May 02, 2006

 

Tooor !

.
I finally get to post about all the fun I had a couple of weeks ago. For those of you who don't know, I am a reporter for a small county newspaper that's published twice-weekly (thanks for that clarifying term goes to Bill Bryson and my fellow staff writer Beelers). The Tour de Georgia cycling stage race came right smack through Walker County and into Chattanooga, and as a cyclist and cycling fan even before Lance became a household name I was, to say the least, expectant. Why the delay in posting this? Well my own procrastination applies in most such cases, but I am proud to announce that the abeyance was not of my doing here. Let's ask this guy on the back of the Triumph:


©2006 Bill Parsons

That's our photographer Matt, who, despite the facial expression he is conveying here was probably looking forward to this event almost as much as me. Before we come to his part in the delay of this post let’s describe the fantastic event.

We were covering the start of the Stage 3 Individual Time Trial in the little hamlet of Chickamauga, famous for its place in The War of Northern Aggression. I use the diehard southern term, which toward the use of I've been known to ask (and usually get really dirty looks), "But I thought the southerners were the rebels? Didn't they fire first at Ft. Sumter?" But I digress with something fit for what may someday be a long series of posts on this here blog, where I will narrate the part of Mary Chesnut.

So back to the race. It consists of five long, 100-plus mile stages and one individual time trial. This was a new route for the ITT and the first time since the Tour began in 2003 that it would cross outside Georgia. The course was a brutal 25 mile race against the clock, with 118 riders starting one per minute. A brutal climb and hairy descent of Lookout Mountain added to the reputation that the route had already earned from local cyclists. I got a little preview of the excitement a few weeks before when a couple of Aussie riders from the Jittery Joe’s Coffee team (based in Athens, Ga.) came for a pre-ride. Unfortunately I am not in any shape to ride with them, so I drove out on the course with them and had a photographer from our sister paper take some shots. Matt was on vacation that week and he was bummed, but hey, what’s riding in the back of my truck for a joy ride compared with being scooter trash during the big shindig?

On the big day Matt and I pick up our credentials and mill about in the early morning chaos that is the prelude to any stage of the TdeGA. The local Sons of Confederate Veterans (I'm tellin' ya, ya can't get away from this thing down here!) are setting up a cannon to fire for the official start, and I guess they just couldn't resist a trial shot. The thing is LOUD and percusses in your chest like ten marching band bass drums, never mind your ears. Well I had my back turned when it went off and so spun around in surprise only to cast my gaze upon Tour de France cycling commentator Phil Liggett standing across the way. Now if that wasn’t cool for this cycling journalist for a day...


©2006 Matt Ledger

I spend a few moments working up the nerve to approach him. Thankfully, my professionalism kicks in and I quickly review some questions/topics in my head, jot them down on my pad and make sure my digital recorder is not on “lock” (a horrible mistake that I’ve made at least twice). I walk over and introduce myself and ask if he has a few minutes. “Of course!” he says in that inimitable sing-songy British way of his. Phil is a true gentleman, and as our sportswriter wrote in his column (Scott, I hope your ribs have healed from where I shoved you out of the way to get to Phil, haha.), it didn’t matter if you wrote for Sports Illustrated or the Walker County Messenger, he made you feel like a friend he’s known for years.

So after the interview I see Matt doing nothing special (read nothing at all) and I recruit him to return with me to Phil’s side and take our photo. Phil is as gracious as can be with my apologetic imposition. It’s a good thing I fought back the urge to ask him if he’d say a famous Liggettism like “He’s wearing the mask of pain on this brutal climb!” or even “Armstrong is barreling down the Champs Elysees like a grand-prix motorcar!”

So the crux of why its all Matt’s fault is that it took him this long to get me the photo of me and Phil. Mind you, the day after the whole race finished down in Alpharetta he presents me with a beautiful glossy print of Stage 3 and overall winner Floyd Landis crossing the finish line in Chattanooga. Not even signed - what a bastard!

But seriously, another highlight for me was getting to interview Frankie Andreu. He is a nine-time Tour de France competitor, a top 10 finisher in both the 1988 and 1996 Olympic Games, and was captain of the 1999 and 2000 United States Postal Service team that brought Lance Armstrong his first two Tour de France victories. Andreu is now director sportif of Toyota-United Pro Cycling, a California-based team in its inaugural year.

My interview with Frankie.

And if you can suspend all disbelief, know that it didn't stop there ! !
I got to ride in the Lotto team car up the mountain, and when I saw a group of friends up ahead, I had the driver drop me off curbside right in front of them. That was fun, but I really had to plead with my friends to take me back to town after the race.

I also took a few cool photos myself.

Click HERE and then open up "Stage 3 Gallery 2" - mine are the last three (25, 26 & 27)

Should your curiosity about cycling and Milktoastian feature stories be as yet unquenched, I have made even more URLs tiny to facilitate your further researching and checking:

http://Jittery Joes dudes

http://Successful Tour in Walker County

And then just the other night this bonehead stands up at the Chickamauga City Council meeting and blurts out his sour grapes:

http://Trey Dick er, Deck.

That's all for now, but you know me...

=8:{)>

P.S. - Thanks for the photo, Matt. You made my day, at least.

Comments:
I've been reading your blog for a week now, and I find ur article interesting but sad to say that ur overall blogspot layout is a big let down. Try downloading a different blogspot templates at the link. Cheers and happy blogging. :)
 
Thanks, Johnnybot. I really don't give a shit.
 
Hey, Johnny! Yer wife told me where the letdown is, but she didn't use the word "big". Now fuck off!

Hey, I got yer back.
 
Cool beans about the pic!
 
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