Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tour of California Stage 7: A Morning with Rabobank...

Hope you like orange, white and blue

Rabobank weapon of choice

Lars Boom, 2008 Dutch National Road Race and Time Trial Champion. he is also a former Cyclocross World Champion, and has won the Cyclocross National Championship each of the past five years

Eric Breukink, director sportif, and former
Tour de France stage winner and podium finisher

Oscar Freire, 1999, 2001, 2004 Road Race World Champion. he is wearing the
Breakaway From Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey

Just a little photo preview to the mornings stage 7 start to kick things off. Over the years, Rabobank has consistently been one of this families favorite teams, so we pretty much made a beeline through the team area, making direct for the big orange, white and blue Rabobank team bus. They were set up kind at the far end of the concourse, so we had to make our way through some crowds outside the various other team car/bus areas. Mob scenes were greeting riders and staff outside the Leopard-Trek, Radioshack and Garmin-Cervelo buses, in particular, and in contrast the Rabobank bus seemed virtually abandoned. Ourselves and a couple handsful of loyal supporters. Most of the Rabobank support staff was already out and about, milling around, waiting for something to happen - riders and top staff were still to show. Suddenly an explosion of sound erupted from the Radioshack area across the street, tee shirts started flying left and right through the air, and the swarm was on.

Maarten Tjallingii

Paul Martens

Eventually Eric Breukink  emerged from the Rabobank bus to talk with some of the staff. Eric was one of my favorite racers back in the 90s, and he is now director sportif of the Rabobank team. I walked over to get his autograph on our giant foam finger, and he was happy to oblige. Cool. Soon after, the team started to emerge through the buses door. Some stopped for photos or autographs, before hopping on their bikes to ride over to sign-in. Lars Boom, Oscar Freire, Paul Martens, Michael Matthews, Maarten Tjallingii, et al. Lars Boom also took a moment to sign our big foam finger, as well as pose for a photo with the boy. We looked for Freire, but he did not come back to the bus after sign-in. Later, I noticed a kid walking around the expo area with a Dutch flag, he had gotten someone to sign it. Pretty cool. 

Laurens Ten Dam, who would finish 3rd on the Queen Stage to Mt. Baldy

riders and staff

Lars Boom, and the boy, sporting his Best Young Rider's Jersey

the foam finger signed by Boom and Breukink

Residents of Claremont, and fans of cycling turned out enmasse for the start of Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California. They started showing up in the start and expo areas well before any of the teams made their appearance. There was a noticeable buzz of excitement running through the crowd. The Kiwanis Club was serving up pancakes, and the various cafes and bakeries in the Village were doing a lively business. Eventually, racers did begin emerging from their team cars and buses (more of that in a minute), signing autographs, answering questions, before hoping on their bikes for the ride to sign in. This is one of the coolest aspects of professional cycling, fans get this time to mingle with their favorites, pick up freebies from the various teams. It is a very laid-back, relaxed atmosphere. The differences between teams is also very telling and noticeable at this time - there are the big, well funded teams with custom, luxury buses, and there are the small teams with no bus, who make do with team cars only. It was striking seeing racers from the little NetApp Team just sitting around on the backs of their hatchbacks, right next to this huge Rabobank bus. It is like the difference between the major and the minor leagues, and gives you some new found, or renewed admiration for the efforts of the little guys.

Leopard-Trek, and Andy Schleck supporters made themselves known
(their flag said Andy Schleck on the other side)

volunteers at the start area

Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Cervelo

Sven Tuft of first-year Canadian team, Spidertech

Christopher Baldwin checking his spokes

in the spirit of the day

expo area was crowded

shirts were flying through the air over at Radioshack

i believe that is Dave Zabriskie, winner of Stage 6

Juan Jose Haedo

Eventually the gun sounded, and the racers took off on two neutral circuits through town, followed closely by teams cars, race officials and photographers motorcycles. I have been to many races, both major ones, and small local ones, and it was truly amazing to see spectators lined along every square foot of the route, cheering, ringing cowbells, waving flags. One would think that the supposition that the only thing Americans know about cycling is Lance Armstrong was really just an urban myth. Clearly the people cheering and yelling were appreciative. What was equally amazing was how quickly the set up was torn down once the racers and support caravan rode out of town. The Amgen crews immediately began packing up their barricades and stage for the concluding Stage 8 in Thousand Oaks, tomorrow.

and they're off - riders on the front include
Jonathan Patrick McCarty, Peter Sagan, and Levi Leipheimer

off the back, at the gun
one of the hardest working men in the peloton, Bernhard Eisel

the girls do like Andy

parading through town during two neutral laps

bikes may use full lane (so says the sign). ya think?

yellow jersey on his shoulders, Chris Horner

Peter Sagan, in the green Herbalife Sprint Jersey
and Ben King, National Champion, lead the peloton out of town

George Hincapie (BMC)

bringing up the rear, the broom wagon

If you didn't read Levi Leipheimer's comments following his victory at Mt. Baldy, I think they sum up the day perfectly: "The course is spectacular. It felt like the Tour de France. I hope this becomes a staple in the Tour of California. It'll be an iconic stage."

Link to the rest of the photos will be posted here soon.


  1. The scene up Mt Baldy was spectacular as well. I'm with Levi and ready for next year!

  2. it was a bummer that they tore the expo down so fast and cheated the fans and City from enjoying it longer and keeping people in town.

  3. Anonymous, that would be my no.1 complaint as well. I think so much more could have been done to keep people around longer. Once the racers left town, it was like, okay that's it, time to head home.


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