Stage 5 started from Visalia, and went to Paso Robles. This was definitely the flatest stage of the tour … flat as a pancake.
The start of the stage was at 10 am, so we had to get our luggage out by 6:30 am, and prepare for a 7 am departure from Clovis. Now what was confusing in Clovis, was when we arrived, there were two Picadilly hotels … one called the Picadilly Airport Inn, and one called the Picadilly Express. The main Course Marshall was parked out at the Airport Inn, but his wife, who seems to know better, is at the Express. After much discussion, we finally found out it was at the Express. Now the difference between Express and the Inn is almost like between a 5 star hotel, and a motel 6. The next challenge was whether or not this podunk hotel, would be prepared to serve continental breakfast for 80 or so course marshalls. We prepared for no continental breakfast, and just ate some oranges. Low and behold, they did have the continental breakfast ready for us … juice and bagel with cream cheese, and I was all set.
The drive from Clovis to Visalia was not far, but we did pass at least 2 or 3 cow farms, and boy, did it stink. Whew … recirc was not turned on, and it really smelled like someone cut one, and cut one bad. As if one were not enough, we passed by another one.
When we got to Visalia, they had vendors all set up, entertainment was there, the whole 9 yards. Now why couldn’t San Jose do this? Visalia was really excited to have this come to their town, and they really put on a show. The coastal cities should pay attention to the cities inland, like Mariposa, Clovis, Visalia … because they are so excited, they are putting their best foot forward. San Jose didn’t seem like they cared .. all they had was one guy selling some chain. Visalia had breakfast, medical vendors giving away freebie blinkers, water bottles, etc … it makes me not want to associate with San Jose at all.
My first drop off point was at the corner of Kansas and 10 1/2 Avenue. There must have been about 100 spectators just at that corner alone. Even when it came closer to the time the riders would arrive, we would still be getting cars trying to cross the course. However, they were very cooperative. There was a triangle island, with a stop sign in the middle of the island, and I was assigned to be a human shield there. Just think of me like one of those french police in the tour de france, who stood on the island, holding a flag way up high, and waving it, just to let them know there is an island here. Luckily, no accidents. I also had to make sure the photographers also get their shots.
I was talking to a few locals and they were excited to have this tour come through their town. One guy was asking if this would be a new tradition every year, and I just had to tell him that each year, the route changes, and it may go through one city one year, and may not appear the next year. He does wishes it would come back every year. It’s events like this that brings out the community together, and also some nice tourism dollars.
Our next drop off point was back near the finish line. So we had some time to spare, so we took a slight detour at the Still Waters winery, just outside of Paso Robles. It was cool, as they were doing some orientation for a wine tour, and mentioned the Tour of California officials came by for a visit. It was nice chatting with some of the visitors there.
After a few sips of chardonney and merlot, we were off to the finish. Back in Paso Robles, there was indeed an excitement in the air. This was the first finish I was able to work, and it was great.
They were going so fast, I could only recognize Thor, but only because he was on my side of the road, and he was the first one. However, he didn’t win … Cavendish won again.
I was able to view the podium presentations, and I just thought it was funny how Robert Gesink, who got the best young rider jersey, being kissed by two podium chicks, was just savoring the moment. Wouldn’t you?
I was chatting with Kellie, one of the my course marshall teammates, and she was mentioning on the Tour of Georgia, that the podium chicks made her embarrassed, and to say they were kind of husky of scary looking. She was pondering what the deal is with California having such hot podium chicks, and Tour of Georgia having such dogs. I had no comment, but thought it was funny.