Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lance, and Levi, and David! Oh My!

The family as we get ready to watch stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California!

Team Astana leads the peloton (and race leader Levi Liepheimer) into Pasadena.

Lance Armstrong (center of photo, black bike w/ yellow helmet) escorting Levi, right behind him in blue and yellow.

C enjoying the park before the ride home.

T being the daredevil she is on the swings!

And finally, little L playing peek-a-boo with the camera!

Well, talk about a dream come true! Matt, the kids and I have all had the AWESOME experience of attending part of the Amgen Tour of California. For those of you that don't know me well, I am a totally obsessed groupie avid fan of men's cycling. I know all the American riders and follow them and their teams. It's lucky for me that my husband is into it too, or he would probably be bothered that I can talk about these men as if they were my boyfriends part of my family.

Anyway, my adventure started last Thursday, when we went to Visalia to see the start of the 5th stage of the race. The course was 134.3 miles and it was estimated to take a grueling minimum of 5 hours to complete. We barely got there before the race started (with all 3 kids in tow, it's a wonder we made it before the race started at all!), but were able to get some awesome pictures of the peloton before they pedaled off for Paso Robles. It was AMAZING, but very brief. My sweet husband felt bad and could tell that I was slightly disappointed that we didn't get to see and do more (there were other people walking around with autographs of riders, bags of team paraphernalia, and souvenirs from the event). He then offered to drive us to a point on the racing course and cut the riders off so we could see them one more time (how much do I love my husband)!

First, we got some lunch and let the kids play at a local park in Visalia. We needed to let them stretch their legs and burn off some energy before another long car ride out into the middle of nowhere. We all made it to the intersection of Highways' 41 and 46 (and for all of you history buff's, it's the location where James Dean was killed in a car accident in 1955). It was a total circus there, with what seemed to be every CHP officer in California attempting to control the chaos. We had arrived just in time, got an amazing spot to view the race, and waited for the peloton to arrive. Seriously, I was ecstatic with joy and anticipation - I mean, these are some of the world's best athletes and I had an up close and personal view of the action. And did I mention that we were basically ALONE on that highway with the best view anywhere. I was giddy as a schoolgirl so incredibly excited, with camera and video recorder in hand, just waiting and watching all the action unfold around me.

We had parked the car just off the Highway, but didn't want to go too far off onto the dirt (after all, we didn't want to get stuck there). The kids were all in the car with the back hatch up, facing the direction the riders would be approaching. This way they could move around but not be on the road and in harm's way (the cyclists can get upwards of 40 mph when in a big group and going downhill). Anyway, lots of lead cars were coming and the helicopters were there filming for the Versus Network on cable. There was a lead group of about 6 riders that came through first, it happened so fast, my head was spinning. The peloton arrived about 5 minutes later in a huge group with team ASTANA (that would be Levi Liepheimer, Lance Armstrong, and Chris Horner's team) leading out front in an attempt to catch the lead group. All I can remember is that the peleton was about 12 inches from our car, having to swerve away due to the rearview mirror being in their way. The wind that was generated when they went by was incredible, and all you could hear was the voices of the riders in multiple languages. I didn't realize it at the time, but afterwards when watching the video tape, I was screaming cheering wildly. Honestly, this is one of the things I really wanted to do before I die, and now I can scratch it off my bucket list! PRICELESS!!!!

The photo's I took were phenomenal! I actually got pictures of Levi Liepheimer, Lance Armstrong, Chris Horner, David Zabriskie, George Hincapie, Floyd Landis, Tyler Hamilton, and Christian Vandervelde (all of whom are AMERICAN riders). And then, my only non-American hero, Ivan Basso (swoon), who I might add is not so hard on the eyes! I only managed to take 368 photos of the event (I told you I'm diseased when it comes to cycling), but in one of the most horrendous mistakes of my life (I might be exaggerating a tiny bit, but not much), every single one was deleted when I was reviewing my pictures. I was so close to tears, but then had to remember that I didn't even know these people (although I would sometimes argue otherwise). It was, after all, just a race, and these were just pictures. My only consolation was that I still had the video. Still, M and I were both so incredibly disappointed (he may have wanted to kill me for a very short time, but luckily, it passed). Regardless of the loss, we had a great time, and it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always treasure!

On a lighter note, M felt so bad for me and the loss of my photo's (this could qualify him for husband of the year), he offered to take the kids and I to the 7th stage of the race. I wanted to go, but wasn't going to push my luck, especially after my boneheaded careless act of deleting the photos. We caught up with the riders mid-race in La Canada/Flintridge along a very snobbish upscale residential street. It was much more crowded, but we still had a great view of the action. Luckily, I got some more great pictures (although not as good as before), and was somewhat redeemed. The only unfortunate part was that prettyboy Ivan Basso was no longer racing (he dropped out after an injury warming up before stage 6). That's okay, I stole a picture off the internet to make myself feel better. I can assure you, he will be represented in the scrapbook whether I took the photo or not.
I've also included some pictures of the kids at a local park we found before our trip home. They just love exploring new parks and we love getting their energy out before the trip home! That's about it for now, enjoy the pictures!


    That sounds awesome. Now think how NICE it would have been had you taken double pictures with your SECOND camera... that is still sitting in my laundry room closet with your MNO 2nd place prize?!?! I'm going to finally pass that on to you when we take our trip!