A beautiful woman in my fan club had coffee ready in the early morning hours at the hotel, and it was only nice of me to eat breakfast with her. Although she is an adoring fan of mine who attends all of my sportifs and races and cheers for me like a drunk Belgium on Alpe d’Huez, it was not a hard decision to make since she is my sweet and lovely wife who signed me up for the Peter Sagan Grand Fondo. It was still dark and quite chilly in Northern California when I left the hotel and rode my bike to the start line. As usual, I was early. Very early. It is just the way I am . . . better to be way early than right on time. It also helps with warming up and getting the blood moving.
Windsor, California is beautiful. As I rode into town square, the sun was taking its time getting over the mountains, but the reaching light was so enlightening to the autumn trees. The sound of spinning rear hubs reverberated on the empty buildings, as cyclists passed each other and nodded. My wife would not get to the area until a bit later, but we had a plan: Get in contact with Peter and/or Maciej Bodnar for pictures and if possible get a cycling magazine signed. It has Peter’s picture on the front. and I figured it would be cool in the man cave at home. By the time the sun made it morning appearance, there were many, many cyclists at the start, but only a few on the line . . . early bird gets the worm.
Peter and Maciej rolled up to the start line on time and the world champion said a few things to the riders and fans as a welcoming and appreciation for coming to an event where all of the proceeds go to a local boys ranch. The countdown was about to start in few minutes, but something caught my attention. As the Star Spangled Banner played before we rolled out, I noticed that Peter and Maciej both removed their helmets and stood respectively during the song. A nice touch and reveal of what kind of persons they both are. People clambered around Peter and asked for pictures and signatures. He was kind and gracious to everyone. As he has said many times in different interviews, if he can make someone’s day by taking a picture what does it hurt?
Three, two, one . . . GO! I still had not seen Tammy. We are rolling off of the line and the bunch is tight! A touch of wheels cannot happen now, for the love of all things holy! I could see it on the news, my face on GCN videos: High School Teacher takes down World Champion. Focus, man. It was then that I heard a familiar voice shout my name. There she was on the side of the road jumping up and down with a magazine in her hand, my sweet baby screaming, “I got it signed!” Gosh, I am so blessed to have her in my life. She is always so supportive and loving . . . come on, man, FOCUS! The speed was ramping up.
Drones flying overhead, a helicopter, police sirens moving traffic and the world champion in the group, it was easy for me to imagine the feel of a professional peloton. One of the things that crossed my mind the night before was how the people in charge of keeping Peter safe would keep idiots from riding up next to him in the pack and trying to take a selfie. It did not take long for me to find the answer. The key is to wind the front group up to near 30 mph, shed off a bulk of riders, and the ones left have to focus on riding hard instead of taking pictures. To add to the excitement, the street began narrowing drastically and the road began to rise. I had a plan for the ride. After all, it was not a race. Just take it all in.
A rider posted the beautiful morning start: video.