Scenes from Amgen Tour of California's San Francisco Start
Those who attended got a real taste of bicycle racing, big-time European -style, in which teams of athletes who dress (and weigh) like jockeys arrive in massive, specially equipped and flamboyantly decorated buses; are catered to by armies of mechanics, masseurs, chefs and other minions; and are surrounded by stacks of spare $10,000 bicycles.
We had breakfast at the house of San Francisco architect, cyclist, and shutterbug Dennis Budd, who lives five blocks from the Fulton and Great Highway starting line. We had to leave well before the 11 a.m. start time. But Dennis was kind enough to send along some photos.
Here's a crowd of fans awaiting members of Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer's RadioShack team:
|Lance Armstrong's Team Radio Shack Bus|
Because bicycle stage races such as the Amgen Tour of California involve day after day of 100-plus-mile mountainous high-speed races, athletes seek to conserve as much energy as possible off-bike. So their movements are so careful-seeming and slow as to seem sloth-like. Juxtaposed with a typical fan-crowd's anxious jumpiness, mid-morning pro cyclists can look like brightly dressed, weary pre-school teachers tolerating a rambunctious class.
Here's the Garmin Transitions team bus of top contender and Tuesday stage winner David Zabriskie. The bus, however, is emblazoned with an image of team's biggest star, Tyler Farrar. Farrar is racing at the Giro di Italia, where he won Tuesday's stage, his second such victory so far in the Italian race. With the dual wins the Garmin Transitions team has created a bizarre situation where an American team without Lance Armstrong in its ranks is dominating world bicycle racing.
|Garmin Slipstream Team Bus|
Speaking of favorites, fans were eager to see Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who last year came back from a two-year hiatus to place third in the French race. He's here riding in support of his teammate Levi Leipheimer, who hopes to win the Tour of California a fourth time.
|Lance Armstrong interviewed before Tuesday's start|
Leipheimer's had something of a quiet season so far, if you don't count his little Chihuahua being carried off by an owl. In February, Leipheimer's wife, Odessa Gunn, let their four Chihuahuas out of their Sonoma home for what was supposed to be a brief potty break. A few strange screeching sounds later, and 6-pound Bandit was gone. The story made Fox news at TV stations nationwide in a story titled Hungry Owls Target Small Dogs and Cats for Food in NorCal -- without mentioning that the nabbed pet belonged to a huge international sports star.