Jake’s Journal: From the peloton to your PC
Last summer in France, I was able to view the race from a helicopter high above the peloton, a team van speeding ahead of the breakaway, a media car cruising along the backroads and the team bus surrounded by cycling gurus. Without WiFi, my updates were limited to what I could do on my cell or in hotel lobbies. At one point, I was praying the hotel's WiFi would reach just long enough to save a post as our van pulled away. Hence, the Jake's Journal Twitter feed was born.
When fall came – and cycling's best gathered in the heartland – we enjoyed unprecedented access to our top-tier athletes: a meet-and-greet for Garmin employees, a Q&A in our auditorium and a group ride starting and finishing at our headquarters. And we shared it all through Flickr and YouTube. Then our blog kept pace with the race itself, as Peg did posts from the passenger's seat of our rental and a nearby ice cream shop whose menu is not Peg's typical training fare. And, of course, when Christian Vande Velde won the time trial – and the entire Tour of Missouri – our stellar video team was there to capture the highlights.
So that brings us to the first U.S. tour of 2009: the torrential Tour of California. Fortunately, the one window of decent raceday weather while I was there was during the prologue in Sacramento. With the rain clouds holding off, I was able to bounce between the bus, the finish line and the starting area, where I eventually ended up in a team car behind Zabriskie. Sunday's Stage 1 was spent at the soggy Santa Rosa finish line, where youngsters raced in the rain in front of crowds waiting for the main event. Inside the hospitality tent, I was tracking VeloNews, CyclingNews, Bicycling and Twitter on my laptop in order to give nearby shivering fans (and followers on Twitter) updates. Moments after Francisco Mancebo crossed the finish line, my electronics were done dodging raindrops as laptop, camera and cell phone batteries ran out within 5 minutes of each other.
More cowbells and umbrellas were on hand for Stage 2 in Sausalito, where the much anticipated Golden Gate Bridge crossing was dampened by a relentless drizzle. But this was the day for Team Garmin to shine, as young Tom Peterson stuck with eventual race winner Levi Leipheimer and passed him in the end for the stage win. My excitement in the last 10 minutes of the stage was evident on Twitter, with updates at 3:53 p.m., 3:55, 3:56, 3:59 (Leipheimer is driving it, Peterson on his wheel still.), 4:00, 4:02 (Tom Peterson takes the stage, pushing past Levi in the final meters!) and 4:03 (Team Garmin gets a stage win thanks to Tom Peterson's little engine that did!).
My own tour of California ended the day of Stage 3, so we opted to update from afar. During the two-hour drive back to Sacramento, my wife took the reins on Twitter. Acting as the eyes, ears and thumbs of Jake's Journal, Jocelyn would find Tweets marked with the #ATOC used to designate Tour of California news, and we would choose the best information to ReTweet (forward along). Fortunately, Allen Lim was particularly Tweet-happy this day, making things easier and more entertaining. Once inside the airport, I was able to recap Allen's greatest hits, and the sprint to the finish came just as our plane began boarding. I'm sure I looked like a bumbling tourist, juggling my backpack, carry-on, laptop (still open and saving my post) and boarding pass. But I was able to relax when two messages came at the same time: "Your changes have been published." and "Any electronics must now be turned off for departure." (My last Tweet ended with: Uh oh. Flight attendant walking my way.)
The final stages were a little less eventful from a Twitter/blog perspective as I followed the Tour from my office cube or living room. (Though I do apologize to the person who called just as Zabriskie was finishing his time trial – I may have been a little distracted.) And on Sunday, aside from a quick 5K run out of guilt for watching a bike race from a recliner, I was able to kick back and watch the live Tour tracker on my laptop at the same time as Versus' coverage. Among the praise being heaped on Team Garmin, highlights included an in-studio conversation with Jonathan Vaughters and an over-the-shoulder shot of the film crew's Garmin zūmo in action. And at the end of the day, Dave Zabriskie finished second overall in a race cheered by two million roadside fans. Plenty of reason to kick back with a full Camelbak and fresh Chipotle.
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