What it was really like traveling with the Amgen Tour of California

May 21, 2014
Category: General 

Three days after the conclusion of the 2014 Amgen Tour of California, my body has stopped hurting yet I’m exhausted from my ten days traveling with race. Hours after the Stage 2 time trial, a friend sent me a text after he saw the up close and personal photos I’d been posting of the riders asking if all I’m doing is schmoozing with the athletes. Far from it. Let me tell you what it was really like living, eating, traveling and working with the pro peloton.

Each morning, I’d rise anywhere from 6:15 to 8am. Time permitted anywhere from 45-75 minutes to get in my own workout so I’d alternate between a run or gym workout. After a quick shower while guzzling a protein shake, I’d check out of the hotel and rush over to the stage start arriving an hour prior to the gun. I’d find my way to each team’s basecamp focusing specifically on the top three riders, cycling’s biggest stars that you most want to see and those expected to do well on that day depending upon the course profile. Often I would find myself standing next to the NBC Sports Network crew because that ensured that I’d get as close as possible to the marquee riders when our broadcast partner shot their pre-race interview with the yellow jersey (Mark Cavendish after Stage 1 and Sir Bradley Wiggins the rest of the way). To keep my social media posts fresh for you, I’d try to capture unique images of the athletes. As the start time neared, I’d head over to catch the rider sign-ins, call-ups and eventually the roll out.     

Trekking back to the car after the riders were on their way, I’d send out a slew of social media posts on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook before entering the finish line address in my GPS and make my way to the finish. This was a bit stressful at times because some of the roads I’d be guided to take were closed for the race so finding alternate ways was a daily challenge. The drive to the finish usually took about 90 minutes.

At the finish, I’d venture into the posh accommodations of the Michelob Ultra VIP tent to get lunch, hydrate and relish a bit of shelter from the scorching sun that baked the peloton. Another reason that I had to camp out there as long as possible was to recharge my iPhone so I had enough power to make it through the next segment of the day. I’d watch the finish as close to the finish line as possible before heading to the backstage green room to await the riders for the podium ceremonies snapping photos every step of the way (obviously  I respected the riders’ privacy as they stripped out of their nasty sweaty kits and donned fresh ones for the podium). Usually I’d stand backstage at the foot of the stairs the riders used to get on and off the stage always keeping an eye out for the NBC Sports Network crew, which I knew would interview the stars of the day. Pop! Pop! Pop! I was right there to capture the action and special moments for you.

After the riders took their well-earned bows, we herded over to the post-race press conference. In addition to taking pictures, I recorded rider sound bites and interviews that I would use to write my stories that evening. When the press conference concluded, I’d post the photos and captions on social media before returning to my car. The drive to the next city averaged 90 minutes in rush hour traffic, but took as long as 2-1/2 hours after a couple stages. Many days I didn’t check-in to the hotel until 8pm.

Dropping my bags in the room, I’d go to the team dinner at 8:30pm. It was kind of bizarre to be filling my plate next to Peter Sagan, Jens Voigt, Tom Boonen and Thor Hushovd, and it was always interesting to watch how they interact with each other. After dinner, while many of the riders hung out with their teammates in the hotel bar, I disappeared into my room to start writing 3-4 articles for The Insider starting at 9:30 or 10pm. The earliest I finished writing and posting was 12:30am and the latest was 2:15am. Nightly I slept 4-5 hours and then the whole cycle repeated. For eight straight days.

So to answer my friend’s inquiry, yes, I had unbelievable access to the world’s greatest cyclists at America’s Greatest Race as I traveled, ate and lived with them for 10 unforgettable days. But it was not easy. And although I didn’t pedal a single mile of the 720 miles the riders raced from Northern to Southern California, my body ached from driving 1500 miles, siting in the car for 2-5 hours each day, walking countless miles in the start and finish cities, standing in the hot sun for hours at a time and forcing my cycling muscles to adapt to running. Unlike the riders, I didn’t have the luxury of a daily massage to work out my aches and pains. By no means am I complaining and everyone on staff worked at least as long and as hard as I did. Traveling with the Amgen Tour of California entourage was an extraordinary adventure far more than just schmoozing with the riders.