Thursday, May 20, 2010

Amgen Tour of California Stage 5

Today was a pretty good day for our neck of the woods. The Amgen Tour of California was coming to Bakersfield. Bakersfield marked the finish line for the 5th stage of the tour and the town was beyond excited. The tour is the largest tour in America covering a large part of California. The tour is divided into 8 stages throughout 8 days and each stage is roughly 100 miles. The elite of the bicylcing world participate in this tour to prepare for the Tour de France. Each stage showcases something different....the mountains, the dessert, the coastline and pretty much anything in between.
Being new to California, we want to do anything and everything that we can possibly do while we are here. We're on an adventure and we definitely want to make the most out of it. Unfortunately for me, the race took place on a Thursday and was estimated to finish to be anywhere between 3-4 pm....right in the middle of my work day! I've been watching the news every evening to keep track of the tour and was pretty bummed when I knew that I wouldn't get to be part of such a historic event, especitally when it was so close to home. Oh, and did I mention that Lance Armstrong was competing in this tour?! when I got to work my Executive Director told me to take off and enjoy the festivities that the Amgen Tour had to offer. Woo hoo--no complaining from my end! I headed to the finish line of the race, which is right on the bluffs overlooking the oil rigs, and locked down my position. I wanted to be sure that I was able to see the race and all the riders, especially Lance! Well after overhearing a few people talking about the cyclist, I pulled out my iPhone and searched and what I overheard was true. Lance had crashed early on in the race and did pretty good damage to his face and his chest. He wouldn't be crossing the finish line of the 5th stage and I wouldn't get to see him or take his picture!! I'm not going to lie...I was a little upset! It didn't take long to get distracted on other things especially when the whole area was full of vendors and booths that were passing out free goodies and/or selling their products.
Once the cyclists were close, then we all squished in as close as we could to the road. We knew they were getting close when we saw the huge helicopter fly by and saw the police escorts. The anticipation was pretty amazing...everyone was waving signs and shaking their cow bells. The path had the riders go around the 'circuit' twice before they crossed the finish line, which was good for us because we could see them go by a few times, snap multiple pictures and then see winner cross the finish line. Seeing the first cyclists past by at such fast pases was pretty amazing. These men had looks of exhaustion, pain and serious determination on their faces. They were putting in so much effort...passing one person could mean a big difference in the ranking for future stages. Each racing team had a racing car that was filled with a support staff and that held all their supplies. Each car followed closely behind their team members...not at the back of the pack like I would have guessed.
At the finish, the pack had broken up and the top 6 had pulled out ahead and were giving it their all for the victory. It was pretty amazing seeing them battle it out to the end. The race was not over until they crossed that line.
The difference between first place and last place was only a few minutes...this stage of the race couldn't have been closer! Peter Sagan of Slovakia was the winner of stage was an amazing finish--he sped past two other competitors just in time to claim the victory!I'm so glad that I was able to experience the 5th stage of the 2010 Tour of California. I was part of Bakersfield history!! After watching something so awesome, I decided to go home and ride my bike. Hey, if these men could ride 112 miles in the crazy heat, then surely I could work up the energy to ride a mile or two!

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