Archive for February, 2008

Three Creeks Trail Update (Willow Glen Spur)

| February 26, 2008 5:38 pm

submitted by Paul Metz

From Ken Yeager, County Board of Supervisors:

Greetings,

Today, the Board of Supervisors unanimously supported a memo that Supervisor Blanca Alvarado and I wrote regarding trails. It directed County of Santa Clara staff to participate in the Three Creeks Trail (formerly the Willow Glen Spur Trail) Technical Advisory Committee with City of San Jose staff. As long-time advocates of this important project, we wholeheartedly support these efforts to move forward on the development of this trail, and they welcome the opportunity for continued collaboration with the City.

The City is requesting a contribution of $4 million toward acquisition of parcels along the eastern alignment. Any potential contribution would come from the Parks Charter Fund and would need Board of Supervisors approval. Such funding would enhance the County’s existing investments, which are intended to develop much-needed urban trail connections within Santa Clara County .

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to call me at 299-5040 or contact me via e-mail at Ken.Yeager@bos.sccgov.org.

Ken

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 7

| February 25, 2008 6:20 pm

by Rick Madden

Once again rain pounded the start city all night. Things were beginning to wind down and we were thinking about getting home to our families.

Just one more stage to go, and our van Captain announced that we dodged a bullet…we would have the start and the finish, keeping us out of the Millcreek Pass KOM area. At almost 5,000′, the weather was going to be brutal. I talked to assistant technical director Eric Smith after the race. He told me that he pre-drove the course at 4 AM, and it was damn cold at the top.If you ever wanted to be a pro cyclist, this is the time to review your priorities…you just can’t sit out a stage when the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The weather was a mixed bag at the start, with cool temps and a few passing showers. We were inside the neutral zone, so it would be uneventful for us. The peloton soft-pedaled by me at a right hand corner…I heard lots of chatting in French and German as the boys past by my flag. Per usual, they were so close to me I had to hold my flag arm straight up as I would have clocked them if I had continued my flagging motion.

The van picked me up and we proceeded straight to Pasadena. The Captain and I were stationed right by the Rose Bowl at a downhill to flat transition. I have never seen the Rose Bowl before…a bit of sports history and architecture that has to be seen to be appreciated.

We listened to race radio, and it didn’t sound pretty…42 degrees and hail coming out of the mountains. We hunkered down as a steady rain threatened to drown the spectator’s spirit…but Pasadena, as many other cities in the Tour, were prepared to tough it out and cheer for a dogged bunch of riders who were probably looking forward to the end of the stage.

For about four laps a Bissell rider stayed away, but the fifth time around Big George and his small entourage caught. The finish was about 4 km from just across the parking lot at the crow flies. We heard the announcers rooting George on, and by the cheer from the crowd we knew one of the favorites had clutched a victory.

It was now time to shed our Tour decals and supplies in the Rose Bowl parking lot. All the marshals prepared the vans to be returned to Hertz. Many people needed to be shuttled to the airports for evening flights. For the rest of us, a party was planned in Pasadena.

Some got dressed up for the event, and others like myself just attended in jeans. I heard the teams started showing up at 9 o’clock or so, but I had already left for the hotel. The final scene I viewed at the party was priceless…Phil and Paul kissing one of the female organizers as if they were podium girls…what a hoot.

A few observations about the week…
This year’s experience was completely different than last years. We had no KOM’s and most of the time were relegated to the flatter terrain. Given the weather, that was probably okay with me!
This is a fun experience, whether you are a traveling marshal or a local volunteer. But if you are seeing lots of racing action, you aren’t working hard enough! If you want to just spectate and take pictures, best to do it on your own. Marshals also get little snippets of the total race picture…I can’t wait to watch the Versus tapes and see what I missed.

The Tour organization is massive and they are good! It was surprising how smoothly everything goes even when crunch time comes.

Thanks for reading this past week…I hope you enjoyed. Be sure to drop a line and tell me how you liked the series, if you hadn’t done so already. Marshal Rick signing off for this year’s version of the Amgen Tour of California Marshal Report!

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 6

| February 24, 2008 6:56 am

by Rick Madden

As I wake up this morning, one mile from the start of the final stage to Pasadena, the rain continues to fall. Last night it was really coming down. This has certainly been the coldest, wettest Amgen Tour of California (AToC).

Yesterday we had drops in one of the wealthiest communities in America and one of the most impoverished towns the tour goes through. Montecito is just outside of Santa Barbara and just drips with money. If the folks in Woodside ever need some tips on how to spend, I think that they could find some mentors down here. Montecito was the end of the neutral zone, and we saw four riders go off the front right from the get go.

Our next drop was in Santa Paula, about 20 miles south of Ojai. This appears to be a fairly poor community who loves to see the tour coming through…at least the residents do. Of course it was Saturday, but everyone came out of their houses for the event of the day. One of the marshals procured a box of bright yellow bells Friday and we each took a couple to hand out to kids.

The police force seems to be small in this town, so they contracted with Oxnard police for some extra forces. My impression is that the Oxnard cops really looked down their noses at the folks in this town; one commented to a marshal that he would never live in Santa Paula because it was full of felons. However, it seemed like a great place today as the peloton roared by.

A funny story I heard about Santa Paula; last year the Tour officials had not secured the proper permit to ride through the town. As the Chief Marshal was driving into town, he got a call from the mayor, who was running down the road to meet him with the permit in hand. Apparently he was anxious to be on the tour this year! Many of the small towns we go through are very enthusiastic. Earlier in the week almost every resident in Patterson turned out for us.

Celebrity sightings today were Jimmy Conners walking his dog on course in Montecito, Larry Hagman and Efrem Zimbalist Jr in Santa Clarita. I didn’t even know Larry and Efrem were still alive, but apparently they like bike racing. It was a great circuit finish…Super Mario and Fast Freddy may have touched wheels, because a pileup happened about 4 km into the second lap. Mario pulled himself back up to the group and pulled out a top 10 finish and got a big round of applause from the crowd for his effort. Freddie didn’t seem so lucky and finished last, struggling to get to the line.

We have the start and the finish of the race today. We haven’t had a KOM yet this race, but with rain and high winds expected, maybe we are lucky. Today’s KOM is the highest of the race at about 5,000 feet.

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 5

| February 22, 2008 6:29 pm

by Rick Madden

TT day in Solvang…this one will be the tell-tale for Levi.

My roomie David and I had the windows wide open in the overheated hotel all night, the the rain kept on coming. When I woke up this morning, I dressed in my rain gear prepping for a wet day. As we drove south from SLO toward Solvang, the skies brightened up some…a good sign for everyone. The winds were light and everything appeared to be looking up.

Solvang was a madhouse…they really go out for this event and the crowds were thick. We procured our supplies for the day (we get liquids, box lunches and fresh batteries for race radio) and headed out to our drops, where we would spend the day.

The rider count is down to about 105 riders now, so we aren’t going to be out here too long. At 11:15 an amateur TT started…although everyone was probably moving at a good clip, they seemed to be going in slow motion compared to the pros. I saw Big George warming up…he really cut his hair short!

One of the things I like to do before going on the course is wander through the team car area. Having the credentials helps with chatting up with the riders and crews…they know we are are out there to help them and show their appreciation by giving us a little respect. Not that they would not normally…I find most of them to be very humble and friendly, at least when they are not under pressure. The other day I spent a few minutes chatting it up with Teddy King of Bissell, who rides with some friends in Rochester, NY.

The TT cranked along with me at a right hand corner signaling to the riders and the motors leading them out…things didn’t get too exciting until the final 10…David Millar was coming by fast, but Levi was blasting away at the competition again. I gotta say, the little guy is tough. He dusted the others and took the stage.

Probably the highlight of the day was when our van picked up a couple of photographers that were hitching a ride…we got to spend about 30 minutes winding through the streets with none other than Graham Watson, pic taker extraordinaire. Very cool.

I also got to spend some time with the ACTC Vagabond, Jerry. He was dressed in street clothes and driving a car! He is doing well and headed north for awhile.

Tomorrow is Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita…you’ll hear from me then!

Tour of California – Sierra Road

| 1:21 pm

by Bob Thompson

Click to see video

Wednesday, February 20, 2008 was the big day. The crowds were there on Sierra. We gathered at Connie and Eric’s house. Here are some still shots of us eating, watching the race progress on the internet, and enjoying the wonderful sunny weather while we waited for the riders to arrive.

Soon we could hear the helicopters approaching and we knew the action would soon begin. I switched the camera over to video to catch the excitement of the sights and sounds of everything that was about to happen. Most of us stayed until the last rider and the broom passed before going down the hill to Piedmont.

Piedmont was flat, smooth and fast. You could see and feel the speed passing the cheering crowd.

Kris and I headed downtown to the finish. We were just in time to see most of the crowd leaving after the award presentation. The band was still playing and tricksters were flying their bikes thru the air.

I’ve put this all together in one short video that I hope you will enjoy. The opening music is the Washington Quickstep. Today is George’s, the first president’s – not the rider’s, birthday. Quickstep is one of the favored teams.

Click to see video

This Marshal’s Eyes, Stage 4

| February 21, 2008 10:00 pm

by Rick Madden

Most of you were at Stage 3 from Modesto to San Jose, so I won’t bore you with the details. I will pass on the gossip that came up this morning…the Mt. Hamilton/Sierra one-two punch may not appear in future ToC tours…there were gripes about it being too tough/too early in the season. Maybe Bettini griped…he was looking very tired on Piedmont yesterday.

I also heard that the University Police on the top of Mt. Ham was going overboard with the spectators, telling cyclists that they could not be up there to watch. I guess CHP took over the situation and tour organizers kinda told him “uh, we kinda like the spectators up here!”

I started Stage 4 off at Bixby Bridge on Big Sur. My crowd consisted mostly media looking for the big money shot on the bridge. That never materialized, as the gusts were probably hitting 50 to 60 mph, cloudy skies and bands of rain passing through. Rock Racing came through about an hour before the peloton, with Tyler Hamilton leading the group. Micheal Ball was supposed to be riding with them, but apparently found the comfort of his Rolls too much to pass up.

One car rolled up and asked what time I expected the peloton. The driver proudly introduced himself as my nemesis, Elk Man. He was eying Bixby Bridge, probably in hope of getting some TV coverage. You may have seen him yesterday on Mt. Hamilton.

What Elk Man didn’t realize was that I was the marshal who had him physically pulled off the course in San Jose last year and detained by the police. I reminded him of that incident, and  informed him that we wouldn’t have any problems as long as he stayed off the course. I guess he didn’t care for that too much and headed down the road in search of a better location. I love Elk Man hunting…

I was dropped off about 9:00…the first sighting of the small breakaway group was about an hour and a half later. There was six riders about 30 seconds ahead of a chase group…the last rider in the break actually got blown to a dead stop in the middle of the road as he came around an exposed bluff. He circled his bike once and jumped back on…. it was like this for these guys all day.

My van picked me up about an hour after the caravan passed by me. We headed north and cut over to Salinas, then south on 101 to SLO. We appeared to be the first marshals to arrive in SLO, so we manned the course from 300 meters to the finish line. I was stationed at the 50 meter mark at a crosswalk…the judges want nobody inside the french the last 100 meters, so we knew we would have to shut down the crosswalk as the race got within city limits. However, we still had an hour and a half to go before the race reached us.

The crowd, considering the weather, was great. They had stood out in the cold rain for quite awhile before we arrived and were prepared to continue to do so until the sprint. The announcers were earning their money keeping the crowd enthused and interested. We watched as they were handed fact cards about each racer, passing tidbits of information to the crowd.

Seven hours after the start Rollins crossed the line, with Big George leading the chase group. It was anti-climatic to say the least, after all the waiting.

The flu is taking down many of the members of both the teams and the support staff. Health Net told on of the marshals that a few of their riders were riding sick.

Tomorrow is the Solvang TT, and the weather doesn’t look like it was improving much. Keep your fingers crossed…it should be exciting with some TT specialists chasing after Levi’s yellow jersey!

This Marshall’s Eyes, Stage 2

| February 20, 2008 9:00 pm

by Rick Madden

I gotta tell you, for an adrenaline junkie, being a marshall can be a fast ride. Fast moving vehicles, choppers flying overhead and riders breezing within inches of you. But in every race you have to expect slow corners with little action. This was one of those days.

It started out rainy in Santa Rosa. Marshall Team 8 moved out at 8:30, and hour and a half before the riders started. We drove on-course the entire route, over both KOM’s. The first over Trinity grade was steep, with many switchbacks. Perhaps a preview to come tomorrow?

The riders were taking their time, negotiating the wet roads with caution, trying not to burn their candles before the 11,000 feet of climbing tomorrow. All but one BMC rider, who extended out a 12 minute gap. He took both KOM’s but was caught in the flat terrain around Davis.

My first drop of the day was about 60 miles into the ride at a t-intersection. My crowd today consisted of two farm workers and a rider from Vandenburg AFB that wandered down my lane. The peloton steamed by effortlessly at about 1 PM; the team cars decided that my corner was a great time to relieve themselves so the caravan came to a stop and the zippers dropped. I climbed into my van and we were back on the road following the caravan.

Our second drop was in Sacramento. I was in the same area last year and had a great time on a cloudy afternoon. However, the rain was closing in and the true Californians found shelter in their offices.

Last year I remember the riders riding within two inches of the curb and warned the spectators about not becoming too intimate with the riders. One of the local volunteers pointed out a 6 x 6 inch cut in the concrete to let storm water through a driveway transition. The cut ran parellell with the riders, so the probiblity of an accident was likely if a rider hit this. I proceeded to stand on course, flag raised high to warn the riders of the danger. Lucily, none of the riders rode the curb today. We ended the day without incident. Big Tom Boonen cruised to his first win in America, and Super Mario was close behind in third.

Tomorrows stage will be a challenge for the marshalls. We haven’t spoken to our captains, so none of us know our drops for tomorrow. It’s all good for me, as we will be on my home turf for a day.

There will be no email tomorrow as we will be staying in Big Sur. I’ll be back Thursday with a report on the Big Sur coast and the TT in Solvang.

Tour of California from the top of Mt. Hamilton

| 8:32 pm

by Franz Kelsch

This year’s stage 3 of the Amgen Tour of California included a 103-mile route from Modesto to San Jose, with no less than five King of the Mountains climbs, including the ascent of Mt. Hamilton (HR-above categorization at 4360 feet) and the category 1 Sierra Road. This was the first time the tour went up Mt. Hamilton.

While most club members probably decided to go view Stage 3 from Sierra Road, some of us decided to go up Mt. Hamilton, a hill I have climbed many times from both sides. Before leaving home I made a quick check of the Lick Observatory weather gages on the internet to find a current temperature of 30 degree. I shoved some more clothes in my backpack on top of my digital SLR camera I was going to lug up the hill.

It had also been raining all night and the roads were wet. I was therefore no surprise that only two of us showed up for that ride up Mt. Hamilton. We left at 10 am and soon we were making the 20 mile climb to the summit. We kept he pace brisk because we were not sure if they were going to close the road. As I passed by Quimby road, an officer told me that they would stop us at Kincaid. I thought about turn