By Luke Ramseth
Wet and wild doesn’t begin to describe today’s first stage. We showed up in Davis this morning to a pounding rain. Even the hardy Davis bike fans were trying to find shelter under the storefronts and tents waiting for the race to start. Over at the team staging area, the riders waited till the last possible minute to leave their team buses and ride to the start line.
We finally got our press passes, and they payed off right away. I got some sweet photos in the “press area” right next to the start as the riders rolled up. And sure enough, those Davis bike fans came out of their hiding places and made some noise as the riders made their way out of town.
The rain and wind added some drama throughout the day for both us and the riders. Nate and I made our way out to the small town of Calistoga, quite by accident. We planned on going straight to Santa Rosa for the finish but ended up intersecting the race halfway through our drive, and stopped to catch the riders come by. The field was shattered by the time it got to us. Crappy weather had taken its toll, but Spaniard Francisco Mancebo had taken advantage with a five minute gap over the main field, with a few smaller breakaways in between. We also found out that race leader Fabian Cancellara had dropped out, which made Santa Rosa native Levi Leipheimer the new race leader.
Our next challenge was racing to the finish line before the riders could get there. Let me explain a common dilemma when trying to follow a bike race: If you want to beat the riders and watch them at a couple places along the course, it requires not only moving quickly but also using roads that the riders aren’t on. And trust me, when you’re out in the countryside, it’s no easy task to find an alternate route. I guess I should invest in a GPS system.
Needless to say we missed the finish in Santa Rosa. (Francisco Mancebo won, which puts Levi in a tough spot one minute down.) But we did hit up our first awards ceremony. And we finished up a long, rainy day with some wine tasting and gourmet food in the press room at a swanky hotel. Yeah, not bad. Then it was on to crash out at the SF State dorms.
Highlights of the day: not the rain. I’m sick of the rain.We got our press passes. It was
inspiring to see Mancebo solo his way through the nasty conditions.