Saturday, February 28, 2009

SOLVANG TIME TRIAL VIDEO 'N' MORE

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Lance Armstrong, Michael Rogers and Levi Leipheimer zoom by in this video shot by Jen McQuaide! Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin head honcho and argyle advocate in Solvang after the time trial.
Hey buddy, you mind slippin' me one or two of them wheels there?
An intriguing member of the Pasadena tifosi.A newly shorn Bob Roll after stage 7 in Pasadena.
Big George Hincapie leads the charge up a bump in Pasadena.

Some of Quick-Step's quite fetching Tarmac and Roubaix SL2's. Below, Rock Racing's Kestrel RT 800 which, quite frankly, looked a bit low-rent compared to the other rides at the TOC. (Bikesdirect.com is selling them for about $2,700.)

Jen, Bake and I at our home for five hours on Cole Grade on stage 8. The ridge behind us is Palomar Mountain, which the riders had to climb first.
Christian VandeVelda kinda suffering a bit up the grade.

MORE TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PHOTOS REDUX

Here's Bake in front of the Rock Racing Bentley, of which he was most enamored. Below, Bake and I pose with Versus' Paul Sherwen, who seemed like a genuinely nice guy.
Below, the lead group makes its way up a minor bump (to them) on one of the Pasadena circuits.
Floyd Landis below after stage 8. (Still not sure how I feel about the guy; fans seemed to love him though.)
Batman drives Cole Grade after the peloton passes.

Here's the stragglers group on Cole Grade which was a 9-percent climb for 3 miles. Tyler Hamilton, Mark Cavendish and Wenatchee's own Tyler Farrar are in this photo. At this point they were 18 minutes behind eventual winner Frank Schleck.
Below the ever-smiling Chris Horner makes it up with a faster group.
Bake and some of his Cole Grade artwork.
Not sure what the story is with this bike. The guy was just riding it around the finish area in Pasadena.
The lead group charges up the road in Pasadena.

MORE TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PHOTOS

Stage 1 winner Francisco Mancebo chatting up one of the Rock Racing girls after the Solvang time trial.

About as close as we could get to Levi after he won the Solvang TT. Below, George Hincapie, very popular with the California tifosi, cools down on the trainer after his time trial.

Dave Zabriskie takes second at Solvang and overall too. Below big Jens Voight, who, in person, comes across as more tall and thin than big.
That's Jens on the trainer below too.
Below, see a lifeguard waiting for the pelaton to pass on Cole Grade during stage 8. That's our white Impala rental car too!

Below, Jen, Baker and high school pal Mike D'Annucci as we wait for the riders on the Pasadena circuit, stage 7.

Friday, February 27, 2009

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA PHOTOS!

Just got back from a fun-filled trip to California that included three stages of the Amgen Tour of California, trips to Disneyland and Legoland, as well as dinner mit me brother Chris and his lovely family including wife Dee (Happy B-day!) and daughter McKinley. Added bonus: caught up with high school pal Mike D'Annucci whom we hooked up with at stage 7 in Pasadena. Speaking of which, above, please check out the great shot Jen took of the breakaway group, including big George Hincapie on the first of five circuits around the Rose Bowl. Below, Lance Armstrong guts his way through the Solvang time trial held the day before in Solvang. He must be famous or something; we noticed a lot of people cheering for him throughout the three days.

About 10 minutes after we arrived in Solvang, we found Mark Cavendish (who'd won the tour's previous two stages) cooling down after the time trial. He's the man of the moment in professional cycling right now and was gracious enough to give Baker his autograph.
Below, that's me with the giddy grin behind Tom Boonen who'd just emerged from the anti-doping bus where he'd had to make a contribution, as it were.
Below, Jen scores another great shot: this one of the Astana machine on a minor bump in Pasadena. Chris Horner is at the far left, Levi in yellow, and Lance at the far right in the yellow helmet.

Monday, February 23, 2009

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA - STAGE 8

'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!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

TOUR OF CALIFORNIA

Here's the quick and dirty, with photos to follow after we get back from Cali.
Fri, we flew to LA, then drove three hours up the coast to Solvang and the time trial. Incredible experience--Bake got Mark Cavendish's autograph, saw big Jens Voight, Hincapie, Mick Rodgers, a Schleck, and many more warming up/cooling down on rollers. Watched the second half of the TT leaning front row, 300 meters from the finish. Can't believe how incredibly fast they go. Levi was like a missle. Then they had to take a 90-degree left right after us, kept waiting for someone to bite it, but they never did. Wow! (Ian McKissick is racing here--I can truthfully say I've raced against one of these guys; he does the Mount Baker Hill Climb most years.)
Sat, we drove 2-1/2 hours to Pasadena and planted ourselves on a small hill on the 5-mile circuit loop. (Met up with high school pal Mike D'Annucci who lives nearby too--super great to see him.) Can't put into words how exciting this was--they came by five times, first a break of 10 (which included big George and Christian VandVelde), then the peloton, led by the Astana train. So, so, friggin' fast! When the peloton past, a rush of wind hits you in the face. The hill, as it were, had no effect on them. They powered up it at probably 25--30 mph. We headed down to the finish for the last circuit. Planted ourselves on a hillside where they zoomed by so quickly, it was mind-bottling. (Saw actor Luke Wilson there.)
Afterward, saw Tom Boonen emerging from the anti-doping bus. Cool. Jen remarked that he was easy on the eyes. Astana bus was impossible to get near. Mobbed, like the Beatles were in there.
Today, we head to Cole Grade, the last little hill on Stage 8.
This has been an amazing experience.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

TEAM UNATTACKED DOES CLEATOR-GALBRAITH DOUBLE

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Also threw in some Lake Padden trails for fun. Above, Scott Young and John Clark attack the steep hill on the expert loop.

John (above) was taking his maiden ride up his Niner Air 9. He even let go of the above railing a couple times. Below, note evidence of the spill I took on the Railroad Trail near Alabama Hill. Good thing I was wearing gloves. I looked down at my computer and my handlebar clipped a tree. Got a few scrapes but nuffin' serious. All told, we rode 40 miles with 4,600 feet elevation gain, in a little over 4 hours.

John and I are both training for an 8-hour mountain bike race down in Northern California at the end of March. We're soloing it, not riding it as a team. I've been working with Daryl Smith of Advantage Multisport who's got me doing back-to-back longish rides on weekends (generally four, four-and-a-half hours one day with signif. elevation gain, two to three hours the following day) and a tough interval workout during the week. That's usually hill repeats up Sehome Arboretum Road.

Friday, Jen, Bake and I leave for SoCal where we hope to catch the final three days of the Tour of California. Bummer that Fabian Cancellara won't be there but I think there'll be one or two other well-known cyclists we may recognize. Go Levi!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

TODAY'S SEATTLE TIMES

Check out today's Seattle Times' Northwest Weekend section for my story about where to see overwintering swans, snow geese and raptors in the Skagit Valley. Here's the link: (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/outdoors/2008732763_nwwbirds121.html)


Sunday, February 08, 2009

UBER EPIC RIDE

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Team Unattacked headed out on their second training ride of the year. And what an epic one she was. Up Galbraith then down Road 4000 to Sudden Valley. Then up Lookout Mountain Road which climbs 2,200 feet in 5-1/2 miles and, as we found out, the top mile of which is still under a couple feet of snow. (As the video shows.)

Then down Lookout where Unattacked Scott Young split for home whilst tap dancing afficianado John Clark and I headed up to the Galbraith Towers. But first we "enjoyed" some straight up the hill bushwacking mit bikes on our shoulders. Killer. Then down via Wonderland, Mullet, etc.

Super great ride: 35 miles, 5,000 feet elevation gain, 4-1/2 hours.

AREA MAN RETURNS TO BIKE-THEMED BLOG

Also includes photos of snow geese and swans. What the--?
Reduced to walking by snow on upper reaches of Lookout Mountain.

Baker and the Twin Sisters from Lookout Mountain.

Looking south toward the San Juan Islands and Olympic Mountains from the top of Lookout Mountain.

Last week I headed down to Skagit County for a Seattle Times story I wrote about the annual gathering of trumpeter swans and snow geese. It'll be in this Thursday's Times.