The Race within the Race.

It’s easy to see what makes a bike race a bike race. It’s very simple, who ever crosses the finish line first is the winner. Well, within the Amgen Tour of California there are more races going on that don’t necessarily take place on bicycles. To me as a staff member, some of these races carry more prestige and importance than who wins the overall General Classification.

I’m talking about the hotel transfer race.

During bigger stage races, each team will have a dedicated vehicle that handles

all the luggage for the entire team and staff. This vehicle will probably never see a start or finish line, but will be driven from hotel to hotel. Luggage will be collected in the morning (mostly before breakfast) and loaded up in the transfer vehicle. The Kelly Benefits transfer vehicle is our van and trailer. Since most of the bikes have been removed for the race, there is plenty of room for our suitcases.

With 3 mechanics here at the Tour of California, we will rotate our responsibilities between us as far as who is riding in team support cars and who is doing hotel transfers. During stage 2 was going to be my first hotel transfer. My job was to drive from Truckee, CA all the way down the mountain to Sacramento, CA.

With bags loaded in the trailer promptly at 7:30 AM, and a quick check to ensure Bob and Chris had everything they needed for the race I took off from the hotel. It was hard to tell whether other teams had left yet, and I knew it was important to get going as soon as possible because all 18 teams where staying in the same hotel.

This is where the race begins.

Like I said, it was hard to tell if some teams left earlier than me or not. I started my treacherous drive over the infamous Donner Pass and down the other side all the way into Sacramento without seeing another teams transfer vehicle. My hopes where high I would be the first to arrive at the next hotel first, but I had to be prepared if I was showing up late.

Their are many big prizes when showing up first to a hotel with a large team rig. The first prize, is the fact that you get to pick the best parking spots. The best parking spot features include, close access to water and electricity and also close access to the hotel rooms. Its quite obvious to see who showed up to a hotel parking lot first and who showed up last.

To my luck it looked as if I was the first team to arrive at the Doubletree hotel in Sacramento. I quickly jumped out of the van and found the special team check in desk. Someone handed me a packet with all our teams hotel keys and other information with meal times and race office locations.

Once, I got a general idea of where the rooms where clustered, I found the ideal parking spot for the van and trailer. I parked and after a couple of trips up and down the elevator, all the luggage was loaded into the hotel rooms. I then recorded who was rooming with who and what room number they where staying in onto a “room list.”

Back at the trailer I hooked up electric power and water. With a few hours to kill before the team would arrive at the hotel, I was able to eat a good lunch and do a bit of shopping at the mall that was across the street. I even had time to clean up our trailer and take care of a few projects that I have been putting off.

The team rolls into the hotel around 4 p.m, And I’m standing right there to hand the riders the keys to their rooms, where their luggage is waiting. Their day is over and mine still has a long way to go. Bob, Chris and I are off to work to attend to the bicycles.

There is no yellow jersey (yet) for the guy who makes the quickest hotel transfer, but I do like to carry it as a sense of pride. Let me tell you, it is probably easier to win the yellow jersey at the Amgen Tour of California, than to win a “Day After Day Hotel Transfer” jersey.

Eric J