California PEZ: The Sausalito Shuffle
After a few days on a cycling tour, it all starts to become one stream of consciousness. The race becomes a migratory flock of fans, riders, bus drivers, cops, and groupies. Oh yeah, and hapless journalists, of which I count myself one. Today I shuffled into Sausalito for the stage 1 start…
I arrived in Sausalito in the dark last night, and after filing my late report and feebly shoving some pasta down my throat, I passed out. I had no idea due to the darkness what a beautiful starting town this was. Morning found me scrambling into my PEZ gear and piling onto my bike with the front desk’s promise that “Sausalito is a few miles down that bike path”. Fair enough, I’ll find my way.
I cross a salt water flooded causeway, and join the path as I start towards town, heading south out of Mill Valley, and boy howdy, this wasn’t your ordinary commute. The bay to your left, a crowded but flat bike path under your wheels, life was good. I fell onto the wheels of a few local riders from Dolce Vita Cycling, Kiernan and Rich, who were nice enough to show PEZ some love and escort me past their group ride’s start and ride to the staging area of all the teams. Thanks boys, much obliged.
Once again, the Amgen Tour of California has drawn the fans and the onlookers out in droves, as evidenced by the massive crowds in the staging area. All buses were under siege from photo snappers and autograph seekers, as riders got underway with final preparation and sign in before the first road stage got underway.
Again, many thanks to all the love out there, PEZ Fans. It means something to beat your head in trying to provide unique content and to be recognized out there. I hope we serve you well! Then there was Pez Fan Dave, who snuck up on me behind the Toyota-United bus. Nice to meet you, my man. Same goes for Ian from Toronto – the Canadians love PEZ because… well… Canadians love cycling.
I bumped into Tom Zirbel, who I had the privilege of following yesterday in the Prologue in the team car. His time was good enough for a top 25 finish, and the Bissell boys were keen to make some hay while the sun started to shine. I’d watch ‘em, they’re feeling kind of scrappy.
The Mavic boys were out in force, purporting their love of the Daily Distractions. For you fellow road warriors, I understand you. Thanks for the mention fellas, and get me in the car for a day, will you?
I saw Chechu Rubiera seemingly consoling Santiago Botero. Botero and his other banned teammates were kitted up in new “thorns and blood” kits, to signify what the team thinks is the “crucifixion” of their riders. And as usual, Cipo had a large crowd around him, but an even larger bodyguard.
The sun won its daily battle with the dense fog over the bay, and the riders began to gather in the staging area. Cheers for the usuals: Bettini, Cipo, Boonen, David Millar, etc. Millar stopped for a second and said he’s happy to be in California, and that he had “no idea” what to expect today, other than he felt it might end in a sprint. His teammate Tom Danielson said the same thing.
Erik Breukink said “we won’t control the race, it’s not our job. That’s for the big teams like CSC, Slipstream, those guys. Tot ziens!”
And soon the countdown came over the speakers, and the peloton began a few parade laps around the waterfront, much to the delight of the crowd. They then made their way out onto the open road, headed for Highway 1, with Bettini and Fred Rodriguez bringing up the rear.
With that, a whole group of cycling fans began a mass exodus northward out of Sausalito. I felt like I was in the ragtag fleet from Battlestar Galactica. Racer sorts (and sort of racer sorts, kinda maybe) all amped up from the action whizzed by on the left. Children on mountain bikes stopped for no apparent reason on the right. Good fun! Must have been hundreds of fans on bikes, mobbing the right lane… it was like a fans version of critical mass, without all the sanctimony.
Stay tuned PEZ Fans, it’s off to Santa Rosa, where another report will be cobbled! And a big CHEERS to Sausalito for a great send off!
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