This Marshall’s Eyes, prolouge and Stage 1

| February 18, 2008 10:00 pm

by Rick Madden

Yesterday’s TT to the Stanford Campus should have been more exciting for me than it was….I was stationed on the backside of the quad, inside the french (that’s what they call the fencing for those non-race fans) under a beautiful California sun. I was about 400 yards from the finish line, similar to last year’s finish at Coit Tower. I even had the same Versus cameraman nearby that was there last year!

Before the race, our marshall team secured a start list. Last year in San Francisco, I was offered cash and other sundry bribes by numerous spectators for my start list. Finally I gave it to a guy who had a big voice and was willing to call out all those tongue-twister European names to the crowd. It only made sense that I would get the same reaction from the crowd here on the Stanford Campus. What a difference a year makes!

I could hardly muster a volunteer to announce the riders here at this prestigious university! One spectator commented that folks in Palo Alto were more conservative than the wild San Fran group. I finally gave up my list to Joe Farinha, who brought the SJBC junior up to the race and let the crowd figure it out for themselves.

Watching the big dogs crank it out while tucked into a corner on the roadway was a ball. You all know the outcome; the world champ Cancellara takes the win again. But being yards from the Zman, Super Mario and Levi was as cool as you can imagine. Even though I was only three feet closer than the crowd, being on the inside of the french with an unobstructed view is about as cool as you can imagine.

This morning for stage 1 we had two drops; my first was about a mile north of the Tomales feed zone. As I arrived at this very bucolic spot I only saw an empty road and a huge, tow behind bbq stoked up with a few bags of white hot coals. Oh, and a few cases of cold beer on ice in the cooler. Soon a rancher named Lauren arrived and claimed the refreshment spot. Lauren’s family owns several hundred acres on three of the four corners I was standing at, and was an enthusiastic race fan. He had invited all his neighbors to come enjoy the his hospitality and this great event.

Soon I had a crowd of about 100 folks who were pumped up and pounding beers. We cheered as Jackson Stewart of San Jose cranked by almost 12 minutes ahead of the peloton. I called him a local boy; the crowd told me that San Jose wasn’t local to them, but still gave him a rousing cheer. We had a long gap between Jackson and the pack, so the crowd mingled, discussed cattle prices and laughed at the frantic drivers trying to get ahead of the road closure.

Once the pack zipped by, tossing water bottles and not looking to concerned about Jackson, I watched for my ride into Santa Rosa. The CHP vehicles are decaled as C-1 through C-10, so I always know when the entourage is coming to an end. C-8, C-9, C-10, the Bissell Broom Wagon and the marshall van right behind it with the side door open. I threw my day pack into the vehicle, was pulled in by my fellow marshalls and was right on the pelotons tail headed toward Valley Ford.

A bunch of unclaimed shwag was lining the road, and C-9 kept stopping the vehicle and a state policemen would jump out and grab it out of the ditch. I still can’t understand why people chase all this crap! We swung off at the Bodega Highway while the entourage continued north on hwy 1 toward Coleman Valley Road and the second KOM of the day.

Once in Santa Rosa I grabbed a sweet, sweeping right hand turn. Versus was set up on the corner, so I knew I would have a great spot to see the riders. We had about 6 LOC (local organizing committee volunteers) to control the crosswalks, so my corner partner Julie and I could concentrate on working the crowd. We gave verbal warnings to the folks that pushed their banger sticks (or whatever you call those stupid things) over the french, told them that the riders like to push right out to the curb’ say ma’am is your dog on a leash?

Within a few minutes the peloton rushed into town for the first of three laps. I heard later than Jackson made it into town by himself, but by the time he reached me the pack had reeled him in. One of the marshalls said he was looking dog tired!

One of the dreaded bang sticks flew out of somebodys hands and I chased it down just before the peloton rushed by…close call! Three laps and JJ Haedo takes the stage…I make the way to the finish line just in time to see two very cheap looking Rock Republic (Rock Racing) girls flank him for the big photo op kiss. Ah, to see the TdF podium girls would be a welcome change!

Tomorrows stage doesn’t bring too much excitement for me…we will be caught out in the flats between Winters and Davis, then into Sacramento for the final circuits. I’ll be sure to pass on any information seen by This Marshall’s Eyes!

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