Motivation and enthusiasm run high at a race like the Tour of California, but as fatigue sets in the signs are quite a bit less visible.
Day 1. Getting ready to race in 20 degree weather, wind, and snow. Everyone is dressed early, ready and giddy to go. It's cold and wet, but we know when we go it will warm up with the racing. Unfortunately the race was canceled. What do you do with all this energy? We go ride anyways. We headed out where the weather was slightly better till we topped a pass and we jumped into the car before having to bomb a decent in horrid conditions.
Day 2. We have to drive 2hrs to the start as conditions over and down Donners Pass we not conducive to racing. Stemper was dressed before we entered the RV. The rest of us dressed the second we parked and were off to sign in quickly.
Day 3. The only person dressed before leaving was Day, but that is because he didn't want 7 other guys naked butts in his face as was the case the day before. Everyone in the RV seemed to be moving slower, not quite Roman pace yet.
Day 4 and 5. Things are definitely slowing down in the RV. Some get ready before others, most are trying to relax as long as possible. It's a little cold out in the mornings so nobody wants to hang outside. It must have being only in the 50's. There is no sense of urgency. We may all be dressed 30minutes before start, head straight to sign in, and quickly back to the RV to sit and relax the last few minutes. One guy did ask if we were going to warm up. I smiled at him and said no worries there is a 5km neutral section.
Day 6. It's the TT day. Stemper, Day, and myself have later starts so we leave an hour later then everyone else. I was pretty excited for that extra down time. Time was wisely spent on the bed watching tv.
Day 7. Once again guys are dressed about 30minutes out, but only because we figured we should roll around before the start as it is 10 miles straight up out of the gate. Even we know when we should warm up. Luca said it would help hurt less during the race. I don't think I could have hurt anymore. I wonder how it worked out for him?
Day 8. We get to the start area in plenty of time. The RV parked and nobody even moved. We hassle Phil about how we may have just passed a Chick-fa-la but since it is Sunday it is closed. The kid loves his sweet tea. 30 minutes to go and nobody flinches. We are all working at Roman pace. We finally get dressed roll out of the RV ask an official where the sign in is at, as it is not visible. He informs us it's at the start which is by the stage like everyday. Clearly, but where would that be? He points it out and tells us we better hurry. I started thinking oh man we are pushing it this time. I signed in and noticed that only one other team had signed in as well and Andy Schleck. However I don't think it was really Andy who signed in unless he signs in as HOMO. I could be wrong.
The other thing I noticed is that as the race went on the neutral sections seemed to be shorter, not only that but also quite a bit slower. Although when the flag dropped the racing always began right away.
On stage 7 up Mt. Baldy Frankie told us after that as soon as we finish a race we should move to the RV right away. We informed him that we did that, but on the 15 mile decent to the RV we were in no way going to pedal at all.
The most important thing during a stage race is to stay as relaxed as possible. We could have probably all saved on 2-3 spots on GC if we went in with the same demeanor as we had in stage 8. Don't move until completely necessary.