|Tour of California Preview Day 1
We have to hope the guys brought their warmers. The Bay Area woke up to snow on
the mountains this morning, and the National Weather Service predicts more
tonight. That won't be a problem for the prologue nor, likely, for Monday's
stage into Santa Rosa. But if it hangs around through Tuesday, those canyons get
mighty cold. R L.Lozes
Weather This morning in San Francisco 48 degrees, 80% humidity, some rain
clearing later, with a slight wind out of the East... warmers on and rubber down
it looks like a Spring Day in Belgium.
Tour of California (UCI 2.1): Preview
By Chris G. Baldwin
of Navigators Insurance
San Francisco and all of California is abuzz with excitement, at least in the
world of cycling, as the Tour of California is set to kick off tomorrow. Sixteen
of the planetís top teams are lined up, their bikes measured, lubed and dialed
for Sundayís opening prologue.
Rain fell as dusk began Saturday, and thunder was booming by the time the
Navigators Insurance Cycling team, along with their fellow competitors, settled
in to a spacious heated tent near the hotelís outdoor swimming pool for dinner.
Tureens of pasta, rice, potatoes and salad were set out, alongside spare
portions of pink salmon and cruciferous veggies, as the gaunt and already
red-faced riders tucked into their last supper prior to competition.
Tubs of ice cream in melting ice sat neglected in one corner next to a
dessert tray of sliced melon and pineapple. A selection of soft drinks and water
was available, along with boxes of orange and apple juice. None of the sodas
The round tables were set with heavy linen napkins and a pitcher of ice water
in the center. There was space for 12 to dine, but in some instances only a lone
mechanic or soigneur sat eating his meal, waiting as team members woke from late
afternoon naps or emerged from the massage table. By 7:30 the first to enter
were already leaving, sated, visibly excited about tomorrowís start.
It is without a doubt the highlight of the American race season, this
California tour, if only for the fact that it is also the opening event of the
season. In years past the traditional U.S. opener was the McLane series,
followed by the Fresno criteriums, or some other Central Californian version
thereof. Promoters no doubt will try to accommodate those races in future
iterations of the Tour of California, capitalizing on the presence of so many
Pro Tour teams from so far away as well as the legitimate need to stretch and
flex the legs and logistical team workings prior to a complicated stage race.
But for now this is it, and the frenzy of a major tour being run for the very
first time is meeting head-on with the chaos of February. The strain is
The mechanics for the Navigators set up the new Colnagos today, prepping the
time trial bikes with new Oval Concepts parts and dialing down each team
memberís measurements. The combination of new equipment, new faces, and a new
set of challenges has the working wrenches whipping out the measuring tapes,
checking and rechecking seat heights, headset stacks and overall reach
repeatedly, making sure itís right.
Team Manager Ray Cipollini spent the day applying new decals to the team car,
and was caught in the last minutes of daylight with just a few more rubbings to
do. The rain began pelting him harder and harder, and finally he had to give up
on the scripted lettering and head for dryer ground. In his room he mentioned
the weather as only a minor distraction, his mind preoccupied with all the
million little details needing attention before tomorrow morningís start.
The prologue course is short, less than two miles, and with the first rider
going out at 10:00 the whole event should be done before noon. Weather
predictions are for clear and sunny skies, and for the Bay Area in February this
is both typical and remarkable. Typical that such a beautiful winter day in
California should crackle with so much springtime sparkle, and remarkable
because just two days ago snow fell on most of the mountains over 2,000 feet out
here. Flying in there was still a dusting of white visible to airline passengers
in the East Bay hills by Richmond and Concord, near where the climbs will be on
Tuesday. Newspapers showed front-page pictures of knit-capped adults smiling in
wonder as their serious-at-play children scooped up handfuls of snow on Mt.
Tamalpais in Marin and chucked it at each other. Only in California, the saying
The teams will be staying two nights in the airport Hyatt before the strange
and precise exodus begins on Monday. Transfer occurs first across the Golden
Gate bridge to Sausalito, the most harmoniously-named city in the state, and
what is predicted by many as the hardest stage of the week.
Hard not in and of itself, as say a stage from one mountaintop village of France
is to another in mid-July. Hard not like the windy shores of Oostende in April.
Hard not like the 302 kilometers from Milan to San Remo.
Hard because it is the first day of whip-snap racing in a field full of ringers
along a cross-winded, oceanside roller, with the number one team in the world
sure to be driving an echelon-shaped wedge into the legs of each and every man
Hard like digging coal for a living.
Hard like a rooferís day in Houstonís August.
Hard like diamonds.
NIC NAVIGATORS INSURANCE CYCLING TEAM
91 BROOKS Benjamin AUS19790321
92 CHADWICK Glen Alan AUS19761017
93 DAVIDENKO Vassili RUS19700317
94 GRISHKINE Oleg RUS19750210
95 KOBZARENKO Valery UKR19770205
96 LAGUTIN Sergey UZB19810114
97 O'LOUGHLIN David IRL19780429
98 ZAJICEK Phil
Directeur Sportif: BEAMON Edward USA
This East Coast-based American team of
international cyclists will start in San Francisco with some of the strongest
and fittest guys in the professional peloton, having raced already this year in
Australia, Malaysia, and on the track in World Cup events.l
All eight of the riders have extensive
international and American racing experience. Four are current or former
national champions, two are former track stars, one is the former under-23 World
Champion, and all eight have competed at the highest levels of cycling.
Australians Ben Brooks, and Glen Chadwick join
Russian Vassili Davidenko, Ukrainian Valeriy Kobzarenko, Uzbekistan's National
Champion Sergey Lagutin, Ireland's National Champion David O'Loughlin, 8-time
Canadian National Champion Mark Walters, and American Phil Zajicek for the
9-stage Amgen Tour of California, the most exciting new event in professional
Navigators Group, Inc. is an international insurance holding company with
insurance company operations, underwriting management companies and operations
at Lloyd's of London. Navigators primarily underwrites marine insurance and
related lines of business, contractor's general liability, and professional
liability insurance. Headquartered in New York City, Navigators has offices in
major insurance centers in the United States and the United Kingdom. Navigators,
one of the largest marine insurers in the world, is committed to the principles
of underwriting excellence and to providing quality service to its clients.
Navigators is rated 'A' (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company and 'A' (Strong) by
Standard & Poors. The Navigators Group, Inc. is traded on the NASDAQ under the