Tour of California Stage 7: Backseat Driver Report, Part I

05.24.2010 | 7:12 am

A Note from Fatty: If you’re new here, you might want a little backstory, which you can get by reading the following posts:

  1. An Open Cover Letter to Johan Bruyneel
  2. Fight Cancer, Help Kids in Africa, and Win a Custom Fat Cyclist-Edition Superfly or Madone Signed by Team Radioshack
  3. Johan’s Message to Team Fatty
  4. Riding With the Shack, Parts I, II, III, IV  

201005231935.jpg It’s really a shame that I’m not a cycling journalist. Or a journalist at all, really. Because if I were a (cycling) journalist, maybe it would have occurred to me — at some point during the past five months or so — to prepare a list of questions or things to talk about during my ride with Johan Bruyneel and Viatcheslav “Eki” Ekimov, the director and assistant director of Team RadioShack.

And then I would have been more ready to take advantage of the kind of opportunity most cycling journalists dream of, but never get.

But I’m not a sports journalist. I’m I dork with a blog. So I just assumed that we’d talk about biking stuff, and I’d watch them at work, and then I’d write about what happened.

Which is what I’m about to do. The “write about what happened” part, I mean. The other part is done with now.

The Morning Before

The original plan for my trip to the Tour of California was to bring the whole family. There was just one problem with this, however. The Tour of California had the gumption to happen right during finals week for the kids. And without going into details, I’m simply going to say that missing finals right now would not be a fantastic idea for some of the kids.

Plus, none of them wanted to go. I think this has to do with an ongoing generational curse passed along from paternal Nelsons to their kids. Just as my father could not get me to be interested in hunting and fishing, my kids simply do not dig the bicycle.

So The Runner and I went.

The morning of the time trial, The Runner and I woke up and went on a run, going from our hotel to the race venue, where they were just starting to set up.

Now, I know that as a cyclist, I ought to despise running, but The Runner is making a convert out of me. While the logistics of riding while traveling can be pretty daunting, running gear requires no additional luggage. Plus, I have to say that running was actually a great way to get a sense of the part of LA. By the time we had run five or six miles, we had picked out all the restaurants we wanted to eat at for the trip, and knew exactly how to walk to all the places we needed to go.

And — I’m dropping a hint here — I need to stay in running shape because I’m working on a Team Fatty LiveStrong fundraiser that I think runners will like. A lot. More on that soon.

I Am A Very Important Person and Have the Lanyard to Prove It

After cleaning up, The Runner and I headed down to the race venue to pick up the VIP passes that Amgen had kindly provided us with. Since this was the first time I have ever had a VIP pass at any event, I had no idea exactly how much wonderfulness one of these passes gets you. Specifically, it gave us access to bathrooms with plumbing. And to a never-ending buffet.

Most importantly, though, it meant that whenever we saw event staff blocking an entrance, all we needed to do was wave our passes and waltz on through. It was like having the keys to the city.

Before long, I started keeping my nose in the air and referring to everyone without a magical lanyard as “OSIPs” (Only Somewhat Important People).

But really, the head-expanding part of the day hadn’t even begun.

Hanging Out With The Shack

I was told I’d be riding with the first Team RadioShack racer to do his TT: Dmitriy Muravyev. His start time was 1:40, but I should be at the team bus by 1:00.

I showed up at the bus, which had a fence around it, and a two- or three-deep crowd all around it. Trust me, it felt strange — in the most ego-expanding way possible — to be escorted past the fence and allowed the run of the place.

So of course I immediately started asking if I could have my picture taken with pretty much everyone and everything.

Here’s me and Eki:


And me and Johan:


Note that in the photo with Johan, I have cleverly changed into a t-shirt from his new line of apparel, not to mention a Team RadioShack cap.

Hey, I know where my bread is buttered.

The Runner and I got a photo of us with Glenn, who took care of us both in Tucson and in LA.


I’m going to interview Glenn someday soon. He’s got some stories to tell.

And I’m always happy to see LiveStrong’s Chris Brewer:


Then we went into the inner sanctum — the tour bus. Which was nice, but I didn’t feel very comfortable inside — kinda like I was told I could hang out in someone’s house, even though the home owner was inside getting ready for a very important business meeting in just a few minutes.

The weird thing though, was that the ghost of Keith Partridge was sitting inside. “He’s been haunting the bus for years,” said Johan. “We can’t seem to get him to leave.”

OK, I might have made that part up.

Go Time

Upon advice from Glenn, I didn’t bother any of the riders as they started warming up for their races. “If they have a bad day,” Glenn explained, “You don’t want them using you as the reason for it.”

So as Levi — usually the friendliest guy in the world — stepped out of the bus and started warming up, I avoided even making eye contact.

But I did get a picture of Dmitriy as he warmed up:


Dmitriy makes me feel much better about my own cyclist’s tan.

Then, as Dmitriy finished suiting up, I took a peek in the mechanics’ trailer:


That’s a lot of carbon.

Looking at my watch, I saw it was 1:30. Shouldn’t we be getting in position? Oh well, if they weren’t worried about it, I wasn’t either. So I posed for a glamour shot in front of the team car we’d be riding in:


I am so vogue.

Seriously, It’s Go Time

At about 1:35, Eki and Johan step out of the bus. “Let’s go,” they say. I climb into the back seat. “You’re the mechanic for this racer,” Johan tells me. Which is of course just fine, as long as the Dmitriy doesn’t mind ten-minute tire changes.

I ask Johan and Eki to look back so I can get a picture. They oblige:


Seriously, that’s really them.

“It’s 1:38 right now,” says Eki.

“I think we’re going to miss his start,” says Johan. “How do we get out of this parking lot anyway?”

All of this said very, very calmly, by the way.

Meanwhile, I am considering the fact that if I were driving behind one of my racers and I were in danger of missing his start, I would be completely freaked out.

“1:39,” says Eki, as Johan pulls past a line of seven or eight other team cars, each of them waving him past. He’s next.

“1:40 now” says Eki. Johan calm as can be.

We pull into the right spot for Dmitriy to go by. Bruyneel watches. Calm. Matter-of-fact.


And then, approximately nine seconds later, Dmitriy goes by.

Johan floors it. My head snaps back. And now Dmitriy is just ahead of us:


And this presages what the next forty-five minutes or so will be like.

Which is what I will talk about in tomorrow’s post.

PPS: Team RadioShack put together the following video recap. I recommend watching it wholeheartedly. Which is to say my recommendation is wholehearted, not that I recommend that you get into a state of wholeheartedness before watching it. Although that wouldn’t be bad, either. Anyways:


  1. Comment by Barb | 05.24.2010 | 7:21 am

    Can I be one of your kids next time?

  2. Comment by Anthony | 05.24.2010 | 7:58 am

    Could it be a Fatty-Livestrong charity marathon event??? If so have it be for the NYC marathon so I can sign up and raise tons of money for the team!

    Wow. Guessed it in one! – FC

  3. Comment by buckythedonkey | 05.24.2010 | 8:08 am

    How good is that? Love the shot of all those parts!

  4. Comment by AELinICT | 05.24.2010 | 8:09 am

    Fatty, are you wearing man-capris in that picture next to the team car?
    Lance has already outlawed the use of emoticons for men over 30. I can’t imagine he would support rockin the ankle pants.

  5. Comment by bradk | 05.24.2010 | 8:10 am

    I want my $50 back, Johann outbid me or what?

  6. Comment by olej | 05.24.2010 | 8:14 am

    This is mean! I forbid you to split this story into 124 daily installments!


    Ups.. I am forbidden to use emoticons by Lance. Well. Come and tell me! ;-)

  7. Comment by Sarah | 05.24.2010 | 8:18 am

    Fatty, I was standing 300 meters from the finish. I could totally see you through the tinted window of the radioshack car! I thought it might be you, but this confirms it! What a great race! I hope you had a blast!

  8. Comment by cheapie | 05.24.2010 | 8:26 am

    wow. you were one excited guy in those clips. =) nice

  9. Comment by NYCCarlos | 05.24.2010 | 8:50 am

    hahaha… kid in a candy shop… that’s what you were.

  10. Comment by centurion | 05.24.2010 | 8:51 am

    I’m going to send you $5.00 so you can buy the rest of your pants. Capri’s, The Runner lets you wear them in public?

  11. Comment by patty | 05.24.2010 | 9:02 am

    How COOL! I have had backstage passes at rock concerts and it is awsome to get a look at what goes on and to hang out with the free food and drinks! Cannot wait to hear more about your adventure and rubbing elbows with the pros!

  12. Comment by Rob M | 05.24.2010 | 9:11 am

    I enjoy the behind the scenes stuff of pro cycling in this and in your prior posts.

    I liked the display of sportsmanship by the other teams when Johan’s car was waved ahead to the start.

  13. Comment by JB | 05.24.2010 | 9:30 am

    Congrats Fatty! Looks like alot of fun.
    I had one of those magical lanyard passes once for a US Open due to connections that my Dad had. Inside the ropes and access to the best buffet and open bar potion of the clubhouse that they kept the scruffy general public out of!! It is fun to be one of the “beautiful people” for a day.

  14. Comment by Alyson | 05.24.2010 | 9:33 am

    Awesome Elden!!!:-) You rocked it.

    But I agree…please don’t split this in to 4000 episodes! Your fans are into instant gratification or as near as possible to “instant”.:-)

  15. Comment by MattC | 05.24.2010 | 9:48 am

    Ahhh, what a great race! It was cool seeing you again and meeting ‘The Runner’ at the RS bus after the TT. You were livin’ the dream, that’s for sure! So glad you had a grand time, and was happy to be a miniscule part of you getting there.

    Another few days of your ToC recaps, then we ALL need to get down to business (LIVESTRONG business I mean). Time is getting short, and we are a monumental ways off from last year. Game ON!

  16. Comment by Dan H | 05.24.2010 | 9:58 am

    Lol, I saw you holding on for dear life in the back of the car as you guys went swinging around corners. Grats Fatty!

  17. Comment by Bill F. | 05.24.2010 | 10:12 am

    Awesome! It is good to be Fatty.

  18. Comment by Bill F. | 05.24.2010 | 10:14 am

    BTW – Do I see a hint of muffin top on Dmitriy? It makes me feel so much better about myself.

  19. Comment by Mike Roadie | 05.24.2010 | 10:55 am

    Are you still grinning today? I think there a is a future for you as the TRS bus driver!

    You guys looked as if you were having a blasty-blast.

    Remember, running is only for those who can….cycling is all-inclusive……just sayin’

  20. Comment by Accident Prone | 05.24.2010 | 11:27 am

    Couldn’t keep the smile off my face when reading that! Can’t wait for more!!

  21. Comment by Eunan | 05.24.2010 | 11:39 am

    Dito with the capris man, those are not vogue anymore.

    and where can i get on of those awesome shirts…they’re not in the twinsix store; are those from a previous run??

  22. Comment by fwcpc | 05.24.2010 | 11:49 am

    Fatty – now I know why Levi could close the deal in the TT. As we know, gravitational forces of attraction are directly proportional to the mass of objects. We also know that gravity and cyclists are not friends. By my calculations, Fatty + never-ending buffet + adjacency to Levi = an additional 11 ng/kilo/sec/sec of gravitational force exerted on Levi. Over a time period of 40 minutes at Levi’s speed of 32mph+_ this translates into a time drag of 26.657839 seconds. And what was Levi’s final deficit? Oh yes, 25 seconds. I can only surmise that other riders were not impacted because your “pull” was centered around the RS bus.

  23. Comment by fwcpc | 05.24.2010 | 12:25 pm

    I meant “not close the deal”

  24. Comment by Darth Vader | 05.24.2010 | 12:57 pm

    Seriously, the force is with you. Steal that trailer now, or you will be punished.

  25. Comment by Lizzylou | 05.24.2010 | 2:00 pm

    Wait… he seriously said you were the mechanic??? Because, ya know, if it were me, 10 minutes would be an optimistic estimate seeing as I’ve never changed a back wheel without the bike being upside down for my convenience (even though experts frown on this).

  26. Comment by kalli@fitandfortysomething | 05.24.2010 | 2:51 pm

    love the video….looks like you and the runner had fun :)

  27. Comment by re: manpris | 05.24.2010 | 3:10 pm

    I hope you left your mankini at home.

  28. Comment by Paulscarlett | 05.24.2010 | 3:41 pm

    have a guess which Fatty cat got the cream that day!! Great going, can’t wait for the rest of the story

  29. Comment by DP | 05.24.2010 | 3:44 pm

    Great video and blog! Your a lucky person. I’ll wash the bikes or bus if that position ever opens on TRS?
    Keep up the great work!

  30. Comment by aussie kev | 05.24.2010 | 4:55 pm

    eki used to be my hero when he rode


  31. Comment by Niall@Brisvegas | 05.24.2010 | 7:05 pm

    I hope you are happy making all your readers green with envy? I know I would be! Living the dream…

  32. Comment by Dr Bryce | 05.24.2010 | 7:20 pm

    FC- Can I be your domestique for your future Johan/Fatty adventures?

    Oh, the video makes me wonder what is next in the journey…….

  33. Comment by Jenni | 05.24.2010 | 7:23 pm

    So happy for you! And The Runner looked beautiful!

  34. Comment by Derek | 05.24.2010 | 7:53 pm

    So happy for you that you got to do this! I completely missed out on the donating for the last competition, sorry about that. I plan on making a donation anyway. Just wish I had a chance to win a jersey!

  35. Comment by Rhonda | 05.24.2010 | 8:08 pm

    Every night as I watched the Tour on the Versus channel I waited in anticipation to see what you would blog about your day with the Tour. Awesome – you are so lucky. I can’t wait to hear what you have planned for runners and fund raising.

  36. Comment by Ben C | 05.24.2010 | 9:00 pm

    Boss post! Can’t wait for part two. I was in Annecy in France at the TT last year and you couldn’t get anywhere near their bus. Some people were inside the fence walking around checking stuff out- very jealous.

  37. Comment by Betsy | 05.24.2010 | 10:02 pm

    You are such a joy to watch. Sounds like a great day. You deserve it for all you do. Can hardly wait til tomorrow.

  38. Comment by Aussie Elvis | 05.24.2010 | 10:36 pm

    FC- Lovely photos etc…but Aussie Michael Rogers taking out your Tour was magnifique. Sorry Levi.

  39. Comment by Marianne | 05.24.2010 | 10:49 pm

    I was there, Fatty, in the block after the start, watching the team cars roar out after the cyclists. And yes, I was the only person wearing my Team Fatty jersey, proudly. And you rode right past me behind tinted glass. Can’t wait to read part 2!

  40. Comment by Jeremy | 05.24.2010 | 11:32 pm

    @MattC – I was thinking the same thing this weekend. Time to go to work.

  41. Comment by Noodle | 05.25.2010 | 8:04 am

    That looks seriously cool. Jealous. :)

  42. Comment by classyhick | 05.25.2010 | 9:57 pm

    Though I love this review of the race, I am very disappointed in your lack of interview questions. Could you have at least slipped in a “Hey Dmitriy, are you single?” Help a girl out!

  43. Comment by Clancy | 05.26.2010 | 5:00 pm

    yeah fatty – what’s up with the manpri’s?

  44. Comment by Clancy | 05.27.2010 | 8:16 am

    And on second look, it apprears that Dmitriy is NOT rockin a muffin top – that’s his skinsuit rolled down.

  45. Comment by Dave C | 06.10.2010 | 11:46 pm

    Seriously Fatty. Ditch the manpris.


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