Tour of California. First, tour of parking lot.

The italian Sheriff is in California.

Tour de parking lot at the tour of California.

I’ve never been backstage or back lot at a professional bike race. Most teams are staying at the Doubletree in Sacramento — except for the rock stars at Radio Shack who are staying at the Four Seasons. Actually there is no Four Seasons in Sac but maybe Lance had them build one.

It was a beautiful afternoon and I did the walk of the hotel. It was like bike racing Disneyland. Every team bus was there, bikes stacked outside and mechanics washing. It was like National Bike washing day in California or something.

That’s when you realize the race is on– when the machines get soaped up and the rims cleaned. I could have done an entire photo series on bike washing. And up close, those bikes are stunning, Merckx, Pinarellos, Felts, Cannondales, you name it. I quickly came to the conclusion that my bike is embarrassingly filthy. Probably because I don’t have my own personal German mechanic blasting techno and detailing it whenever I see a speck of dirt.

You realize these are the tools of the trade and like guys getting ready for a fire fight in Iraq, the weaponry better be cleaned, oiled, locked and loaded. I wouldn’t dare show these mechanics my bike for fear they’d laugh me off the lot. But the whole thing had a laid back feel with the late afternoon California sunshine slanting hard and music playing. It was like a farmers market where all they sell at the booth tents are $15,000 racing machines. It was the pre-circus and the guys with the scrub brushes are only to happy to indulge a photo request. Fame for a bike racer is that heroic attack up the fearsome mountain or the drag strip road across the finish line. For bike mechanics it’s a full color portrait soaping up somebody’s metal race horse.

The highlight of the parking lot tour –Liquigas sprinter Francesco Chicchi’s theme park Cannondale. It’s emblazoned with Wild West style graphics — like Butch Cassidy and the Liquigas Kid. He’s planning to ride across California robbing banks and stealing stages.

Guys, you got to run with this concept — where is the special look to the Liquigas “Stage Coach” bus? Maybe hire a team of horses to pull the thing. This bike screams sprinter with ego and I’ll bet Mark Cavendish looks at his off-the-rack Scott with disgust every time he sees Chicchi on the Wild West wheels.

So far the Tour of California is a Spaghetti Western. Maybe Sheriff Chicchi will shot down the Manxman in broad daylight Sunday.

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  • Doktor Moreau

    Quite a good perspective here. The Sherrif did indeed beat the Manxman et all in Modesto. You make this kind of prediction on the stock market, and we, il tifosi, will pay you good money for the inside word!