So – the Amgen Tour of California! I flew to LAX on Friday afternoon after a quick run and a swim session. The flight was uneventful, however, for some reason the US security officials decided that they needed to inspect my obviously suspicious looking bike box. Which was locked. Their solution? Smash the locks and all four clasps. Result – a broken box that comes out of baggage claim with its Cannondale contents exposed for all to see. They did have the courtesy of leaving me a note to say ‘we have inspected your bag’ (no sh*t Sherlock).
Anyway, I managed to get myself and my broken box to the hotel and then proceeded to load myself with carbohydrates from California Pizza Kitchen. After all, when in Rome. The Californian Carbs were decidedly delicious and relatively nutritious given that the next day I was going to be racing against the stopwatch in the Tour of California time trial.
The next morning I pre-rode the course with some ‘special guests’. Little did I know that one of those guests was none other than the American billionaire tycoon Philip Anschutz. The conversation went something like this.
‘Hi – I am Philip.
‘Hi i’m Chrissie’. (….so far so good)
Mr Anschutz – ‘where are you from?
Me – ‘the UK. Have you travelled there?’
Mr Anschutz – ’ Yes – I own the O2 Arena (one of the biggest entertainment venues in the UK) and am close friends with a number of ex UK prime ministers’.
At which point I went a remarkably bright shade of red, and tried my best to get myself out of the oversized man hole I had dug for myself. (This was on a par with my faux pas at Kona in 2007 when I was chatting to two men, oblivious to the fact that there were Mark Allen and Dave Scott).
Anyway, the TT race course was 2 laps of a 11mile loop in downtown LA. We did the reccy round at a wonderfully leisurely pace. First impressions. The road surfaces had more holes than a swiss cheese. Tramlines, gravel, pot holes, man holes – you name it the course had it. Coupled with the tight, 90 degree corners I realised that my legendary bike handling skills (or lack thereof) were going to be sorely tested.
In order to make myself a little less conspicuous I wore the Liquigas all in one time trail suit – in a delightful shade of lime green. I looked like a slimline version of the Incredible Hulk in an aero helmet. There were about 30 riders participating in the ‘amateur’ time trial, which took place a few hours before the Tour riders strutted their stuff. We went off at 1min intervals with Chris Lieto leading the way. I was 21st to go and Macca went off last. All of my apprehensions regarding the steep start ramp were unfounded – at that point I was more worried about falling down the man sized holes in the roads that lay ahead of me.
The race was great fun. I ground it out in my customary low gear, and managed to hit speeds of around 28-29m/hr on the straights – but promptly dwindled to grandma pace all of the corners. I think I saw a tortoise overtake me at some points. The tight bends, together with two cheeky climbs, meant that it was hard to get into a real rhythm. But having said that, I really loved every minute of it…..and only wish it could have lasted longer (maybe another 90miles longer!)
At the finish line I was whisked away by USADA officials for an out of competition drugs test. My 5th this year. I really welcome the fact that the Federations and the WTC are actually walking the talk when it comes to tackling doping. After finishing with the pee patrol I spent a few hours signing autographs and meeting some really great people at the Cannondale booth. I really enjoy listening to their stories, hearing about their reasons for doing triathlon and the experiences they have had. The passion, energy and love that people have for the sport is so apparent and I always come away from these events exhausted, but incredibly fulfilled and happy.
After a delicious dinner myself and the Cannondale crew drove about 45mins out of LA to Thousand Oaks/Westlake Village, the venue for the final stage. The next day dawned, and I traded the Slice for the equally speedy Super Six road bike – ready to participate in the Malibu Wines sponsored Chairman’s Ride (the combination of cycle and wine made for an interesting ride). We rode 2 laps of the Stage 8 course – a hilly 21 mile loop through some of the most spectacular scenery that California has to offer. It was so green that had I been wearing my attractive lime coloured outfit I would have been totally camouflaged. I chugged up the steep 5km ascent wishing I was actually racing. But then promptly retracted this wish when I saw the technical nature of the downhill. Hair and pin = like wine and ride. A disaster waiting to happen.
That afternoon I was lucky enough to get to see the Tour riders from the comfort of a team car – well, comfort in the loosest sense of the word as we careered around the hairpin bends at 110miles an hour, skipping inbetween the breakaway pack and the peloton. It was fantastic to see get the chance to see the race from this perspective, and really get a good appreciation for the speeds that these guys are travelling, as well as the logistics that go into putting on a race of this scale. Luckily the 100mile/hr car managed to get us back to the finish line just in time to see the lead riders cross the line – marking an end to the Tour of California, and a superb finale to a great weekend.
I would like to thank everyone at Cannondale for all they did for me over the weekend, as well as Mr Anschutz, and Andrew Messick (President of AEG) for inviting me to be part of this event.
Now I am back in Boulder, putting the finishing touches to my Dorothy outfit for Kansas 70.3 on 6 June. The yellow brick road awaits. But I think I will leave the lime green Hulk attire at home and just pack my red Dorothy dancing shoes instead.