Just this morning I was eating brunch at Helen’s with my wife, daughter and some friends. The rain hadn’t started, and I had ridden my bike there from my office near VCU. After downing a killer plate of crabcakes benedict, I went outside with my friend just as a team of pro cyclists pedaled by on Main Street.
“There’s Greipel!” my friend, Dave Salley, called out.
Indeed it was. The greatest sprinter in the world, Andre Greipel, was rolling down Main with the rest of the German cycling team. The guys must have been out preparing for Sunday’s Elite men’s road race. Tony Martin, the world’s best time trialist (despite Wednesday’s seventh-place finish in the ITT) must have been in the group too, though I never saw him.
I looked at Salley, then hopped on my bike. “Go get ’em,” he yelled, and I was off. They were half a block past me, but not pedalling hard. I caught them around Boulevard. At that point I didn’t really know what to do. I was right behind Greipel (you should see the calves on this guy!) and his boys, close enough that one of them turned around and gave me a look like, “What are you doing, bro (only in German)?”
So, I dropped back a bit, snapped a shaky picture, then peeled off through the Museum District back to the office, where I called a bunch of friends to tell them. It was a thrill for a bike racing geek like me, and as far as I can tell the only way to duplicate it is to wait outside team hotels for guys to get on their bikes and ride. That doesn’t sound very healthy to me, and it’s possibly illegal.
But if you’re a cycling geek too, and you want the same thrill I had, you’re in luck. I just received an email from Pete Woody of the Sports Backers about tonight’s Conquer the Cobbles ride, where everyday amateurs like you and me can ride the same course the world’s best will this weekend.
I just wanted to give you a heads up on some special guests serving as official starters for Conquer the Cobbles tonight. George Hincapie will be present at the start of Conquer the Cobbles to lead the riders out as the official Grand Marshall for the event. He will be joined by NBC Sports and Tour de France analyst Bob Roll and seven time Tour de France finisher and former Olympian Frankie Andreu, and the three of them will lead the riders out to the course.
I asked Woody if those guys would be available to the public in any way:
My understanding is that George, Frankie, and Bob are riding their bikes to the stadium and plan to arrive around 6:15-6:30. There’s no ‘official’ interaction plan, but my guess is that there would be some opportunities for photos and other interaction before they commence with their official ‘marshall’ duties.
So there you go, bike geeks (and so far there are 1,300 of you signed up for tonight), get there early and you might get to hobnob with a few of America’s all-time greats. And take note, procrastinators: Walk-up registration is still open.