All day long I had been thinking about seeing the cyclists in the Tour of California, but not being a fan of crowds, and knowing I would have to negotiate responsibilities, make adjustments in my schedule, and juggle a few things made it seem more trouble than it was worth. And yet, I couldn’t let it go. And so, at the last minute, I jumped in the car, got Ethan, and headed to Clovis, for the finish line of the fourth leg of this tour.
For whatever reason, instead of taking the freeway, I decided to go to Clovis by driving across town on Clovis Avenue. At various times along the way I feared I made a mistake, since I was sure it would be absolutely insane the closer I got to the city of Clovis. On the way there, however, as I was nearing Sierra Vista mall, I saw a sign that said “Amgen Shuttle,” and since Amgen was the promoter of this tour, I figured what the heck, maybe I shouldn’t attempt to get any further by car. I drove into the mall parking lot, parked the car, and Ethan and I jumped out and waited in the designated area for what seemed like less than a minute.
After we took our seats the bus driver announced, “You’ll have to pardon me if this ride is a little bumpy, but I just heard that the cyclists are about five to ten minutes out of town, and I want to get all of you there in time.” A few minutes later we were in downtown Clovis, and Ethan, I, and the other passengers fast walked to Clovis Avenue, which was the first street in the downtown area the cyclists would race upon before they looped back around to come down Pollasky Avenue, the next street over, to head toward the finish line.
At Clovis Avenue, Ethan and I found a great spot. Nobody was in front of us, and we were able to step into the gutter of the street that the cyclists would soon be racing down in order to get a better view. After a few minutes, the signs of the approaching cyclists increased: various lead vehicles were cruising down the road to make sure the path was clear, the kinetic energy of the crowd increased a notch, and the support staff seemed to be aware that the racers were just around the bend, as they were telling people to stay on the sidewalk. After a minute, I looked down the road and in the distance I could see three cyclists vying for the lead, and not far behind was the peloton. A few seconds passed and they were in front of us cruising so fast that I could not isolate or identify anyone. As far as I know, however, Ethan and I were just a few feet from some great names in cycling (Lance, Levi, and Floyd) and though I could not make them out, it was a fantastic experience to feel the wind generated from the collective speed and determination of these racers.
After the first pass, once the road was clear, Ethan and I, taking our cues from the crowd, began to move across the street to make our way toward Pollasky, and the finish line. We made it just in time to see the racers sprint with all that was still in them after four hours in the saddle. Mark Cavendish, being barely a bike length ahead of Tom Boonen, took the win.
In the end, I did not see Lance, I did not get Levi’s autograph, and I did not shake Floyd’s hand, and yet, crowd and all, I would certainly do it again. Maybe next time, however, I’ll get an autograph.