A crazy afternoon and evening in Minneapolis! I'm not sure I've ever seen so many people packed into Uptown, but then, it was Friday night.
I got to Minneapolis early and rode around Lake Calhoun a few times (it's a 3.2 mile loop) just to stay loose. Riding around Lake Calhoun is rather like a three-ring circus: Although the path is one-way and marked as being only for bicycles, people do run with their dogs, inline skate, and ride their bikes the opposite way. I recommend leaving the iPod at home if you're going to ride down there.
Uptown was already hopping when I arrived at the volunteer tent and locked my bike to a sign-post. Again today, I was unloading gear from pallets, setting up tents, and zip-tying banners to the course fencing. There were plenty of willing hands, but a few of us were a little confused as to what we should have been doing and in what order. My only complaint is that the bike corral people were a little late showing up, so we had to turn people away, even though the corral was set up. Oh, well. Everything got done eventually and before the race started, and it looked great.
While I was heading back to the volunteer tent to find out if there was anything else I could do, I noticed that there was a yellow-shirted cyclist sitting astride her bike on the sidewalk. I walked up beside her, intent on just passing by, and who was she? Yeah, Kristin Armstrong.
"Oh, hello again," I said, with a grin.
She looked up, "Hi there." She sounded a little tired, the road stage in Cannon Falls yesterday must have taken a bit of a toll.
I was intent on my destination and I was sure she had something important to do, she is Kristin Armstrong, after all. "I've gotta keep going. Have a good race, Kristin; good luck!"
Sweet! I just had another tiny conversation with a pro racer and didn't sound like a complete idiot.
The OUCH team parked themselves right behind the volunteer check-in, which was just fine by me. It dramatically increased my chances (and my courage) about finding Floyd Landis and asking him to autograph my copy of Positively False.
The women lined up a little before 6:30, to race for an hour. The course was a little less than a mile, flat and 'L' shaped. Makes it a little technical and definitely more interesting, not taking left turns all night.
The weather was absolutely perfect. That's the way this race always seems to shape up. The first two days are rainy and a little cold, and once the race moves into the third through sixth stages the weather warms up and the sun comes out.
I, of course, spent the race walking the course with my camera. Here are a few shots:
Brooke Miller (Tibco) won the stage, which is fitting. She is the national criterium champion, after all.
On to the men's pro race! My opinion is that the race was a little boring, at least until the last few laps.
The Bissel squad sat on the front of the pack, keeping riders under control and protecting the leader's jersey, which is currently on the back of Tom Zirbel. If anyone attacked before the last lap of the race, I missed it.
Sebastien Haedo had the perfect lead out from his Colavita teammates and won the race this evening.
I wandered my way back to the volunteer check-in after the men's race, trying to come up with the nerve to walk over to the OUCH team area and ask Floyd for his autograph. I waited while other people walked up and lined up at the fence; I finally thought, This is ridiculous! He might be an internationally-known cyclist, but he's a person, too. I pulled my book out of my bag, found a place on the fence, and waited for Floyd to get to me.
He looked a little surprised when I smiled and held out the book for him to sign. He asked who he should sign it for and asked how to spell my name. I shook his hand and told him, "Thanks so much, Floyd; thanks for coming. It's good to see you racing."
He smiled, "Thanks."
Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.