Saturday, May 19, 2012

2012 Tour of California, Stage 7: A Morning with AG2R - La Mondiale...

Double the fun today during stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California. Started out at the stage start in Ontario amongst all the team cars, buses, bikes, riders, officials, volunteers and, of course, throngs of fans. Watched the start and then a quick trip home, drop off equipment, change into kit, push off on the bike and book on over to GMR to pick up the race passing by there. And, I made it back home in plenty of time to watch the finale on the slopes of Mt. Baldy.

I really had to lead with this one: je avec Nicolas Roche

et Sylvain Georges, vainqueur d'hier


The start has become my favorite place to be at big races like this. The meet and greet, all the activity of getting ready, anticipation buzzing through the crowd. I walked back and forth, I don't know how many times, through the team area, taking photos of this and that, and finally set myself at the front door of the AG2R-La Mondiale bus to wait for the riders to come on out. The United Healthcare team was right behind me too, and it was interesting to compare the two.

The UHC riders were some of the earliest to emerge from their team bus and quickly engaged the throngs, they signed autographs, posed for photos, had some seriously long conversations with Joe and Joan Everybody, rode over to sign in, and then came back and picked up with the crowd where they left off. In contrast the AG2R riders, didn't emerge really until the last minute. Even so, they took a little time to pose and sign (as you can see above) before heading over to the start area. By the way if you are wondering why the race start was delayed somewhat, it was due to the wife - the first photos she took of Mr. Roche and myself didn't exactly come out, so we had to bother him all over again. Thank you Nicolas. Actually I don't know what caused the delay - something about clearing the course, I think. I gave one final attempt at searching for the Argos Shimano Team, who did not seem to be set up with the rest of the teams. Turns out they were in a parking lot across the way and were heading out when I tracked them down. Bummer. Thanks to the delayed start I was able to rush over in time to see riders reclining all over the place, stretching, laughing, just waiting. An opportune time for a delay, as I got to see the race take off. 

grille monkey

window art

bmc

Levi was a busy man, even before changing into his work clothes

as the sign says, broom wagon

team Rabobank bikes

#71 - Nicolas Roche

Tiago Machado passing by

Vincenzo Nibali and Peter Sagan ride to the start

Fast Freddy stretching a little

Colombia Coldeportes guys found a little shade while awaiting the start, and shared a laugh
with Team Radioshack's Tiago Machado

Jens

Super Dave Z

one young fans flag

packing up

From there I turned my attention to GMR. I was able to get in with a group of Incycle riders heading down from Baldy Road, and made some good time into San Dimas. When I got to the bottom of GMR I still had plenty of time before the race was predicted to come by, but chose just to hang out down below - at about the ranger station. It was a good call, I think, just enough slope to keep them from speeding by too fast. The first group came by being powered by Jens Voigt, with Horner on his wheel, and everyone else trying to hang on. It wasn't long before the first chase group (main peloton) came through being driven by the Rabobank guys. After they went through there was a good long wait for the next chase group. Once they had ridden out of sight I waited a little, expecting the broom wagon to come by. It never happened, so I rode on down to the turn onto GMR from Sierra Madre where there was still a big crowd. CHP came by and said there was still one lone rider to come through. Seemed cruel to post up that photo, so it was time to go. I rushed home in time to see the, now two, leaders approaching Cow Saddle before the descent into Baldy Village - and of course the win by Gesink. Whoop, whoop Rabobank.


Jens Voigt ahead of Chris Horner at the bottom of GMR


There are plenty more photos, including more than just the one of actual racing action, and by clicking this link you will be taken to a slideshow of them. Or, if you prefer, photos only - no slideshow format.

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