Years ago, a buddy of mine who had been an LRRP in Vietnam, recommended a book to me called “Chickenhawk”, a narrative by Robert Mason about his experiences in Vietnam as a pilot flying UH1 “Huey” choppers ( Chickenhawk Wikipedia entry ). One thing that really struck me was Mason’s descriptions of learning how to fly the Huey, how he had to learn to work with the vague feeling of the main control stick. He had to get ahead of the machine and almost predict what was needed a fraction of a second ahead of time, rather than constantly reacting to it.

What does that have to do with the ToC? Today was the first time I had to drive the big van pulling the even bigger equipment trailer. With all the luggage in back and the tongue weight of the trailer on the rear of the van, the front end was pretty vague and wanted to wander. It required constant tiny adjustments to keep it in the lane, forget about tracking a straight line. In the first mile on I-80 west out of Sacramento, that section from Chickenhawk came to mind. I was trying to hold 55MPH and when I would see a big rig coming up in the rear view, going at least 10 faster, I would have to start reacting ahead of time so I wouldn’t get pushed out of the lane by the air pressure. Yow, by the time we got to Santa Rosa I managed to keep the near misses in the single digits but had a tension headache in my forearms.

At least we got there before the rain started. ToC moved to May in part to avoid bad weather in February, yet… here it was raining and cool. The racers started getting wet while still on the flats in the Central Valley before the climbing began. This led to lots of crashes on descents into the wine country valleys. Andrew Pinfold crashed again, shredding another kit and ripping off his tagaderm patches and the covering bandages. He is out of the tour and heading home to Vancouver tomorrow.

A few other UHC riders also crashed on the descents, but Karl Menzies and Rory Sutherland were in the break along with the Radio Shack group. Karl got some bonus points and, as a pretty good sprinter, had an opportunity to win the stage. If he had done so, the team would have had not only the stage, but the green and yellow jerseys. Alas, he finished in the lead group but was not able to get on the podium. Still, great results on the day for the team – Rory 4th, Karl & Marc de Maar in the lead group, all with the same time.

Wet, filthy kits = more laundry to do…

Not too many pix today, too much driving and too much rain: ToC 20100517

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