Saturday, February 23, 2008

Craig & Matt's Big Adventure

Hello everyone,

Yesterday Craig and I got to be the ultimate posers........and it was awsome! The Solvang local organizing committee for the Tour of California offered the chance to ride the official TOC TT course right before the pros, to the first 20 people who ponied up a thousand bucks. It was a great way for them to raise money to help offset the costs of having the race come to town and offer a unique experience to the participants. I may have to ride my current bike for an extra year or two to justify it with my wife but it was worth every penny!

Our adventure began Thursday night when they had a "Meet and Greet" dinner up in Solvang. Craig brought his son Charlie and I brought my date for the evening......Dave Lettieri. I have to admit that Craig and I were both kinda thinking it'd probably be pretty easy to get one of the top 3 podium spots since there were only going to be 20 competitors. But our hopes of an easy ride were quickly dashed when in our group there were 2 age group National Track Champions and 2 age group State TT Champions. Damn it! Why couldn't it be 18 old farts then Craig and I......Oh yeah, we are old farts. Anyways the dinner was fun and we went to sleep excited and nervous for the next days race.

I had the added bonus of getting to ride a tricked-out top-of-the-line TT bike provided by our friend (and sponsor..) Ben at TESTRIDER.COM. It was a fancy Isaac frame with the latest Zipp wheels and bars. Big thanks to Dave and Luke for getting the thing set up in time so I could ride it. Dave said I was more of a pain in the ass, and caused him more stress than wrenching for Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France! Ben attached a camera to my bike so he could film the whole route and also followed in a car filming the bike in action. He should have a segment up on the web site soon with the footage. So you can stop teasing me about riding with a dorky triathlete water bottle mount behind my seat, it was a camera battery!

Friday morning gave us wet roads and cloudy skies. Now I was already nervous about riding the course with a bunch of people watching, the rain just made it worse. They set up a warm-up area for us behind Dr. J's bike shop. Big thanks to Gabe (AKA #4), Dave, Brian, Jelly, and anyone else I'm forgetting for helping us out and making us feel less stressed. Gabe was awesome, setting up trainers, pumping up tires, grabbing goos, it was like having a pro pit crew! Now I know Craig had been battling illness ever since we got back from Valley of the Sun. I guess the late night make-out sessions with Larsen finally caught up to him and he caught the same bug that took Larsen down in Phoenix. To his credit he never complained, never made any excuses, he just went about his business as if everything was fine. But seeing him on the trainer I could already tell he was hurting, I didn't even have to ask. You know how when somebody's sick you can just see it in their eyes or in their face? He had that look. I felt bad for him cause I know we both wanted to be able to compare our times to the pros when we're at our best. But you know what? On a day when his body would only give him 80% Craig gave 110% and I was proud of him. In the big picture, how we rode didn't matter as much as the fact that we got to ride at all, and he wasn't going to miss this no matter how sick he was.

I can't even tell you how cool it was! There we are, up on the starting ramp, and the announcer is telling the crowd about our racing accomplishments....although in the case of Craig and I we don't really have any racing accomplishments so he just talked about our wifes and kids! Still cool though. You know that beeping timer you always hear at the Tour before the riders start the TT's? beep...beep...beep...BEEP! That was cool! Plus the guy holding his hand in front of your face counting down with his fingers 5..4..3..2..1..Go! I was so amped up coming down the start chute with all the people ringing bells and banging on the barriers I hit the corner to start the first steep climb and my legs were already burning. I had to keep telling myself to calm down. It was so awesome seeing and hearing people you knew all over the course yelling and cheering for you. I remember big groups of Chicken Ranchers screaming on the first climb, in Los Olivos, on Ballard, and at the finish. Too cool! Having a personal lead motorcycle the whole way was really cool also. Coming through the finishing straight was probably the best part though. Solvang already looks like a little European town so it was easy to imagine you were in France or Belgium or somewhere other than your own backyard with thousands of people yelling at you. I rode as close as I could to the barriers just to get the full effect! And just like that....36 minutes and 27 seconds after I started it was over. After I caught my breath I was standing near the start area giving the post-ride report to Ben, and Pete and a few others when this old lady walks up to me and says "Can I take a picture with you?" I said "Well, you can but I'm nobody famous!" and she said "That's OK. To me you are." Right then I realized that Craig and I didn't have to go around trying to fool people into thinking we were pro riders. They were willing to pretend right along with us. To that lady I was dressed like a pro and I had a number on, so that was good enough for her, and to me, she was my one adoring fan. Too funny. Hopefully she never shows the picture to a real cyclist 'cause they're gonna ask her "Who's the linebacker in the skinsuit?" I was on an emotional high the whole rest of the day. Replaying every little part of the race in my head and trying to remember all the details. I accomplished all my goals. I didn't crash. I beat a couple pros (of course they rode 7+ hours in the wind and rain the day before!) and I made the time cut-off. So if I had actually been in the Tour of California I would have been allowed to continue today.........when I would have promptly been dropped.

Thanks to everyone out there who played into our "Pro for a day" dream race and cheered for us. It was definitely the ride of a lifetime and an experience I will never forget. Just to make sure my head didn't get too big, when I got home my 13 year old son Tyler asked me how I did. I told him I got 2nd in the amateur race and I would've been 95th in the pro race. He asked how may pros there were and I told him 104 started the day. He said "So you got 95th out of 104?.........that sucks!"


1 comment:

Greg Knowles said...

Craig and Matt, that had to be an absolute blast! I think we all need to start our own fundraisers so we can all participate next year. Bake Sales, Garage Sales, I'm in.