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Big Paulie 02-24-07 10:32 PM

Very Interesting Day!
I planned to ride through Ventura County today, which is normal for me on weekends. The weather was perfect. Cool, crystal clear, and no wind. You could see individual trees out at the Channel Islands, which are 30 miles away!

So I headed out, and decided to make a run up to Ojai, on the off chance I might get a glimpse of the Tour Of Califronia as it passed through. I had no idea how many people would be there, or what the exact route was. But I figured if I got into town it would be obvious where the route was, or if there were going to be too many people watching to make it comfortable.

Going up the bike path from Ventura to Ojai, there were maybe 3 times as many cyclists on the path than usual, and after talking with a few of them, it was obvious everyone was going to see the race pass by.

I got into Ojai around 11:30 AM, and it wasn't crowded at all. I stopped a course marshal and asked about the schedule, and she said they were due to pass by around 12:15. The roads were still open, so I took Route 150 through Ojai and out of town, riding up to the summit of the King Of The Mountains checkpoint, about 3 miles out of town. There were a lot of cyclists doing the same thing.

I rode back into town around noon, and found an empty spot along the golf course that's along the road. I parked my bike against the chain link fence, and turned my attention in the direction the riders would come from. Soon, a few course marshalls and support vehicles came by. Then a few more. Then the local traffic was halted as the race was approaching. The silence was deafening, it was so exciting.

I have to tell you, my heart was absolutely pounding. I have never seen a pro race before in person...but having ridden for 11 years and watched untold hours of racing on TV, I was still unprepared for what I saw. When the riders approached, there was a nine man break away out front, with a larger breakaway just behind them, then about a 3 minute gap to the main field. I couldn't believe how fast they were going. (They were on a straight section with a slight downhill and a slight tail wind. So 35, maybe even 40 MPH.)

I was standing on the curb of the roadway, and the riders were 5 feet from me as they passed. The sound of the peloton breaking the wind as they passed was actually intimidating. There were whistles and shouts between the riders -- not friendly...but with an aggressive, competitive tone. The main field was flying, and to think that a group of riders were able to break away from those guys is incomprehensible to me. (I was at the mid-point of the race, so the peloton wasn't trying to reel in the two breakaway groups yet.)

The level of concentration on the riders faces was also surprising. It just doesn't come across that way on TV. I can see where they wouldn't have any sense of the terrain they were crossing aside from the impact it had on the racing. It's just too dangerous to look away even for a second.

Also, the disparity of the size of the riders was more apparent live. The big sprinters were really big, and the climbers were tiny little guys...they almost looked like children in comparison.

The time it took for all the riders to pass was under 4 minutes, but it seemed like 20 minutes to me. There was so much going on. And the level of riding was so fast and in such close's still resonating with me ten hours later. I actually had a hard time riding back in to Ventura after it was over. What was I doing, tootling along at 15 MPH on the bike path???

What was really great, however, was how I felt whenever a gaggle of OCP racer-wannabe's passed me. They were at least a thousand light years away from the real pros in ability, but they were posturing nonetheless. Didn't they see the same race as me? Don't they know how bad they suck?

With the great weather and relaxed viewing, I wish all the 50 plussers could have been there!

Nermal 02-24-07 10:51 PM

I ain't going. I don't need to find out how bad I suck, and I'm one who would notice.

Agh! It's hard to posture on a Cypress, anyway.

Digital Gee 02-24-07 11:36 PM

Great story, BP...wish I coulda been there too!

CrossChain 02-25-07 12:05 AM

BP... A sweet snapshot of "the real thing". You had me right there with you...sharing the drama and the awe. Thanks.

Deanster04 02-25-07 12:58 AM

I went out to California in September and road HWY 1 from Monterey to SLO. It took too days of vigorous riding and I was quite proud of my self...The TOC rode basically the same route with 15 miles added from Seaside and they did it in 5hrs 6min WOW!!!!! When I saw the video of them climbing the hill before Nepthnes they were sprinting...truly amazing. I know just how you feel.

stapfam 02-25-07 02:26 AM

Must have been about 76 and I was in France when the TDF went through the town I was staying in. Problem was that it was only 2 miles from the start and the build up to the race was fantastic. Then the pelaton came past in one large group doing about 15mph and it was over. I then went to The TDF in the UK. Had to cycle out about 20 miles and we knew the spot we wanted- at the top of a long slope and on the outside of the curve. We got the spot and had to fight to keep it all day long. People jumping in front of us were moved on- very helpfull when you have 6'6" of muscle telling them that they were in the wrong place. Then a camera crew set up right in front of us and they were told they were in a dangerous place. No were not not-Yes you are as the tripod was kicked over.
I think I saw all my neighbours there but they had come by car- but at least we managed to get a couple of Hotdogs off them from the bar-b-cue. Then it came past- 2 leaders and 3 minutes later the pelaton. AND this year the TDF starts in the UK. I will pick up the second day and have 40 miles to cycle out there. Once again my spot is picked but I doubt that I will be out there at 7 am again. Don't have the 6'6" of muscle riding any longer.- He died in 02.

jppe 02-25-07 06:06 AM

Great race report BP!! It really adds to a ride to have a purpose or destination and it couldn't get much better for you Saturday than a bike race. I bet you were so pumped up on the return trip you had to hold the bike back.

I completely agree with the abilities of these guys. Cyclists in general and especially the public at large just can't appreciate the talent and effort of these guys. And to think they are doing it day in and day out. They are truly terrific athletes-and the neat thing is they can be in various sizes and shapes.

The challenge with road races is they come by so fast you just don't get a chance to see much for very long. A lot of the fun is exactly what you encountered in getting to the event and the anticipation of the racers coming by. We need more races in the US.........

Beverly 02-25-07 07:07 AM

Wonderful report! You made me feel like I was right there, too. I remember having the same feelings when I attended the Tour de Georgia.

RockyMtnMerlin 02-25-07 09:10 AM

Thanks Biggie. Great report. Much better than those over in the Road Bike Racing forum (but there are some amazing photos over there by erader). I have been toying with the idea of either going to the U.S. Pro Chamionships in Greenville this year or out to CA for the ToC next year. Your report may have just tipped the scales!

p.s. jppe is absolutely right about the racers. I have been riding for nearly 28 years and have been in really great shape (off and on - well msotly off) and to see the speeds these guys achieve is absolutely amazing. Imagine riding along by yourself for 14.57 miles averaging just over t w e n t y - n i n e miles per hour on a course with a bunch of turns and "one short steep climb." :eek: :D :eek:

And while that ride by Levi was very impressive, the winner of the Tour de France satge 7 time trial last year did 32.24 miles at 31.33 mph (a rolling, circular route)!!!!!!!!!!

Hey maybe we should have a BF 50+ get together in SC or CA. Or maybe both so it would be closer for those on either coast.

spry 02-25-07 11:59 AM

Thanks for the color commentary BP,much appreciated by those of us frozen in up north.

Did you notice the damage on Levi,s legs,the boy had to be in some pain?

Was there a red bike with a pointed-head guy somewhere in the peleton as it passed you wearing socks sponsered by Wheaties?

p8rider 02-25-07 01:52 PM

BP - I appreciate your wonderful descriptive. You painted a great picture. Thanks!!

Big Paulie 02-25-07 03:41 PM


Originally Posted by spry
Did you notice the damage on Levi,s legs,the boy had to be in some pain?
Was there a red bike with a pointed-head guy somewhere in the peleton as it passed you wearing socks sponsered by Wheaties?

I couldn't make out that kind of detail.

But, I was blown away to learn on the TV replay last night that George Hincapie was riding with a broken wrist...while dragging the entire peloton through the back country chasing down the break away. How incredible is that???

RockyMtnMerlin 02-25-07 03:52 PM


Originally Posted by Big Paulie
I couldn't make out that kind of detail.

But, I was blown away to learn on the TV replay last night that George Hincapie was riding with a broken wrist...while dragging the entire peloton through the back country chasing down the break away. How incredible is that???

Now the early story is that Hincapie will be out 6-8 weeks. Man that will put a huge dent in his spring classics camapaign (if true).:(

will dehne 02-25-07 05:57 PM

Thanks for this exiting report for guys like me who cannot be there.

Big Paulie 02-25-07 06:54 PM

Thank you all for the nice comments!

A couple of follow up points...

Yes, it sure looks like George Hincapie is screwed for a couple of months. He really showed his true colors yesterday, taking up the chase for his team with a broken wrist.

I can see why Europeans are so enthusiastic about bike racing....something I never really understood in the past. The TOC and the TOG are both going to pick up steam in the future. With Lance breaking though to the mainstream American audience, these two tours are in a great position to take it to the next level.

The winner of the today's last stage, Ivan Dominguez, used to live near us when he first came to Califonia, and I used to see him out training fairly often. He lives a few miles up the road now, but still local.

I'm wondering about the buisness potential of an invention I'm thinking about. I call it the "virtual cow bell." Rather than have to drag a real cow bell with you on your bike when you go to the races, this device would synthesize the same sound and be small enough to carry in your saddle bag. Potential investors can contact me through the BF!!!

I think a 50 Plus tailgate party at one of the stages of next year's event would be insane!

big john 02-25-07 08:26 PM

Big Paulie, you nailed it with your description. We went to Balcom Canyon with the Pope, the Grim Reaper, and that big hair caped guy. The concentration on the riders faces is obvious. The way they race up that climb that the rest of us struggle on is stunning, although one of the last riders said to a friend "Push me". He pushed the guy for a few yards. Nice to know at least some of them are human.

BSLeVan 02-25-07 09:24 PM

I've had similar feeling watching the pros race in Philadelphia every year. They really are in a class that's hard to imagine. But, like George Benson says about playing guitar, "If you have talent and work on it three to four hours everyday, you get pretty good." Big Paulie, I agree with the others. Your words were enjoyable to read, and you did capture the essence of the experience. Nicely told.

LynnH 02-26-07 11:31 AM

I already knew I wanted to put one day of the ToC on my calendar for next year, but your story will make me ink it in right now! George is one of my favorites, he is just amazing, can't wait til he is back.

leob1 02-26-07 11:45 AM

Try going to a criterioin, where they race laps on a closed course. The difference between the cat 2 and the cat1/pro riders is amazing. The peloton of cat1 /pro will create its own wind.
But, I can understand your excitement when they go by, it's always a HOLY S***! moment for me.
BTW 15 mph, is about what I average too.

Enjoy the ride.

BluesDawg 02-26-07 01:24 PM

Great description of race viewing, Big Paulie. I'm really looking forward to to seeing those guys here in Georgia again in less than 2 months.
One thing that really got to me working as a course marshal was the people who refused to to watch this amazing spectacle as it passed close by them. Every day I would have to deal with people who were angry that they were being delayed for a few minutes from their drives to the grocery store or whatever. I convinced a few people to park their cars and come see what all the fuss was about, but many just sat there in their cars and fumed until the roads reopened. Amazing.

Cassave 02-26-07 03:40 PM

My club (SFVBC) rode out to Balcom Canyon to watch the boys climb the last KOM of the race.
Balcom is STEEP. I'm told about 24% grade. It is a bear to climb.

The break that Big Paulie mentioned still had a 2:55 lead on the peloton when they passed us. Those guys were seriously working that hill, it even looked hard for them. George Hincapie was leading the main group up the hill, later I found out he was riding with a freshly broken wrist. Anyone who thinks these guys aren't tough as nails should come watch in person, TV does not do this sport justice.

Can't wait till next year, it's only gonna get better.

dagna 02-26-07 05:44 PM


Originally Posted by Big Paulie
So I headed out, and decided to make a run up to Ojai, on the off chance I might get a glimpse of the Tour Of Califronia as it passed through.

Excellent report--as others have said, it made me feel as if I were there. Thanks so much!

SaiKaiTai 02-26-07 06:08 PM

+1 on the immediacy of your description. You paint a nice picture.

My hat's off -big time- to Big George... he not only pulled the peloton up to reel in the breakaway but he had to catch up to the front of the pack from dead last. Amazing. What a stud.

They're ability to ride is astounding... incomprehensible to me, really. As I was standing on Telegraph Hill Blvd, leading up to Coit Tower I couldn't not believe how quickly and easily these guys can climb. I mentally gauged my efforts to theirs and it just does not compute.

Folks, if you've never attended a Pro Cycling event, do it. Soon.

Litespeed 02-26-07 06:09 PM

Can't wait until my husband and I retire this August and can move up near Sacramento. Next time they have the Tour, my husband & I plan on being there to see it ourselves. It sounds wonderful just to watch it in person, I'm sure TV doesn't do it justice.

BluesDawg 02-26-07 06:26 PM

TV doesn't begin to capture the excitement of the event, but it can be difficult or impossible to really understand the tactical aspects of the race while watching it unless you are near the finish and can hear the announcers or see the video screens at the big races. Having access to the race radio band is a big help. But having Phil and Paul describe the action on the road really helps to build the drama of a race.

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