Barclays Global Investors Grand Prix

The fifth running of the Barclays Global Investors Grand Prix (née San Francisco Grand Prix) cycling race was held today in San Francisco. Rae and I arrived at 11:00 am, an hour after the men’s race had started. Due to a variety of difficulties, including sponsorship problems, there was no women’s race this year. There was an opportunity, however, for amateurs to ride the course at 8:00 am. I would have liked to have gone, but I didn’t fancy the idea of waking up at 6:00 to get there by 7:30. Maybe next year!

Rae had to leave shortly after noon to attend a bridal shower at Park Chow. I stuck around to the end of the race, making my way towards the Embarcadero where the finish was. I ran into photographer and COBA member, Dennis, who was taking photos for Café Grecco in North Beach. As you might guess, there were tons of camera toting and bicycle loving fans on the streets enjoying the bike race.

It was easy to pick out George Hincapie (11 – Discovery Channel) from the crowd of pro cyclists. Was it the sunglasses, the jersey, the bike, or the face that’s plastered all over the TV and Internet? It was difficult to recognize the other cyclists, no doubt due to the fact that they were flying by at an average speed of 24.26 miles per hour for the entire race! Nevertheless, these guys are monsters on the bike. The rush of wind as they passed up on each lap was pretty incredible to see. I love how cycling brings the fans right up alongside their favorite riders; try that at a football or baseball game!

Having the list of riders for each team helps when figuring out captions. I wish I had an easy way to do this for the rest of my photos!

As for the race itself, without a radio or television feed, it was initially difficult to ascertain who was in the lead. Michael Creed of Discovery was auditioning himself to potential teams with a 50 mile breakaway starting around mile 20. The crowds were cheering for him as he powered up the 16% gradient that is Taylor Street — they were probably going twice as fast as a “normal” rider would go up the hills! We later saw that he was caught by several riders who eventually wrested the lead from him. The new leading group included Creed’s teammate Jason McCartney, John Lieswyn (Health Net-Maxxis), and Glen Mitchell (Kodak-Sierra Nevada). Shortly behind them was a chase group of two Gerolsteiner riders, Fabian Wegmann and Andrea Moletta. This leaderboard remained the same until the final lap (Mitchell was eventually dropped at some point), when Wegmann was able to bridge the gap and sprint past both McCartney and Lieswyn for the win.

Lieswyn was riding in his last race as a professional. Coming in second is nice, but he was so close to riding off into the sunset! From what I could see on the giant television screen at the finish, he and McCartney seemed to be working together in the final lap to hold off the two Gerolsteiner riders. They just got beat by fresher legs.

Much of what remained of the peloton came speeding by several minutes later. It would have been interesting to see a mass sprint for the finish and victory, but on a course like this, it seems to be a breakaway that usually wins. With Barclays picking up the sponsorship for the next few years, there’ll be another opportunity to roll the dice next year!

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