I took yesterday off to go watch the time trial stage in the Morgan Hill / South San Jose area. Last time I lived here I rode much of the route several times. I have come down Metcalfe past the Motorcycle Park but have not been up it. But from the downhill I remember it to be steep in parts with narrow turns and with tarmac that tends to melt and get soft in hot weather.
The Pro race started at 1 pm but I was there nice and early to have plenty of time to look around, admire the village behind the start with the stands and goodies for sale, and walk over to the team preparation area on IBM’s parking lot. That IBM research facility is famous by the way: the first hard drive among other things were invented there. In the team preparation area lots of beautiful things were on display: all the gorgeous time trial bikes, the aero wheels, the spare bikes, and the Cannondale promo girls – my next new bike may need to be a Cannondale…
For all its professionalism cycling is still a small sport in that you can walk around, stare closely at the bikes, get your picture taken with Andy or Jens, ask the mechanics questions about the gears (can you turn around a 58×12 gear? I can’t), wish Lieuwe good luck.
Halfway into the ride order I took position along the starting line to take more pictures. There was one racer having the worst day of his life. His rear wheel got stuck against the fork about 100 yards into his race. That is before the team car is allowed on the route so he could’t get a new bike. This is also where there are rows of spectators all staring at him. He first tried himself to get the wheel back in straight but each time he started riding again the wheel would dislodge again. Then a mechanic climbed over the fence to help him but with essentially the same result each time: futz with the wheel and the chain, get on bike, wheel gets stuck, futz again and so on. The two of them were fumbling for at least 20 minutes before the rider climbed over the fence with the bike, walked back to the start, got a new bike there and rejoined the race from the side road.
After Andy Schleck and Lieuwe Westra had come by I walked back along Bailey Road to reconnect with the route at the Santa Teresa Boulevard junction. This allowed me to catch the riders there until eventually the top riders come by. I would stop somewhere, take pictures of a few racers and then walk further along the route to another spot making it to the start of the climbs out the valley. Many spectators were there by bike and some of them rode up the climb on the side of the road. This gave a nice contrast when a racer would come by: as if they’re standing still. You don’t really get how fast these guys go until you stand on the side of the road and you see Jens Voigt come by on a 10% stretch at a speed of around 18 miles an hour.
At cycling races everybody seems to have fun. The riders are quite relaxed hanging out and preparing in the team area. Many of them happily pose for pictures. There is a very casual atmosphere with lots of smiling. Including a bunch of state troopers who were picking out and buying cycling shirts of their favorite teams.
The photos are in the gallery.