On the Monday following the completion of the Amgen Tour of California, a select few riders gathered at the Rapha Club in San Francisco for an easy recovery ride before boarding their plane for their return to the Continent. In attendance were six members of Sky’s seven-man ToC squad. Peter Kennaugh, who broke his collarbone on stage 3 had already returned home.
Riding with the assembled fans were Andrew Fenn, Gianni Moscon, Lars-Peter Nordhaug, Alex Peters, Danny Van Poppel and Xabier Zandio.
Honestly, I’m not a big fan of these ride-with-the-pros rides. Before his fall from grace, Lance Armstrong’s Twitter announcement of an LA-area ride brought everyone in LA County who had ever owned a bicycle. The Alberto Contador ride in Marin County was a similar affair in that it brought out seemingly every native-Spanish-speaking cyclist within 300 miles. The latter devolved into a “What yellow lines?” race that was only slightly less dangerous than the Red Bull Rampage.
This one was different in that it was the province of Team Sky sponsors here in the U.S. Fewer than 20 riders showed up, in part because it was a Monday morning. A few people dropped by dressed for work just to have a chance to see the pros in person. Thanks in part to the small turnout, the ride had the relaxed air of old friends rolling for coffee.
Due to the Rapha Club’s proximity to the Presidio, we rolled into the former Army base, across the Golden Gate Bridge and up to the headlands of Marin. I spent some time riding next to Zandio who told me how much he loved California and how he’d stayed over for a few days following last year’s Tour of California; he shot video as we rode through the Presidio. When I told him that Laurens ten Dam had been living in the Bay Area all winter with his family he began asking me for more details.
Within moments of rolling across the Golden Gate Bridge Andy Fenn’s Di2 battery in his Pinarello Dogma shifted its last. Fenn began the the eight-day race with a full charge, which will give you some idea just how frequently these guys shift during a stage. Fenn was forced to dismount a couple of times to manually move the rear derailleur. In the fashion of a true pro, he shrugged it off as no big deal.
The real revelation of the ride was how enamored the pros were of California, how enthralled they were with its beauty. It didn’t hurt that as Zanio and many others have commented that the Tour of California is exceptionally well run and the accommodations are much better than in many European races.
All in all, they were a friendly and chatty bunch, just the right sort to remind that pro cyclists can do more than go fast. And next time I’m in Pamplona, the first thing I do is look up Xabier Zandio.