Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sky's the limit: Amgen T o C Stage 3

This photo was borrowed from The Telegraph.  To see the original photo and story, click on Greg Henderson's name in the post below.

For the first four years of the Tour of California, the race was conducted in February (as a sort of pre-season, warm-up activity). But with the popularity of the race exploding, and vendors, spectators and participants clamoring for better weather and road conditions, race organizers moved the race to May. Last year, the riders rode under beautiful warm May skies. Not so yesterday.

The temperature was 53 degrees in Auburn when they started out—and rain was falling. For most of the race, they were soggy. And cold. Really, really cold. Cyclists are extremely lean, with almost zero body fat for insulation, so when the weather is cold, they’re cold, no matter how fast they’re pumping those pedals.

Other than an unusual number of flatted front tires, the race was without drama in the first 117 miles. In the last five, all hell broke loose.

As the peloton entered Modesto for the finish, the big boys scooped up the 5 guys that were still on a break-away, then the gears began to spin. As in yesterday’s stage, they did a couple circuits of the town, with fans cheering, screaming and trying to snap photos from behind the barricades. With just under five miles to go, there was a crash and several riders went down, including world-renowned Jens Voight, who managed to pick himself up off the pavement and roll bloodily on to cross the line somewhere at the back of the peloton. More riders went down within a quarter mile of the finish but staggered on, sporting severe road rash.

Team Sky was at it again, trying to get their champion of Stage 2, Ben Swift, close to the front for another stage win. But as the riders neared the line, “Swifty” got caught up in traffic and couldn’t extricate himself, so it was teammate Greg Henderson this time who powered over the line. Henderson’s remark later was: “I was so lactic I was cross-eyed--I couldn't even do a victory salute.”

Today’s race will be an uphill finish, which means the sprinters will be somewhere in the middle of the peloton exchanging war stories at day’s end.

Forgot to mention yesterday that Taylor Phinney finished 8th in Monday’s stage. He was 8th in yesterday’s stage as well, and now he has the 7th overall best time. He is also in 2nd place to Peter Sagan in competition for the Young Riders jersey. Keep going, Taylor; make your mum & dad proud.

Should also say that the best coverage in print media for the T o C has been from the British papers. Oh—and did I mention that Team Sky is a British team?

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