The cutesy-quaint theme park of a town that is Solvang was thoroughly overrun with bike nuts. Ah my people! Like crack heads on carbon drooling over the slick components and every shred of statistical info. I watched the Time Trial from every possible vantage point in town. Accidentally brushed right by Levi Leipheimer’s shoulder as he entered the press room while I was exiting, surprised to find we are the same height – 5′ 6″. Levi has such a gentle presence, especially considering he has to have a cougar in his soul to ride like he does.
Saw Tom Boonen outside the team trailer – yup, heavy sigh. He’s really that pretty up close. Global warming from carbon emissions? Nope, it’s just Boonie taking off his jacket. Paolo Bettini was on the trainer next to him, all business. Everything about Paolo says PROFESSIONAL. He’s going to WORK.
Kept trying to catch a glimpse of Cipo but he was like a vapor; suddenly there and just as quickly gone. I used to think he was a little too over-the-top to take but the comeback at 41 has all my respect. Hammer ’em Mario! Hammer ’em ’til they squeal.
In a serendipitous twist of fate I happened to be staying with a friend in Montecito whose house turned out to be three whole blocks from the official time start of stage 6. I had the fun of riding my bike down to the intersection in my new “LET LEVI RIDE!” T-shirt.
The last time I saw Valencia/Santa Clarita the only significant buildings there were the California Institute of the Arts and Magic Mountain. Now it’s one never-ending mega-mall/auto park. On February 23 most of it was blocked off for the sea of fans at ToC! The parking lots were total anarchy. So glad the sun came out (mostly) to give the riders and the sponsors the promised California postcard of a day. And I’m most pleased to report that cycling is not hurting for fans, people. There are MILLIONS of us and our numbers are GROWING.
I got to meet Bob Roll after stage 6 in Santa Clarita. What a sweet man! And fit as that proverbial fiddle, I might add. Soon as he was outside the barricades he got MOBBED by fans, yet was gracious to all.