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

05.25.2010 | 5:20 am

Before I get to the conversation we had when driving behind Dmitriy Muravyev, I’d like to give you a little insight into Johan Bruyneel.

If I were to use two words to describe Johan Bruyneel when he’s acting as director of his team, they would be “centered” and “professional.” If I were allowed a third word, it would be “kind.”

If, on the other hand, when Bruyneel is driving the team car, those two words would be “multitasking” and “completely insane.”

I am confident that Bruyneel never touched the brake around any corner during the drive, which meant — until I learned to always keep a hand on the overhead grip — that I was being flung left and right, forward and backward.

I’m pretty sure that Bruyneel was one of the stunt drivers for The Fast and the Furious.

Meanwhile, Bruyneel was talking with me, talking with Eki, talking on the phone, staying within twenty feet of his racer, and checking email.


Just another day at the office, right?

Radio-Free Dmitriy

“We won’t be using a radio for Dmitriy,” Johan told me right off the bat. “He’s just taking the time trial easy.”

Which, on one hand, was a little disappointing. One of the things I was really looking forward to was the radio back-and-forth. On the other hand, I was surprised to learn that any rider with a car behind him wouldn’t have a radio.

Also, as I watched Dmitriy’s speed hit — and pass — 30mph on the flats, I wondered how anyone could call that “taking it easy.” Especially since Dmitriy passed the racer ahead of him about a lap into the two-lap course.

“So what kinds of things do you tell racers in a time trial if they do have a radio?” I asked.

“Different racers want different things. Motivation, whether they should shift gears, split times, upcoming turns, where the road surface is better.”

“Tell me what you do on the radio differently between Lance and Levi,” I pressed.

“For Lance, he just wants the numbers until he gets to the last 5KM,” Johan said, “and then he wants motivation. For Levi, I’m shouting in his ear for the whole time. Chris Horner never wants anything but just the basic information.”

Which made me think: if I were a professional cyclist with a radio in my ear, I would want my director to speak to me in rhyming couplets.

Watch Yer Toes

“There’s a good crowd out,” remarked Johan at one point (I should note that I’m not ignoring stuff Eki said; he simply didn’t say much. He was busy tracking and noting splits.).

“But this is nothing compared to a mountaintop finish in the Tour de France,” I said. “How do you press through crowds like that? And do riders ever get freaked out by the crowds?”

“Well, the crowds aren’t as bad as they look on TV for one thing,” said Johan. “But they can press in pretty close.”

“So what do you do?”

“You just keep on going. If you stop or slow down they’ll never let you through. I’ve run over peoples’ toes, and knocked cameras out of their hands with my side mirrors.”

So you know that plan you were cooking up where you’d jump in front of Johan’s car and demand an autograph from whatever rider happened to be in there? Yeah, probably not so great of an idea.

We’re Not Done Yet

At one point, I finally got up the courage to say, “Hey, we’ve done something really great here, and I had a lot of fun. Once you get to the off-season, we should do another contest like this.”

“We should,” agreed Johan. And then he went on to detail his idea — evidently he already had something in mind. Something really, really cool.

But then he made me promise not to reveal what it is just yet.

After the Ride

Of course, my ride didn’t last all that long — about 45 minutes or so — and then it was time for someone else to get a turn riding in the team car — the RadioShack CEO, bigshots from Trek, Matthew McConaughey, and other people who are 80% as famous and beloved as I am.

After that, The Runner and I went and hung out at the finish line, watching the racers come in for their first lap time check and then for their finish.

And really, it’s just amazing how fast these guys are. I mean, most of them were faster than me.

Here’s Dave Zabriskie, starting his second lap:


And Michael Rogers starting his second lap:


And Levi Leipheimer, sprinting into the finish:


And here’s The Runner, digging our VIP passes as much as I was:


As we wandered around, we ran into quite a few people who read the blog. And while it’s always a little weird having someone recognize me and ask for a photo, it’s a gratifying and cool kind of weird, because every time someone wants to say hi, it’s because they’re glad to be a part of Team Fatty and what we’ve done — and what we’re doing.

And believe me, we’re going to be doing some awesome stuff soon. Stay tuned.

Final Thoughts

Here’s my take on Johan Bruyneel: I didn’t see any of the planning and strategy part of his job, but I think the results of that pretty much speak for themselves.

What I did notice about Johan, though, is he’s an incredibly centered and calm person. In the middle of a big race day, he was completely calm and at ease. My guess is that this kind of stability and grounding counts for a lot when you’re a nervous racer under a lot of pressure.

And I think it goes without saying that Johan’s got his heart in the right place, and has a mind that lets him make a difference. I mean, think about it: he turned a joke post I wrote back last December into a big fundraiser in the fight against cancer, a big fundraiser for World Bicycle Relief, and gave a normal guy unheard-of access to a pro cycling team. I admire Johan; he’s a great guy.

And all in all, this wasn’t a half-bad day.


  1. Comment by NYCCarlos | 05.25.2010 | 6:04 am

    awwwwwwwwww I’m kinda bummed about no radio too… I was looking forward to you getting to take over the “encouragement” part!

  2. Comment by jacked | 05.25.2010 | 6:05 am

    Just so you know, it’s kinda weird asking for that photo.
    But I have one.
    And it’s a good thing, even though I have helmet hair, no handle bars to hide behind and look like a big happy dork.

    Thanks for including us all in your family and all that you do in this fight.


  3. Comment by cece | 05.25.2010 | 6:07 am

    I feel like a little part of me went to the race after reading your report! thanks!

  4. Comment by Greg @ Greg Rides Trails | 05.25.2010 | 6:13 am

    “Which made me think: if I were a professional cyclist with a radio in my ear, I would want my director to speak to me in rhyming couplets.”

    Haha, yes! Nice. Great post Fatty, looks like you guys had a great time at the race!

  5. Comment by k_deck | 05.25.2010 | 6:32 am

    You didn’t you get to yell “Venga!” at least once?!

    Yelled it constantly. Eventually, Eki asked me to please stop. – FC

  6. Comment by FliesOnly | 05.25.2010 | 6:46 am

    Great stuff (as usual). I looking forward to the “new” contest(s).

  7. Comment by Weiland | 05.25.2010 | 7:02 am

    How many times did you ask “Are we there yet?” from the backseat?

  8. Comment by chloe826 | 05.25.2010 | 7:06 am

    I am a USA Cycling Race Official, and went by Radio Shack to say Hi, but you hadn’t arrived yet. I wish I had known you were in the VIP tent at the Finish line, we could have had you on the finish stage. Glad that you had a GREAT time.

  9. Comment by Sherlock Holmes | 05.25.2010 | 7:11 am


    The next time you shoot a rider going by at 30+ km per hour, try panning the camera at the speed of the cyclist as they go by you. That way, you get a sharp cyclist with a blurred background, rather than vice versa. That, or set your shutter speed faster.

    Great blog, congrats on what you have done here.



  10. Comment by Mikeonhisbike | 05.25.2010 | 7:15 am

    You didn’t include the part when Johan shouted “If you don’t knock that off I’m going to pull this car over”.

  11. Comment by Patrick | 05.25.2010 | 7:25 am

    Stupid question, if the rider doesn’t have a radio what is the point of following with the car. Is it just incase of a breakdown?

  12. Comment by Darth Vader | 05.25.2010 | 7:45 am

    @Sherlock Holmes I must say, your condescending ways will not get you far with the force. My light saber will take that camera taunting and split it down the middle. @Fatty Deliver trailer soon to the mother ship. The mother ship needs some carbon reinforcement.

  13. Comment by Weaky6 | 05.25.2010 | 7:56 am

    STILL have a hard time with seeing Johan and company in a Nissan wagon instead of a Subaru. Love the blog. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Comment by MOCougFan | 05.25.2010 | 8:02 am

    This summer, when I’m out there, I’m totally asking you for a photo. Hopefully your going up AF Canyon and not down.

    Totally jealous of your ride with Johan. Seems like a really cool guy. Similar to you.

  15. Comment by DC | 05.25.2010 | 8:35 am

    Great post but, you didn’t mention:

    What did you think of the Nissan Leaf?

    How many times did Johan mention your incredible Quads?

  16. Comment by bikemike | 05.25.2010 | 8:35 am

    I would’ve asked him, “hey, Johan, bet you can’t make this Nissan do 160 on the straights and power slide into the corner”? Actually, it sounds like he was doing that anyway, nevermind.

  17. Comment by KanyonKris | 05.25.2010 | 9:02 am

    Sounds like a thrill ride, but without the restraining bar.

    You must have not get motion sick, or you took something to deal with that.

  18. Comment by drKim | 05.25.2010 | 9:09 am

    I rode in a car that Kevin Livingston drove for Astana last year…so amazing! We rode behind Rubiera. It sounds like your ride was like mine! So much fun. Can’t wait to hear about Johan’s new fundraising idea!!

  19. Comment by rich | 05.25.2010 | 9:22 am

    Understatement of the year….

    Sounds like an incredible trip. Glad for you. Can’t wait to hear about the next contests…

  20. Comment by bahama mama | 05.25.2010 | 9:23 am

    Is Johan married? Oh wait, nevermind. I am.

  21. Comment by Lisa | 05.25.2010 | 10:03 am

    I’ve been watching the Tour and enjoying it a great deal. It’s so amazing to watch real athletes make a sport look easy! And those bikes are impressive!

  22. Comment by Dianna | 05.25.2010 | 10:40 am

    I’m sure that was you on the flight from Cincinnati to LAX Thursday afternoon but I couldn’t bring myself to lean over your seat and say, “Hello, Fatty”. The consequences of being mistaken were too embarrassing. Who could remember Eldon while being pushed down the aisle by a planeload of passengers?

  23. Comment by Alon | 05.25.2010 | 10:55 am

    So now Bruyneel can get a ticket thanks to that photo. Nice.

  24. Comment by Erik | 05.25.2010 | 11:13 am

    I’ve met you Fatty 2 times (Leadville 2009 and Austin at the finish line, also 2009) and both times I didn’t get a photo with you. We neeed to change that. Let’s plan on Leadville this year? Or whenever I win the contest to be cheering you on with ryhming couplets from the team car as you do your next ride.

  25. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.25.2010 | 11:13 am

    Similar to Alon, above, I was going to ask: Is it OK in Califoria to text whilst driving? They just made it illegal in Oregon.

    I really didn’t have anything to say, except ‘whilst’.

  26. Comment by Carrie | 05.25.2010 | 11:17 am

    Of course I am a few days late in checking your blog…I thought I would catch up and see your posts on the Tour of California, but completely didn’t think to look earlier – pre-Tour to see when/where you would be.
    We (my family & I) were in LA on Saturday for the Tour Time Trials. Had a great spot that wasn’t too crowded. The kids had a great time cheering on the riders and I did too – wasn’t too sure at first honestly, but I will do it again for sure!
    But now I can’t believe I missed the opportunity to meet you face to face. To see you in your Oakley’s too…
    Well next year!
    Glad you had a great time. Wasn’t the day just perfect!?

  27. Comment by bykjunkie | 05.25.2010 | 11:22 am

    Dude, I want the T-Shirt!!!!!
    Where and when can we get them?

  28. Comment by Lisa | 05.25.2010 | 12:02 pm

    I was on the hill on Olive St. taking pictures and I saw you pass by! I got some weird looks from people because I was taking photos of the Radio Shack cars instead of the riders to see if I could catch you. Well, I did get some photos of the boys & the bikes too…

    Glad you had fun in the car! It was a blast on the hill with getting to see them storming up and then flying back down.

  29. Comment by Betsy | 05.25.2010 | 12:31 pm

    Awesome shots Fatty. Sounds like an exciting time. Can hardly wait for the next contest…..that I am going to win, just sayin’. Saving up my fundraising money now so I will be ready to drop some coin!!!!!

  30. Comment by Anonymous | 05.25.2010 | 12:45 pm

    i saw you last night at the grocery store- it was late and I was the gal with the big dumb grin on my face as i passed you in the isle- it was super funny how excited I was to go find my husband and tell him I saw “fatty”- must be hard being a celebrity! I restrained from asking for an autograph on my cereal box- but just barely

  31. Comment by buckythedonkey | 05.25.2010 | 12:54 pm

    Brilliant. Well deserved too.

  32. Comment by Lizzylou | 05.25.2010 | 1:22 pm

    So, I’m now wondering. Did the CEO of Radio Shack and Matthew McConaughey also have to act as mechanic??

    And checking e-mail while driving, I’m pretty sure there are laws against that. For shame Johan! I’m sure you could get a monkey helper for that.

  33. Comment by patty | 05.25.2010 | 1:45 pm

    So is it safe to say that Johan will not be signing Oprah’s No Phone Zone Pledge?

  34. Comment by Jay Peitzer | 05.25.2010 | 1:54 pm

    I’m kind of pissed that you didn’t try to find me out there….LOL. If I’d have known you were there I’d have looked for you. Incidentally where you guys were standing watching the race at the end is where we originally set up and were kicked out of. Thanks a lot…..LOL. All in all a pretty great day. My right arm is sore from cowbelling almost every rider. As my wife said. Everyone deserves a cow bell.

  35. Comment by Grizzly Adam | 05.25.2010 | 2:10 pm

    So the Lance and Matthew rumors are true then?

  36. Comment by RP in SLC | 05.25.2010 | 3:16 pm

    Great report and pics! And a humble request from a loyal reader: Do that interview with Glenn asap! Would love to hear the behind-the-scenes stories he has to tell.

  37. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 05.25.2010 | 5:17 pm

    I would love to have Johan as my coach. Imagine how speedy I’d become. Magically of course. Sounds like you had an amazing time!

  38. Comment by Ian | 05.25.2010 | 7:35 pm

    I found your blog about 6 months ago (or whenever the Johan Bruneel episode actually started).

    You are an inspiration.
    You already know that.

    Thanks for your great writing. I envy your opportunities, but I know you’ve richly earned them.

    I’ve just started my cycling adventure about 6 months ago, I’m going to be pretty much a MTB dude.

    If I may offer one piece of advice regarding photography. Pan the camera (and follow) with the cyclist. He’ll be sharp and the background will be a blur. The viewer will get a better idea of the speed. You will be more awesome.

    Like this:

    That’s not my photo. I wish it was. I will make one for myself this weekend and a local club event.


  39. Comment by Pinkbike | 05.26.2010 | 1:39 am

    Glad you had fun in here in LA, Fatty. Come back soon and bring the bikes. We’ve got some great rides around here, both road and mountain. Beautiful running trails for The Runner, too!

    So great to see you so happy.

  40. Comment by Mike Roadie | 05.26.2010 | 2:17 am

    Wow, man! What a totally awesome day! So cool. I can’t wait to find out what is planned next!!!

  41. Comment by skippy | 05.26.2010 | 2:58 am

    Yesterday on the ITT on the giro the racers were followed up the hill by motorbike with the mechanic riding pillion with 2 wheels and in somee cases a complete bike, of course you will have seen Arroya┬░s support running up behind him with the bike in the last few hundred metres!
    Rode the course with Damiana on monday and as he was taking it easy, using little energy, recovery ride pace i was able to stay within shouting distance until the concrete & gravel then forget it time.
    Racing the route alone i missed the turn and descended 2km before the light flasded on and arrived back to find the road closed so walked the last 5km of the course,cintinually overtaken by racers who looked like they would rather be somewhere else.
    At the arrival most of these racers looked gaunt and pretty much done in so i reckon today will be a slow/late arrival. i will start at Cloz after visiting Fondriest shop in Cles and the Tonale in lieu of the Passo Palides which i have done before.
    Lovely photo of the runner!

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