February 16, 2008 (Sausalito, CA) – The third annual Amgen Tour of California Official team presentation and gala was held in the Big Bike Tent in Sausalito, CA on Friday evening as all of the pro cyclists competing at the 2008 Amgen Tour of California attended the “black tie and spandex” evening reception.
Many in the crowd still seemed to be reeling from Valentine’s day chocolate, and you could sense that romance wafting inside the luminous tent with 800 attendees including groupies, sponsors and VIPs.
The soft lights and rich food matched the crowd: gorgeous and well-prepared, with long slinky dresses and plunging necklines rivaling next Sunday’s Oscars (starting a few hours after this AToC ends and just down the road in LA). Tonight, this was the place to get your groove on whether you came to Sausalito knowing anything about the AToC or not “” and indeed, we were invited to join a table by turban-clad bon vivant, Tony Bedi, unaffiliated with the Tour but it made no difference in his enjoying the night. “This is why we like coming here every year. The AToC has those ingredients of wild enthusiasm and natural beauty that reflect California lifestyle that I love””and I’m from India,” said Bedi.
This year, Phil Liggett arrived without passport hassles unlike last year where Paul Sherwen did the honors with Bobke Bob Roll – all three are commentators on Pro Cycling’s Versus Channel. The talent pool was as deep as ever with more World Champions – from Track to ITT to Road racing (and Classics like Paris-Roubaix). It was a star-studly night, featuring live and silent auctions of memorabilia, art, and uber-bling “¦ not for the paycheck-challenged.
Mario Cipollini was back on the block sporting his uniquely exhurberant take on fashion. Surprisingly, Michael Ball, the controversial bad boy team owner of Rock Racers, wasn’t going to force his patch-quilt team of former mega-star talents into plying his signature jeans; instead Mario’s new teammates turned heads in Armani-esque shades of black suits as proven by Tyler Hamilton and Fast Freddy Rodriguez, who no longer looked like skinny men in tights!
Another surprise, while presenting the 17 professional teams, was a local favorite who was raised just a few miles down the road – Robin Williams – whose infectious glee broke thru the formal night giving everyone a reason to laugh and clang their cow bell table favors, “Welcome to Sausalito, that means Spicy in Spanish! I was born in Tiburon close by, that means rich white people live here.”
Williams riffed in Pigeon Jamaican one minute and channeled rappers the next, while strutting the catwalk, mixing metaphors as no one else can. Likewise, David Towles, the ever-charismatic daily Tour announcer chimed in with his insights: “The best rider doesn’t always win. This sport isn’t simple — it’s unbelievably technical. To win in cycling, you have to risk losing.” He believes in the beauty of the sport and its benefits for young people, like promoting safe routes to schools, healthy lifestyles, and outdoor exploration for city kids. As for the new separate women’s field competing only on Monday? “It should be a strong group of women riders. They need to put on a show that impresses people. I hope they race their asses off!,” added Towles.
When asked about his chances in 2008, last year’s ATOC winner and local hero Levi Leipheimer predicted, “It’s going to be tough; there is even more talented cyclists than before, both on my team and in the field. I’d like to defend my title”¦ we’ll see what happens.”
Stay tuned for the Prologue this Sunday, and its fast, flat route around the Stanford University oval, testing Leipheimer’s prediction where he won last year’s Prologue in San Francisco.