by Chris Brewer
Greetings from not-so-sunny California… I’ve been a part of monsoon season in Korea, and the last 24 hours here at the AMGEN Tour of California certainly brought back from soggy memories. It started raining steadily Sunday night with temps between 40-50F, and my friends it is still coming down with little relief in sight till midweek.
While the riders’ day was definitely not one to be envied ? 107 miles in the soup ? my task today was of a more genteel manner. The LAF partnered with our friends at the Silver Oak winery / Twomey Cellars vineyard to bring together some local supporters as well as some of our great corporate friends in town for the race. It was part “experiment” to see what the reaction would be to a targeted invitation for a region / part great opportunity to get to meet and personally thank a great group of people who have been so supportive along the way.
The plan was simple: have these fine folks gather at Twomey Cellars for a 2-hour meet and greet, then casually walk 1/2 a mile down a country road in Calistoga to watch Lance and the race blast by. But back when LAF Exec VP Phil Hills and I planned the event, torrential rain and bone-chilling temperatures were not top-of-mind. Would anyone come out today?
Yes and yes.
We are happy to report almost everyone that RSVP’d not only came out to the vineyard, but then also braved the elements to watch an amazing performance as Rock Racing’s Francisco Mancebo held off all attackers to take a brave solo victory into Santa Rosa. Our host for the day, Tim Duncan, and the great staff at Twomey Cellars made everyone as comfortable as possible while we tracked the race on a laptop. The trick was to calculate where we were the course and what the average speed of the race was so we know when to head out and cheer on the riders.
The group we had was definitely diverse, from longtime pro cycling fans from as far away as Houston, TX to local LIVESTRONG Army volunteers to some of the top managerial staff from our friends at Nike, FRS, and ACI. Everyone had a story to share and the camaraderie was genuine. As it got close to 3pm we all made our way to the course, our friends soon soaked but filled with anticipation as the steady stream of race vehicles rolled up in advance.
Then, literally out of the mist, a lone rider rounded the corner surrounded by support and race vehicles. By this time Mancebo had been on the front of the race for almost 3 hours, and was just coming off of the biggest climb of the day. As he pounded away looking very strong on his bike he was followed by a who’s who pack of riders that included Lance Armstrong and his teammate, 2-time ATOC defending champion Levi Leipheimer as well as several other teammates. The look on their face was a combination of determination and human suffering. Mancebo is no slouch racer as he would show later on, driving in for the win despite being caught by a couple of racers on the final circuit in Santa Rosa, and they had to keep driving on or risk losing the entire race on one bleak day.
And then they were gone down the road, mere seconds of race watching over in a flash. But as we made our way back to our cars to head for home or hotel there was a definite sense of having been a part of something very special. Not only getting to personally witness a part of Lance Armstrong’s comeback / global cancer campaign, but to have engaged with friends old and new who have a commitment to the fight against cancer. As Phil and I discussed the merits of the day as we made our way south to San Jose we had to agree: the experiment was a resounding success, and thanks to everyone who made it so! Lots more to come, thanks for checking in ? Cb…
In a word: YES!