The flowers. Yeah, not sure why, but bicycle racers get flowers when they win.
Stage 4 flowers: Tour of the Gila
Late afternoon: I watched Stage 4 from a coffee shop porch, because it was one story up and the view was excellent all the way to the finish banner on the main street of downtown Silver City, NM — a fast circuit of laps, each a bit more than a mile. The 40 laps took the racers 1:30:19 to complete, an average speed of 28.9 mph. They drank bottles of water, but I drank iced tea and chatted with other fans enjoying the same vantage point. Two businessmen from California who’d participated in an amateur race earlier in the day, several family members of an 18-year-old new pro in his first big stage race, and some others, everyone happy to be there on a day at altitude with bright sun and gentle winds. On a full crit docket the Pro men race last, so this had been going on since 8 am. My day started about 6 when I threw on shoes and hustled from our hotel to move my car off of the closed street.
As the pro race developed it looked like Eric would have a decent chance to take the final sprint. Attacks off of the front by racers taking a chance to build a short lead into the wind had all come to nothing, and with two laps to go the field of cyclists was all together, one swarm strung out about a block long and traveling close to 30 mph. They whirred out of sight, and we waited the minutes for the lap to complete. Next time would be one to go, and when the lead group banked around the final corner and into view it consisted of a straight-out train of four Cylance teammates in blue, and Eric in Rally orange tucked in behind looking comfortable. I knew that’s good. One to go. Then they were gone again.
Crowd noise increased, the race announcer told one more story that I didn’t hear, then came the motorcycles accelerating out of the way, then suddenly orange at the front, out of the saddle, Eric pumping hard with his bike rocking and Travis McCabe near his wheel, but getting dropped. The line of pro racers strung out behind that, but nobody caught up. I couldn’t see the actual line on the pavement, but I could see Eric’s right arm suddenly thrust skyward and someone asked me if that was him, and I screamed Yes!
Two sprint victories in three days! Interviews and flowers still to come. His Mom got the flowers this time, their first vase a McDonald’s coffee cup, then at home, glass.