|On Saturday I arrived in Elk Grove, Illinois at the 2012 Tour of Elk Grove - it was hot and sunny in Elk Grove. I had scheduled a full day for me - I had plans to ride in the Team Exergy team car. After twenty minutes of walking through the streets of Elk Grove, I finally found the area where all team vehicles, bikes and riders were located. I made a way to the Exergy team van, met the riders and began my day with the Boise, Idaho based cycling team.
The race was scheduled to start at 4:00 P.M. local time, however, when I arrived at the team set up I was informed that due to bad weather conditions the race start had been postponed fifteen minutes from the initial start time and race officials were considering the option of cancelling the stage. As the day progressed, the weather got worse and as the race time approached, information came in that all were told to go to a gym to wait out the storm. Instead of going to the gym with the others, Team Exergy mechanic (Josh Geiszler) and I hopped into the team car, drove down the road a few minutes then pulled to the side of the road to wait out the storm. After a span of time, riders began coming back to the team parking area and news came in that the new scheduled race time was 5:30 P.M. Before I knew it, the team was discussing race plans and we were getting set to hit the road. The race was on!
As the riders rode towards the start area, the team cars received their caravan car numbers, lined up for the start and shortly took off onto to the course. The Team Exergy car was number eleven. Shortly into the 70 mile race, it crackled over the radio that rider number 107 from Team Exergy, Quinn Keogh, had crashed. As we approached Quinn, he held his shoulder in pain as the team mechanic quickly changed one of the tires. Although he suffered pain in the shoulder and a bloody knee, Quinn continued to race. I began to see the difference from watching cyclists race on TV to being live on the course with the riders.
As the stage progressed, the weather got sunnier and warmer and more riders from all different teams began flatting, crashing, etc. I watched in amazement as one after another, team mechanics sprinted out of the cars with wheels in their hands. It truly is amazing the speed of those mechanics. However, the riders who suffered mechanical problems or crashes would never return to the front of the race as the pace of the peloton was far too high.
As the final three kilometers of the stage 2 road race approached, the Team Exergy car approached the back wheel of their Colombian sprinter, Carlos Alzate. As we pulled up to the side of him, he informed the team manager (Tad Hamilton) and mechanic that he had flatted on his back wheel. It was an untimely flat for both the Colombian and the team as they saw their chances at a stage sprint victory fade away instantly.
Shortly before the finish all team cars were directed off the course, onto a street close to the finish line. As the car stopped on the street, the team manager, mechanic and I all got out of the car to watch the sprint finish on a big screen. At the end of the day, Optum Pro Cycling p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies rider Ken Hanson won the sprint for first and although Exergy was unable to be a challenge for the win, I was told by the team director that was bicycle racing and there was always another day.
Overall, Saturday was just a great day. It was great to meet the Exergy squad, well at least a small portion of it, at the race in person and it was a huge learning experience to have the opportunity to ride behind the race in a team car. I highly suggest that if you ever get the opportunity to ride in a team car - take it; it changed my views on cycling in certain aspects and has also truly shown me what the team director and team mechanic get to deal with during a stage of a race.
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