stage 1

Well, after having the first stage cancelled because of snow, the Tour of California is set to go. So what we are now calling Stage 1 (originally supposed to be Stage 2) was shortened from the start in Tahoe, to a start in Nevada City due to snow. The finish was in Sacramento as planned. 
Here is a nice shoe of the neutral roll out through Nevada City, California. Levi, Dave Zabriske, Andy Jacques-Maynes and Jens Voigt are on the front.

A great field is on display here in California. Oscar Freire was pretty calm before the start of Stage 1. He looks relaxed and ready for a sprint stage.

Andy Schleck racing through the streets of Sacramento. Obviously, he didn't contest the sprint, he just hung out in the back of the peleton where it was a little safer.

Lars Boom rode a pretty conservative race today. He stayed in the peleton and took it easy over the three finishing laps.

This is Sergio Hernandez of Jelly Belly taking the corner nice and fast, despite the conditions. I love the Focus Team bikes. Looks a lot like my Focus cross bike!

This is Dimitry Muravyev taking a tight 90 degree turn in the rain on the final lap around downtown Sacramento. From here it is a straight shot of about 500m to the finish. Ben Swift of Team Sky ended up taking the win in a close finish.