Livin' the Dream

Livin' the Dream

About Me

I am a sophomore at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA, majoring in journalism. My passion is cycling. I am a category 4 bike racer and my absolute dream would be to turn pro one day. My more realistic goal is to become a journalist for the sport of cycling and eventually move on to become a broadcaster for the sport.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah: Behind the Scenes Travel Day & Prep Day 1

This week I am working the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah (TOU) on the Routing & Signs Crew for Medalist Sports. The Routing & Signs Crew is in charge of setting up the course arrows each day and all of the KOM, Sprint, and Feed Zone signs. The course arrows are usually never seen on TV and are not for the riders. The course arrows are for all of the VIP vehicles, Commissionaires, Police that help provide the rolling enclosure, ect. Furthermore, the crew is in charge of setting up the 1KM TO GO inflatable. Everything that goes up must come down. My job for the week is being in the sweeper vehicle. My partner and I drive behind the End of Convoy Police Car and pick up the signs as the race passes through the course. I plan to give a behind the scenes look this week.

Day One – Lots of Sitting and Going for a Walk

            The TOU starts a day earlier this year on a Monday due to an additional stage. That meant I needed to fly into Utah the Friday before. For all of the big stage races routing and signs needs two days of prep and since most of the crew usually flies in, that means getting to the race three days in advance.

            So, on Friday the 1st of August I pulled myself out of bed at the early hour of 6am and headed to the airport. Coming from the East Coast meant I got to sit on a plane for over 4 hours. What fun right?!? When I got to Salt Lake City I took a shuttle to the DoubleTree hotel to meet-up with my ride buddy for the week Rich and pick up our truck for the week. Our truck for the week is a Ford 350 Diesel with a V8 power stroke. Yeah, routing and signs does not mess around. Remember when I said I sat on a plane for over 4 hours, well the overall start of the Tour of Utah is taking place in Cedar City, roughly a 3.5 hour drive from Salt Lake City. Yep, on Friday I got to spend over 7 hours sitting on my butt.

Our rig for the week

            Rich is a long time Utah local so the drive to Cedar city was pretty awesome. He was pointing out landmarks and telling me about the history. I was gaining knowledge during the summer, while not in school. (See mom these trips are educational).

Upon arriving to Cedar City and checking into our hotel I immediately stated I was going for a walk. I needed to get the blood flowing a little bit.  With Cedar City hosting the prep days and finish of stage 1 I knew where all of the teams were staying. I made the 1.2-mile walk to the Eccles Living Center on the Southern Utah University (SUU) campus. I wanted to check the vibe of the race. Usually, I just walk around looking at the mechanics prepping bikes and seeing what gearing the riders will be using. Occasionally, I see some teams chilling out, getting ready for a pre-race ride or coming back from one.

When I got to the Living Center I was highly disappointed. The parking lot was empty, but then Lampre-Merida walked out. I counted the riders I saw to see if all of them were there and one was missing. It was the rider I cared about most. Chris Horner. I stood there wondering where he was, but figured he was probably flying in later in the day. I watched the guys’ ride away cracking jokes in Italian. I figured they were jokes because they were all laughing. For all I know they could have been making fun of me for standing in a parking lot staring at a bunch of dudes in spandex.
More Enlightenment

            I took a different, longer route back to the hotel to see more of the SUU campus. I came across this dome structure with a bunch of statues under in it. Turns out the statues are all important genius people that shaped our way of life not only in American, but the entire world. I went around reading the description under each statue and felt a lot smarter walking back to my hotel. I took pictures of the statues and labeled who is who, so make sure to check out the slideshow at the bottom.

Day Two – The Real Work Begins

            The crew and I met up in the morning and ate breakfast together in the hotel lobby. Don’t worry it was complimentary. I made the mistake last night of eating dinner with the crew in the hotel restaurant. To say the least, dinner was expensive by my account. As we sat through breakfast our crew leader Mark lead us through the routes of all of the stages (what to expect, # of Sprints and KOMs, hazards, ect).

After lunch we all hopped in our trucks and headed a mile downtown to the Cedar City Heritage Center for in-processing. In-processing is code for picking up all of your swag. There is where I got my credential, food per-diem, radio, technical guide, t-shirts, and hat. After that it was straight to the load-lot to get to work.

Looking into the load lot
The load lot is exactly what it’s called. That is where we grab all of our gear and load up for the week. The load-lot is usually out of the way in a remote parking lot. This is where all of the trucks drop off all of the race signage, the frames for the start/finish structures and the dreaded sand bags. It’s pretty amazing how many different pieces go into a big stage race. Working these different stage races in the U.S. has shown just how mind-blowing the Tour de France really is, logistically speaking.

The crew and I popped out our trusty box full of all of the supplies we would need out on the road. It has the essentials, box cutters, dikes, hammer tackers, hammers, line tape for the KOM and Sprint lines, zip ties. We divided up all the gear and set off in search of our signs.

Double SS

Two S words define the routing and signs crew. No, one of them is not S@%t, though that word does get said a few times. The double S is signs and sand. The sand is actually sand bags, which we use to weight down the signs so that they do not blow away.

            The sand bags are always an adventure. Medalist Sports usually orders the sand bags from a local place. Most of the time we end up opening them and dumping sand out. This is because the standard sand bag is a lot heavier that what we need to weigh down a cardboard sign. We choose to dump the sand out because we you are picking up sand bags all day, the lighter the better.

We set-up a tent next to our pallet of sand bags and began dumping sand. We would dump the sand into new sand bags meaning we usually got a two for one deal. The Routing & Signs crew is dedicated and we continued to dump sand through lunch. Finally, after we had all the bags we needed and loaded into the trucks we set-off for our trusty Mexican restaurant. Last year we ate at this Mexican restaurant 3 out of 5 meals.

Signs, Signs, and More Signs

            After lunch it was back to the load lot to pick up our signs. After making sure all of our signs were there, we loaded them into the trucks. Tomorrow we would deal with the signs. Prep day two is when we put the signs together and sort them.

Tons of Signs

Why I Do This!

            After the long day Rich and I went back to the hotel chilled, showered and both of us made our way to the park to see the team presentation. I walked and Rich drove. Had I waited 10 minutes I could have drove with him instead of walking a mile.

            The team presentation is super chill at TOU compared to the closed-door gala at TOC. I like the TOU one better because it is more for the fans. Having a staff pass helps a lot too. I got to walk around and chatted a bit with Brent Bookwalter and Ben King. #Namedrop. I also got to meet Kevin Livingston. He is a cool guy and it was fun talking racing with him. Axel Merckx, son of Eddy Merckx walked over to have a few words with Kevin. Since I was standing next to Kevin I guess he thought I was someone important because Axel shook my hand and said hey.

Ben King and I

            The day wrapped up with me walking back to the hotel to get some exercise. I’m still trying to loosen my legs up from all of that sitting I did on Friday. Check out the slideshow below for the behind the scenes photos I took these first two days at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

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