Before too much time passes I wanted to get down some of the memories of the 10th Anniversary of the Amgen Tour of California. This is the first time that I personally have participated as well as the team but I made a few key hires over the off season to give us an edge.
Chris Wherry at second director has raced the event as well as worked for Medalist as a VIP driver and rider/team liaison for the past couple years. Doug Sumi as our 2nd mechanic worked with the Jamis Hagens Bergman team as well. These guys and the entire Hincapie Staff are the reason that we were so successful at this years race.
Day 1 Sacremento to Sacremento
A flat shake down ride, we went out on River Road into the country and made a big square. The only real challenge was the cross wind dirt section and everyones nerves. Nothing much happened so it was a good day, Cavendish and Sagan had a show down while our guys found out what a real field sprint is like. Fast…it was 3 laps on the circuit and once it started there is no moving up.
Day 2 Nevada City to Lodi.
After a short drive to Nevada City we were set up for a basically down hill stage with one KOM that would end fairly predictably with a field sprint. We wanted to get some representation on the in the break so we tasked Mr California, Robin Carpenter and he delivered. If I remember correctly he sprinted and won every sprint on the road that day, and picked up the polka dotted KOM jersey. In the finish it was a super fast flat circuit and unfortunately bodies, brakes and the ground got the best of our sprinter Ty Magner and Toms on the entrance to the circuit. A massive crash split the filed into about 3 groups and tons of single riders. Toms lost about 23 seconds and Ty lost a few minutes but rolled on in. Ben Jaque Maynes from Jamis riding his !0th Tour unfortunately really got hurt and could not continue. I got to see an old friend on the RV after the finish, Chris Huber the fastest man in the world…oreat to see all of the people in Lodi. It is really great to see all my old friends on the road. Once back on the RV we realized that Ty had crashed much more seriously than we thought. He broke his helmet and showed no signs of road rash indicating that he hit hard and didn’t slide or tumble. . Dr. Morgan gave him a quick assessment and indicated to me that it did not look great for Ty to continue. #%$*! was all I could think, this was not in the plan at all. We have the fastest guy in the US and I wanted to see how he stacked up against the fastest guys in the world. Robin was enjoying the podium and Ty was struggling with a looming headache,possible concussion and maybe not continuing. It seemed like a longer than usual transfer to the next hotel in San Jose.
Day 3. San Jose to San Jose.
The night before we had a meeting and decided it was the right call to have Ty not start the next day. Not a good feeling for all of us, but as I told Ty if he was my son I would not have him ride…the headache, the fuzziness, the impact all the signs of a concussion. Dr. Morgan confirmed it and we now had to plan to get him down to Pismo and then off to Athens…We also had a race to do. i had sent Toms, Dion and Andzs to the Sac town area for training prior to the race and they actually got to preview today’s stage. Toms had picked it out as one to target and the team was ready to get into an early breakaway and see how the rest of the race would react. We had Doug Zell for Intelligentsia Coffee in the car as well as a reporter and photographer from the San Francisco chronicle. I was hoping it would be some good photo ops and that something crazy would happen. Right from the start the roads were terrifying to drive, the speed was high and as we cruised around and down out of town our passengers were having a blast. Since we were the 3rd car in the caravan we had basically a front row view of all the action. After about 3 tries the break was established and it consisted of Toms and Oscar along with Daniel Oss from BMC and a UHC guy plus someone else I believe. Nice break. There were quite a few minor KOMS on the road and one massive one so the plan was to get the points and then hold on till the finish. I could tell Toms was feeling good, he was a little crabby at the start so I could tell something was up. He and Oscar conspired to attack hard for the minor KOM before the Hamilton climb and they did, Oscar ripped it up and over and then for the first part of Hamilton. Toms simply kept going and never looked back until the 500 meter mark at the finish. A strong contrast to what was happening back where I was, behind the field. The break got over 4 minutes before the climb and then Toms picked up even more time on the decent. I’m of course getting info over race radio and from iPhone calls to Chris who if following him. I had seen Toms ride like this before and felt he had an awfully good chance…The Pro tour guys didn’t look at the profile, didn’t see how skinny the roads were after the climb and ultimately didn’t give Toms the respect he deserved. He was putting time on them! Guys flatted and crashed on the decent, people were blowing up on the chase it was a real bike race. I was kinda giddy in the car as I like the show and this was entertaining, great roads great drama so win or loose we put on a show. It wasn’t until about 15k to go that I really understood that Toms could win. The time check was 2:45 and it was too far…I figured he would keep the lead by a minute of so and looking at the leaders that meant he would be in yellow. “hilarious” i thought to myself. The next 20 minutes were incredibly tense as riders were getting dropped and some getting paced back from their team cars to the “field” as they approached the final climb to the finish. The climb sucked, the wind swirled the road went up and all I had was the race radio, slowly giving us the status on the road. At 500 meters he had over a minute…Boom! he was gonna win…Holy Shit…”i think you picked a good day to ride in the car i said to our reporter friend”
Matt Accarrino and Cat where the first people I saw on top, high fives and hugs all around…I made my way to the green room and there was my little Latvian literally shaking from the effort. Gave him a big hug and stepped back to let him revel in the moment. What an incredible race and effort…super proud of Toms. The team waited for us to get back after all of the press stuff and USADA testing and we had a massive 3 hour drive down to Pismo beach for the start on the next day.
Stage 4 Pismo to Avila Beach
Yellow Jersey…gotta hold it. One major climb and then basically down hill to the finsih…we don’t care about KOM or the finish we have the Jersey!. It looks like another sprint stage so if we let a small break get away then we can control the field over the climb and then as we get closer the “sprinter teams” will take over. That is exactly what happened, Oscar, Andzs, Joe and Joe, Robin worked in the wind on the front all day while Dion and Toms rode the wheels so that they could contest the later stages. The break went out to about 4 minutes and The team road like champs bringing it back and then the Etixx guys ripped the finish. Success….Toms still in yellow.
Stage 5 Santa Barbera to Santa Clarita
We drove down an hour and a half from Pismo to Santa Barbara. We had arranged to get Ty on a plane back to Atlanta and pick up George and Mark so that they could see the stage from the team cars. I used to do some training in Santa Barbara so I was a bit more familiar with with some of the roads and this stage had been used in a previous edition of the Amgen tour. Goerge had actually crashed on this stage, broke his wrist and still finished. We had yellow and we wanted to keep it another day going into the time trial, the road was pretty lumpy with a few good climbs out there and one tuff wall, Balcom Canyon. We wanted to get a break up the road again and we did settle on one early…the closest GC threat was only 45 seconds up but we let them go out to 4 minutes or so then started bringing it closer after the climb. The canyon was slightly uphill and mostly tail wind and the sprinter teams had a desire to bring it back too. Then all hell broke lose…it started raining, more like dumping the field was in shambles. Guys falling off the back etc. but our guys kept on the front and didn’t relent until we had bought the remaining members of the break at around 6k to go. A crash took out some of the gc contenders and their directors bent the rules for the 3rd day in a row to get them back in contention. But we all remained safe and delivered Toms to the line unscathed. George and Mark were a little wrecked by spending a day in the car too…Cav, Renshaw, Schar…plus others all came by the car at some point and they all had great things to say about the team to him.
Stage 6 Santa Clarita TT
The stage 6 TT was snowed out in Big Bear. Go figure, it never rains or snows all year except for when the race is in Big Bear. It was really a benefit for us…less travel, no altitude and it was shorter so Toms had a real good chance that he could hold on to the lead for another day. I had my money on Zirbel for a great showing in Big Bear, he has won that race the last 2 times I was there. The new course was short, twisty and not much of hill in it. The bus was mobbed by fans looking to catch a glimpse of Toms, but he took it in stride. Everyone was fairly close in time…no one really smashing it… then came Sagan, he destroyed the TT and broke our streak of yellow. Dion and Robin rolled some great times and really showed some class by being able to continue to race after 6 tough days. Team alum, Joey Rosskopf put in a good ride to get 4th so at the end of the day we had the mtns jersey and 3 guys in the top 15 going into the last 2 days. Toms was all smiles at the finish, we had a great run and we where all proud of how the team was riding.
Stage 7 Ontario to Baldy
The queen stage….Dion was ready to give this one a go as was Toms, wearing the polka dotted KOM jersey for the first time since he “had” to wear the yellow previously he was excited to get some more points to possibly keep the jersey. Peter Sagan was also super motivated to keep the jersey he earned by winning the previous days TT. The speed at the start was crazy…Daniel Oss from BMC was crushing it and Toms was hot on his heels. The speed at which Oss went up the road was too hard for most and the field as well as the break simply shattered. The field settled down over the first KOM’s but the teams were not going to let the break stay away today. The SKY team as well as Tinkoff road a steady tempo to put pressure on Sagan. In the end the temps got colder and the racing hotter as Etixx sprung Alafelpe to win the stage but all eyes were on Sagan as he crossed the line about 50 seconds back and lost the jersey by 2 seconds. Incredible finish for a great race. Dion was in the main group until the very end proving again that he is one of the tough guys for the future.
Stage 8 LA Live to Pasadena
The last day! Today was shaping up to be another sprint day with one bonus sprint on the road and a time bonus on the finish we figured it was pretty cut and dry. We wanted to shake it up a little and pull off a team attack to get in the break once the time bonus sprint happened. How awesome was it that alaphilipe was 3rd to sagan and Cav! Thus keeping the lead by one second over Sagan. Oscar and Joe Lewis rolled themselves into the break and got some great TV time and earning the 9th podium for the team for the week by taking the most aggressive rider for the day. In the final gallop to the line Sagan barely got third and took the overall, Cav won the day and we split a bottle of champagne in the parking lot. We got through the last day with very little drama, we got some great fitness and earned some street cred with the Euro teams. I couldn’t have been happier about the way we started, protected and finished our first ever Amgen TOC. Thanks again to Rich and George for giving me this opportunity and congrats to all of my team…that was pretty all right.