Crazy Skinny Men on Wheels Ride Amgen into Pismo
The world of professional cycling is more than a little bizarre. Young people, some of whom look like a strong wind would blow them over, sit on unbelievably narrow, hard seats pedaling at top speed over more than a hundred miles. Without stopping. Day after day.
The professional tour is visiting Pismo Beach on May 13th, for Stage 4 of this year’s Amgen Tour of California. You can get a good seat at the start of the stage in Pismo at the Pier, or at its finish in Avila Beach. Between start and finish, you can strategize to get a spot on the 106-mile route through Santa Barbara and SLO counties, through wine country, up hills and through valleys. If you’re quick enough, you can see the peloton pass by in several locations.
What makes them do it? These athletes are world class, with a freakish level of conditioning that most of us can’t even imagine. They endure endless painful training to gain a tiny edge on the competition, and even then, most races are decided by the length of a wheel. In time trials, they can average 30 miles per hour or more over distances from 25 to 50 miles.
Most of them do this just to win, because they have a passion for riding competitively.
Like a lot of other professional sports, there are many who aspire to be the winner but few who are good enough to even get the chance. The bikers are organized into teams who foot the bills, paying for food and transportation, and maybe even a little to the riders.
What about those drugs? Lance Armstrong who famously and finally has admitted to doping, used to train in the very hills where this Stage 4 race is being run. It is an unanswerable mystery why someone who was so talented anyway would cheat like that, but the fact that the competition is so very tight is probably part of the answer. If any one of his main competitors doped, Armstrong had to dope.
Today’s professional teams have made renewed commitments to keep the sport clean. Of course, we hear that from football and baseball, and probably would hear it from tennis if we knew the facts. But the truth is that the riders perform astonishing feats of speed, endurance and downright daredevil descents. They reward your attention.
The Amgen Tour is one of the premier events in the U.S., so a lot of the big pro bicycling teams show up. The race is a proving ground for the younger riders, and a tune up for the established pros who will go on for the big racing season in Europe. If you are a rider, or know a rider, take this opportunity to see big time cycling in one of its most perfect locations.
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