That happened. Eight days and 810 miles later we’ve made it through the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. Instead of offering just another race report, I’ve put together a short series of stories through my eyes from each stage.
The characters (my Jelly Belly P/B Kenda teammates): Kiel Reijnen, Mike Friedman, Jon Chodroff, Will Dickeson, Sean Mazich, Will Routley, Bernard Van Ulden and myself.
Before the pedaling even began, the Tour began as most do, with the team presentation. For Jelly Belly, this night presented an early opportunity to make a positive impact at the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. We each picked out shirts that represented our favorite Jelly Belly flavor, got ties from the Jelly Belly factory, and rocked out black slacks and shoes. We arrived at the presentation as though it was our best friend’s wedding. We really took it up a notch from the traditional track pants and t-shirt worn by racers. The guests really appreciated our efforts and, according to Velo’s Neal Rogers, “if tonight were a stage, you guys won that one.” NICE.
The race was on, and we came out strong, getting into the break in stages 2 through 5, winning Most Courageous Jersey, and securing hours of TV time. Stage 2 belonged to Mike Friedman, followed by Will Routley in stage 3.
For me, stage 4 felt right from the beginning. I got to breakfast and told the guys “I’ve got good legs.” It’s one of those things … you wake up, shake ‘em around and say, “yup, ready to rock” or “nope, not today.”
At kilometer zero I followed my buddy / cyclocross pal Lars Boom in the first attack of the day. A couple more riders trickled across and once we had the gap I went to the front and did a monster pull that solidified the break (also put me in the hurt box).
Soon after, we hit the Sierra Road climb and it was painful and awesome. I couldn’t describe how the experience canceled out the suffering that day. The road twisted, turned, swept along and it suited my riding style well. It was really windy, though, for four riders over 115 miles.
I could hear so many people screaming “c’mon’ J-Pow!!” I knew my parents and friends would be watching on TV and I was hangin’ with Lars, smashing away on the pedals. All of it drove my motivation through the roof. The day was excellent. That’s the kind of racing that makes you feel good. It reminds you why you train so hard week in and week out.
As we made it to 10 miles to go, the attacks started flyin’. Lars thanked me for a “nice day” (deep Dutch voice) in the saddle and promptly smashed the break to pieces. I clawed back and forth before finally being gobbled up by the chasing field. It was a day of racing that makes all the sacrifices worth it. Stage 5 belonged to our Australian ‘mate’ Will Dickeson, who came the closest to winning a stage, only to be brought back in the final circuit just before the finish in Bakersfield.
One of the most memorable and notable elements of the Amgen Tour were the fans. From day one in Nevada City, we were overwhelmed by the number of people, the amount of noise they could make, and the crazy costumes they conjured up. We saw everything from the Pope, squirrels with nuts, Mr. Potato Head, Cheerleaders, a Sumo-wrestler dad and son, and the list goes on. On Bonny Doon, I literally saw a wine and cheese table a fan had set up for the riders and we were cordially invited to join her!
These are the people that really make the race awesome, and keep us smilin’ through those long days on the bike.
One thing’s for sure, you can’t throw eight bike racers into this scenario and not have crazy and hilarious things happen. I have a couple of great ones to reminisce over, beginning with my teammate Sean. For everyone who doesn’t know, there’s a woman who drives the “broom wagon” at the back of the race, sweeping up riders that have fallen off the pace or behind the ‘gruppeto.’ At a certain point, officials tell riders they are out of contention and they need to get off the bike and into the wagon, which is actually just a big old bus that you and your bike get into. That is, unless you are Sean, and I quote:
Race Official: “You’re two minutes down, you need to get in the broom wagon”
Sean: “I’m not getting in. You guys can just go ahead because I’m not getting in.”
Sean to the woman driving the broom wagon: “There’s no way I’m getting in there, you do what you have to do … but no matter what, I’m not getting in.”
Sean rode 40 miles solo to the finish line, only to get time cut for being two minutes over the cutoff. Bummer.
My next anecdote involves myself and Reid Mumford of Kelly Benefit Strategies. For those who aren’t familiar with the roads in California, they are all lined with these reflective dots. Here we are, just ridin’ along, when a Belgian Quick Step rider very sternly scolds Reid and I in his deep Belgian voice, “Watch the dots … don’t hit the dots.” Reid and I promptly looked at each other both repeated, “Don’t hit the dots” and I laughed so hard that I cramped. Of course, throughout the entire Tour, every time I saw Reid, we reminded each other, “don’t hit the dots.”
Let’s talk about stage 5. Beautiful morning, the neutral start has ended and there we are just rolling along. Without any notice, I found myself quickly tapping into my cyclocross skill set, jamming on my brakes, throwing my bike into a ditch, and running over flying bikes and mangled bodies into an orange grove. Oddly enough, I nearly took out Tim De Waele (TDWsport.com), a photographer who captured the whole thing. I felt lucky to walk away from that with a tiny, 2mm scratch on my arm, presumably from someone’s chainring.
So now that the big show’s over, I’ll tell you this: My butt is callused and it hurts (still), I used an entire jar of chamois cream in eight days, and my eyelids are sun-burnt, but weathering the Tour of California storm has brought me great form and memories, which I hope you enjoyed as well.
Jeremy Powers is a pro road racer with the Jelly Belly Presented by Kenda team. He races cyclocross for the Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com team, you can follow more of his adventures at JPows.com or you can follow his every move at twitter.com/jeremypowers.