'Nother quick 'n' dirty:
Wow! Amazing! Incredible! (I know, I sound like a broken record.) We planted ourselves near the top of Cole Grade, a 3-mile hill with, as the sign said, a 9-percent grade. It reminder me of the Powerhouse Hill on the Mount Baker Highway only twice as long and much steeper. Jen, Bake and I were there for about 4-1/2 hours, chatting with lots of nice folks in the ever-increasing (and in some cases, inebriated) crowd, getting updates on what was happening in the race, writing chalk messages to our heroes ("Tom Boonen puts the Quick in Quick-Step", Bake wrote) basking in the beautiful countryside. Then, here they come: motorcycles and cop cars with sirens blaring, helicopters overhead, followed by Frank Schleck and .... Nibali, whose first name escapes me. We'd planned to run alongside, but truthfully, I froze. I just wanted to watch--such concentration, focus, determination, speed! It was beautiful! Amazing world-class athletes doing what they do better than anyone, just three feet from us. A minute later, Astana and others. We ran along--there's Levi in yellow, where's the yellow helmet? There's Lance! Wow! After 50 yards of running alongside, Bake at my side, they're gone.
I'm going to breakfast; I'll write more when I get back ...
Then a few minutes wait as the next group arrives. I decide to try to shoot some pics while I run alongside ringing the free cowbell that'd earlier been tossed to us from an Amgen van. Wo! I'm running along Stuart O'Grady, Christian Vande Velda, etc. Then, bam--they're gone. A long wait ensues until the sprinters caboose. Boonen was the one we really wanted to see but unbeknownst to us, he hadn't started that day. (Neither had J.J. Haedo or Carlos Sastre) Finally, about 20 minutes after Schleck/Nebali, comes the last group. I took a bunch of photos, let them pass, then figured what the heck, I'll try to catch 'em. Ran as hard as I could, caught them, passed them, and that was it--calves, hamstrings, etc. were barking too much. These guys were just getting through it--still much, much, faster than I could ever ride it--but weren't at nearly the speed of the leaders. Looking at my photos afterward, I saw Mark Cavendish and oddly (I guess) Tyler Hamilton in this group.
What a day!