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ATOC 2012 Day 2
PHOTOS: John Watson - Prolly Is Not Probably
The start area of a stage race can be an interesting place.
There are many things happening all at once and the keen (or even casual) observer can really enjoy this microcosm of humanity that plays out over the course of the morning. And this is all before the racing even starts of course: From team tactics and sponsor relations to extreme levels of fan enthusiasm. From scampering media types to racers plugged into their iPods trying to focus. All this blends into one big melting pot of hopes, dreams and — once again— flamboyantly coloured lycra.
The start of the Amgen Tour of California in San Francisco was not an exception to this rule:
Boonen steps out and is swarmed.
All hands on deck! Team sponsors are called in to action for any number of reasons. A local rep rushes to the scene with the last set of tubulars in all of Marin county or the size 45 shoe that was recently sitting in a window display is now on the foot of the race leader.
Ben King's girlfriend places a halo of dandelions on his head.
The Juniors are paraded out looking uncomfortable. They have that demeanour that makes you think they have done something wrong or as if they are wondering what they are doing here. Should they not be be seated on plastic chairs somewhere reciting the periodic tables? Ok, maybe they are older than that, in which case they should be thinking about their summer jobs… Yet here they stand, as their superhuman accolades are announced to the world.
From neo-pros to neolithic sprinters, someone overhears that Robbie McEwen is rumoured to be retiring at the close of the race…
Volunteers rush from one side of the start to the other. There are papers being checked, torn from a pile and handed to another volunteer, resplendent in their brightly coloured t-shirt with ID card flapping, who then rushes off to another part of the venue closed to the wandering eyes of the public.
VIP's are paying no one any mind and seem to only be focused on the free fruit baskets.
Brian Holm steps from the Omega-Pharma bus wearing Terry Richardson-like bifocals and a backward cycling cap. The fans around move closer. No one (but me) takes a picture or speaks.
And then there is Jens Voigt.
The sign-in is also happening but the fans seem blissfully unaware that this is a necessity. In fact the fans in California seem blissfully unaware of anything at all. Thankfully they have Jens Voight to slake their thirst at the Fountain of Cycling Celebrity. Jens is a god amongst men here and even if he knows that this, he never lets on. His patience knows no bounds. There is a moment when, after he has stopped to take a picture with the ten-thousandth fan, he looks him right in the eyes and asks "do you know which way to the start?" The only response given is a slow, muted shake of the head. To which Mr. Voigt responds with a smile, a clap on the shoulder and then he disappears into the crowd.
And this just begins to break the surface of the mini-world that is this race. A swirling ant's nest of movement that all seems to be diligently working its way towards the start line. Then we hear a call from the announcer that positions are now ready to be manned. The race can finally roll out.
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- Somewhat late to the party, but be sure to check out the film to the recent Gentlemen's Race in… http://t.co/RMZUDuxWRc
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- Cool to see our friends @chriskingbuzz representing in the mix of the elite men's race. #mycielo Parbo! http://t.co/L8g8gNofyR
- The masked man on the cyclocross course today was @jeremypowers. It was that cold. http://t.co/KztIjCYu4O