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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Scenes from Amgen Tour of California's San Francisco Start

Posted By on Tue, May 18, 2010 at 3:59 PM

A morning drizzle and a mid-workaday-morning roll-out-time led to scant crowds at the Ocean Beach start of Tuesday's stage of the Tour of California cycling race.

Those who attended got a real taste of bicycle racing, big-time European -style, in which teams of athletes who dress (and weigh) like jockeys arrive in massive, specially equipped and flamboyantly decorated buses; are catered to by armies of mechanics, masseurs, chefs and other minions; and are surrounded by stacks of spare $10,000 bicycles.

We had breakfast at the house of San Francisco architect, cyclist, and shutterbug Dennis Budd, who lives five blocks from the Fulton and Great Highway starting line. We had to leave well before the 11 a.m. start time. But Dennis was kind enough to send along some photos.

Here's a crowd of fans awaiting members of Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer's RadioShack team:

click to enlarge Lance Armstrong's Team Radio Shack Bus - DENNIS BUDD
  • Dennis Budd
  • Lance Armstrong's Team Radio Shack Bus

Because bicycle stage races such as the Amgen Tour of California

involve day after day of 100-plus-mile mountainous high-speed races,

athletes seek to conserve as much energy as possible off-bike. So their

movements are so careful-seeming and slow as to seem sloth-like.

Juxtaposed with a typical fan-crowd's anxious jumpiness, mid-morning

pro cyclists can look like brightly dressed, weary pre-school teachers

tolerating a rambunctious class.

Here's the Garmin Transitions team bus of top contender and Tuesday stage winner David

Zabriskie. The bus, however, is emblazoned with an image of  team's biggest star, Tyler Farrar. Farrar is racing at the

Giro di Italia, where he won Tuesday's stage, his second such victory so far in the Italian race. With the dual wins the Garmin Transitions team has created a bizarre situation where an American team without Lance Armstrong in its ranks is dominating world bicycle racing.

click to enlarge Garmin Slipstream Team Bus - DENNIS BUDD
  • Dennis Budd
  • Garmin Slipstream Team Bus

Speaking of favorites, fans were eager to see Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner who last year came back from a two-year hiatus to place third in the French race. He's here riding in support

of his teammate Levi Leipheimer, who hopes to win the Tour of

California a fourth time.

click to enlarge Lance Armstrong interviewed before Tuesday's start - DENNIS BUDD
  • Dennis Budd
  • Lance Armstrong interviewed before Tuesday's start

Leipheimer's had something of a quiet season so far, if you don't count his little Chihuahua being carried off by an owl. In

February, Leipheimer's wife, Odessa Gunn, let their four Chihuahuas out

of their Sonoma home for what was supposed to be a brief potty break. A few strange

screeching sounds later, and 6-pound Bandit was gone. The story made

Fox news at TV stations nationwide in a story titled Hungry Owls Target

Small Dogs and Cats for Food in NorCal -- without mentioning that the

nabbed pet belonged to a huge international sports star.

click to enlarge Levi Leipheimer - DENNIS BUDD
  • Dennis Budd
  • Levi Leipheimer

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Matt Smith

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