Last night I met up with Shari (click here to read more on Shari) while she is working the bike race, AMGEN Tour of California. Click the video below!
Pumping It Up
JUBILANT CROWDS WELCOME CYCLISTS BACK TO SR; WOMEN'S RACE ADDS TO ENERGY
By NATHAN HALVERSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
February 19, 2008
Sporting a large set of antlers, race fan Dore Holte of Seattle paces the pack being led by American rider Danny Pate as it heads up Coleman Valley Road west of Occidental on Monday during Stage 1 of the 2008 Tour of California. The stage ended with three circuits of downtown Santa Rosa. Scott Manchester / The Press Democrat Laura Van Gilder peddled down the desolate streets of Santa Rosa early Monday morning -- preparing for her big race.
At age 43, Van Gilder is one of the winningest riders in U.S. women's cycling history and this day would finish second.
Her muscles gradually warmed as she cruised by homes where Santa Rosa race fans drank their morning coffee and bundled up for the biggest day of cycling in Sonoma County -- a place known for its love of biking.
This year's women's competition in downtown Santa Rosa was a new addition to the Tour of California, the 650-mile men's race that stretches from Palo Alto to Pasadena over eight days. Spectators numbering in the thousands witnessed the debut of the women's one-hour race around downtown and, later, the arrival of defending champion and hometown favorite Levi Leipheimer, who finished in the top group of Stage 1 in the men's competition.
Neither race organizers nor city tourism officials would offer an estimate of the crowd. The California Highway Patrol said about 150,000 people enjoyed the race from its start in Sausalito, to its finish in Santa Rosa and along the coastal stretch in between.
Smaller crowds are expected to attend the kickoff to Stage 2 of the men's competition this morning at 10 a.m. in Railroad Square as riders head out toward Sacramento.
"Santa Rosa has always been billed as a really good cycling community," said Van Gilder as she signed autographs for fans before the race. "I'm happy to be part of it here, and excited to have a women's event at the Tour of California."
Having the women race and mingle with fans was part of the midday draw downtown as the male riders pushed along Highway 1 before their arrival on Third Street shortly after 3 p.m.
"It's awesome," said Lauri Peterson, a cycling devotee from Windsor. "The energy level is up this year because of the women's race."
Cindi Lee, a Santa Rosa resident who participates in an all-women's cycling club with Peterson, was jubilant as she got Van Gilder's autograph.
"We are absolutely thrilled," she said. "These women are just amazing athletes."
In Old Courthouse Square, dozens of vendors sold everything from T-shirts and hot dogs to bicycles that cost as much as some new cars. Some offered cow bells, which rang out along the course as riders passed.
The day's fashion statement was spandex.
"The word of the day is wedgie," said Barbara Pritchard, with a small laugh.
Lots of fans were clad in cycling gear and drank from water bottles designed for racing. Many left bike helmets on their heads as they crowded against the waist-high barriers separating the fans from the professionals.
Pritchard stood at the finish, waiting for the cyclists to fly past at about 35 miles per hour as she has every year since the Tour of California began in 2006.
"It's thrilling to see the bikes go cruising through," she said. "You're right at the spot where they finish."
When the announcement came at about 3:05 p.m. that the cyclists were nearing downtown, fans pressed to the finish line. Some even climbed the trees lining Third Street to get a better view. At one point, three helicopters crowded the skies above downtown. Twenty minutes later, it was all over.
Juan José Haedo from Argentina won Monday's stage of the race. Team Tibco rider Brooke Miller from Cleveland won the women's race earlier in the day. Santa Rosa's own Levi Leipheimer, winner of last year's tour, begins today's stage in fourth place.
The cooler temperatures and overcast skies might have deterred some people from attending. The high temperature Monday was 56.
"If it were sunnier, there would be more people," said Ralph Morgenbesser, owner of Ralph's Hot Dog Stand.
From the vantage point of his stand in Old Courthouse Square, Morgenbesser is probably an expert on the daily happenings on the square.
"I've been here since the race started, and it's getting better every year," he said.
Mo McElroy, executive director of the Santa Rosa Convention and Visitors Bureau, worked to get Santa Rosa selected as host of the inaugural women's race.
"It attracts a whole new audience," McElroy said. "In its third year, the race is really starting to grow."
The women's race director, Laura Charameda, said she hopes to expand the women's race to include other cities.
"I hope we will have more events," she said. "But it's no surprise to me that Santa Rosa is the inaugural place for it."
You can reach Staff Writer Nathan Halverson at 521-5494 or nathan.halverson@press
2/25/08 UPDATE FROM SHARI
I asked Shari to send us an update after the race and here it is - thanks Shari!
The T of C was wet and cold. This year I met a lot of new people from all across the country. The driver of the race announcer's car is Nelson Vails-'84 Olympic champion. We had a lot of fun before the race came through. In Pasadena last night there was an After T of C party. Everyone is invited. It's a chance to meet the riders and anyone else the works the tour. I met someone that works setup/teardown of the start/finish line but never saw him during the tour. He drives at night to the start and slept during the day. So last night we finally got to talk again. Met another that I found out lives in Phoenix. He'll come to the Relay Race finish on Sat. He also does Ride Across Iowa and said it's a ride not to miss. So I may just book a flight to Iowa! My teammates invited me to their home in Virginia and ride the Blue Ridge trail w/ them. Meeting all these great people is why I do these.
Oh yeah! One of friends that I met 3 years ago working this was telling me about his daughter's wedding. He's been helping her husband out working on their house. He asked how Ventura was, I told him I lived in Valencia, that's where my son-in-law parents live! Hold on!! You'll never believe who his dad is~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tom Iverson!!!!!!! His daughter married Tom Iverson's son! Talk about a small world.
Anyway, I've unpacked the big bag and started packing my duffle bag. Today I spray painted 6 more large rabbits to decorate our vans. We fly out to Phoenix Thurs. morn, drive to Wickenburg, decorate the 2 team vans and our race start time is 12noon Friday. I'm running the 2nd, 13th and 26th legs of this 190 something relay race. We should finish in Mesa around 4:45pm Sat. Just in time for the big party!
Then it's back to reality! Heavy training schedule for the King of the Mountain series that I've signed up for. April 12 and then every 2 wks after. 3 100+mile rides e/ 12,000' of climbing each.
It was great to have dinner w/ you.
It was a REAL SHOCK to see myself in the video. It's "funny" how you see yourself.
Let me know if you're down this way.