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Redlands and Sea Otter

It was a long flight going from the East coast to the West coast but not as long as the Euro guys had to travel. Four riders were arriving from Europe two days before the start of Redlands. The other three had already been home for a week. Needless to say they all wanted as much rest as possible before the start of the race. The problem was that our first night at the hotel was not very accommodating. Someone had pulled a fire alarm at ten at night and the result was that the fire department couldn't figure out how to turn off the alarm for over two hours. I'll tell you, this hotel was prepared for fire. They had alarms, not only outside in the hallways, but they also had piercing alarms inside each room. It made it impossible to even sit in the room to wait out the noise.

The first order of business the next morning was a coffee run before the training ride. Everyone wanted to go to Starbucks so we headed over for some java pick me up before we went training. Now, in Europe, coffee usually arrives in Dixie cup sizes. Here, in America, you can get coffee in the size of a gallon jug. The Euros liked the idea of sipping on a jug of coffee so they ordered the same as the American guys. Once we finished our coffee we headed out for a three-hour training ride, we actually went to scope out the Oak Glen climb. After one hour Steffen Kjaergaard started complaining about his stomach and how he needed to make a rest stop. Remember, we were in Redlands and we were training out in the middle of nowhere. About fifteen minutes later Steffen stressed he needed to find a place to stop. Lucky for him, or unlucky for him, I didn't see the inside of the place; he found a spot to dump his problems. We found a little mom and pop grocery store with a sign that read "World's famous beef jerky." Steffen didn't hesitate as he threw his bike down and ran inside to let out the rumbling in his gut. At the same time Tom Boonen is over in the corner spitting up coffee because it won't settle in his stomach. It was a lesson learned and luckily on the first day and not on a race day.

The first day of Redlands was the prologue and Chris Horner killed everyone. He had talked about his good form but only later would we realize how fit he actually was. More impressive was that the winner of the women's time trial would have placed 20th in the men's field. On the first day Horner showed everyone who is boss by winning in a fashion that I have never seen before. After bridging a forty second gap by himself, to five riders with one lap to go, he continued on the front for the next five kilometers. He pulled the last lap by himself and came around the last corner looking up at a two kilometer gradual uphill only to see no one even come up to his bottom bracket. Chris won easily and in one lap showed everyone that they were racing for second place. In that same race Trent Klasna screamed in the feed zone, "bottle number 9, get bottle number 9 from my back pack." This led me to believe that Trent must have a cooler full of his own bottles. I wonder if there is a bottle number 10? I wonder if bottle number ten would make him go faster than bottle number 9?

At the start of the race, in the managers meeting, there was a firm lecture about the riders urinating in public. They talked about fines being handed out and to not let it happen because it hurts their appearance to the public. I couldn't agree more but with 250 riders, men and women, you would think they would provide more than two or three porta-johns. You should have seen the line at the one porta-john before the Oak Glen road race. You would have thought it was an airline security checkpoint.

Sea Otter

To the surprise of all, including myself, David Zabriski beat Chris Horner in the seventeen-mile time trial. The race had a few problems with some of the result from that morning. The Sea Otter implemented a new timing device that required each rider to wear a timing chip around their ankle. They told us that the riders should wear it around their ankle but the riders were not used to that so they tried wearing it on their wrists, in their helmets, and strapped on their bikes. Well, what they didn't tell us is that the timing strips that cover the finish line can only read the chips if they are less than two feet above the ground. This meant that many riders time were not recorded automatically and had to be hand calculated. Adding to the confusion was that the officials only had two hours to figure everything out before the start of the second stage criterium in the afternoon. Even if the results were askew it didn't change the way the riders raced the criterium, flat out. A peloton in less than fifty laps dwindled from 130 down to forty. Again, it was Chris Horner in the front group leading the charge. The crowd's biggest reaction came during one of the races spectacular crashes. Unlucky for us was that Robbie Ventura was the star in the crash as he catapulted over five riders that crashed in front of him. He dislocated his shoulder and tore the ligaments that hold the shoulder in place. The riders were not the only casualties from that day. At the time trial Canadian Television received permission to follow and film Mike Barry in the race. At about half way through the race the cameraman was hanging out the side door filming when the van hit a bump. The sudden movement threw the cameraman out the door and on to the ground at 50km/hr. Luckily, he didn't hit his head but he did mess up his legs very badly and had to be taken directly to surgery. I'm sure it didn't help that the van rolled over him adding more wounds to his injuries.

The following day was the road race and for the first time the riders met rain. The roads were slick and as early as five kilometers out of the gates there were riders already lying on the side of the road. Speaking of on the side of the road, at the start of the race the race caravan (team cars) got left behind. For a couple minutes no one knew what was going on but then we realized the race was already in front of us. Remember, much of the course is on the Laguna Seca raceway. Of course I had to catch up as quickly as possible and I took full advantage of being on a racetrack. The wide track with no obstacles made it a perfect opportunity to put the pedal to the floor. On the last corner I went to make the turn but because the roads were wet my tires turned but the car didn't. I started to head straight for the sand traps as I slammed on the brakes and slid into the grass. I came out pretty quickly but immediately the other directors came up laughing letting me know that they saw the whole thing. A few laps later in the race Chris Horner took off killing everyone once again to set himself for the overall Sea Otter win. The last day was uneventful except that Kirk O'Bee, who was in a solo break the whole day, would have won if it were not for Chris Horner chasing him down for no apparent reason. Chris's team had no sprinter, and Mercury did with Gordon Fraser. Yet, Chris pulled on the front for two laps to pull back Kirk instead of making the Mercury riders chase. I still don't understand American tactics sometimes. In the end it backfired on everyone, Mark McCormack from Saturn won.

The Postal riders rode great; it's just that we came up against a much better opponent this year. We raced to win, not to get second or third, and sometimes this hurts us. One thing is evident and all the riders agree. American racing is never easy!

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