Philly was hot! It was Africa hot. The big discussion the day before was the heat and we all got up the next morning thinking about the heat. When we rode the course the day before the heat was debilitating and I couldn't imagine many would go the distance. We took bets on how many guys would finish and I lost, I guessed 48.
Manyunk and the wall were packed. I think I saw more people on the descent off the wall than ever before. This year they had barriers lining a lot of it and it was probably a good idea. In years past I've seen people get pretty far out into the road when we were going by at 50+ mph. A lot of people will hang their hands out wanting a slap as you go by. Last year I made the mistake of responding to one guy and as we went by we slapped hands so hard.....geeez that stung. He was most likely too drunk to know how much it hurt. Lesson learned for me and I'll never do that again.
What gets me through the days are cookies. Man I love cookies, especially chocolate chip. But it was a sad day to be a chocolate chip and I was getting more on my hands then in my mouth. Never the less I persevered under such dreadful conditions and ended up having a pretty decent day. My old buddy Brendan came out to drive me around on his moto. He's been driving me there for the last 5 years or so and we've worked together since 2001 on other things so it's getting to be a sort of tradition. Usually he drives me all week but he had bike troubles. The throttle cable was stuck and when he went to fix that a fitting on the gas line broke. I told him that we didn't need to fix that throttle cable anyway because we only need it in one position, wide open! Using his better judgment and not listening to me he got another bike to use.
Speaking of lessons learned......we had an incident with a photographer during the week. I won't mention names because I don't want to go there but he should have known better, especially being as good as he thinks he is. We were in Allentown and part way through the race this guy decides it would be a good idea to kneel down in the middle of the road just after a fast right hand turn off of a decent. And then he had his moto driver waving traffic around him so that no one ran him over. Of all the stupid things I have seen people do at races that has got to be the worst. Not only do you put yourself in danger but you endanger everyone else around you. I have always lived by the code that the riders come first. I may do some nutty things to get a shot like hang out of a tree, climb on to a train car, balance on a skinny rail on the side of a bridge or who knows what else I have blocked out of memory for therapeutic reasons but I would never endanger the safety or lives of others. I'm still amazed at the lack of common sense shown in that situation. What was it Forest Gump said, "stupid is as stupid does."
So, back to Philly.......Manayunk was packed. Every time up the wall the fans had multiplied. And every time up it got hotter and hotter. At one point I tried to sit in the road to wait for the riders but I couldn't do it because the pavement was too hot for my delicate posterior. Even standing out there the bottom of my shoes were hot. On one of the last laps we went through an area where they had put some tar down to seal the cracks and when the bike rolled across the tar the motorcycle slid sideways a couple of inches. We kept it up no problem and a mental note was made, the road is melting. I've seen it so bad in France that the riders tires sink right into the asphalt. That's what happened to Biloki when he crashed and Lance cyclorossed it around him. (As a side note they had just passed me and the crash happened right around the corner. We couldn't see much but knew it was something bad when we drove by.) But for the most part we have a better mixture of asphalt in the US so we don't see it much.
By the end of the day we logged one of the longest days ever for that race. It ended up being about 6'15". The heat kept the speeds down mostly until the last couple laps. I was surprised that a break didn't get up the road but the field sprints are fun to see on that course too. It's such a buildup to see them go down past the big screen and into the circle, fighting for position the whole way. They come out of the circle and I watch them through my big lens to try and see what is happening. The mass of color starts to take shape as they get closer and closer and a cloud of dust rises behind them. Riders are spread across the road going elbow to elbow at 40+ mph. As they get bigger and bigger in the lens I decide who is in front and focus on him. Closer, closer and then bdddtttttttt the shutter fires like a machine gun going off at 10 frames per second as they cross the line. Just like that the day is over.
Gripping I tell you, gripping!