Jul 26, 2009

Merlin’s Criterium

Merlin Tour de CriteriumMerlin likes bikes. They go fast. Almost as fast as a sprinting Merlin across the park. Merlin also enjoys the Tour de France three week TV couch potato encampment. After weeks of virtual cyclists, we took a stretch break to cheer a real bike race, the annual San Rafael Criterium.Paw Push

The Saturday event draws 700 cyclists for a series of races around a downtown loop. Merlin enjoys a front curb view. His ears blow back as the race accelerates. Marin mountain biked cops smile over their radar guns as the front cyclists break the posted speed limit. Merlin approves of supporters who dispense promotional treats to the crowd. The best sponsor is a dog company who’s Merlin Declines Cowbellpaw print logo encourages a women’s team with a pat on their rumps. He’s not too sure about the cowbell mania. He prefers cowbells on cows, or cats.

The 1K Criterium course circles three city blocks. The first hay baled turn is from Fourth Street uphill onto D AWD Bikes(as in Dog), right in front of Merlin’s chauffeur’s studio in Art Works Downtown. Our summer intern, Ryan Derham, joined us to learn sports photography. Fast shutter speeds freeze the action and slow shutter speeds create artistic blur. Photo opportunities whiz past every few minutes as the racers flash by our spot. Ryan's CriteriumRyan posted some photos on her internship blog. Go see!

There’s a break before the final pro races for the thrilling Kids Course Ride. Under-5's pedal, crawl, and are pushed two blocks, before the most serious racers of the day step up- the 5-12 year olds. Excitable parents are barred from the street as the kids stare down the first lap. BikemobileThey erupt from the starting gate and never look back. Merlin’s favorites are the pink girls with pink bikes, pink helmets, pink shoes, and flying pink ribbons, and the lone batman. They blur past Art Works Downtown, marshaled by pro riders on their own speed machines. All required fast shutter speeds as they zipped around the course. Official results on USA Cycling.

Last February, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, and the Astana TeamCriterium Finish rode in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California cycling right by Merlin in Marin and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Phil and Paul commentated as spring rain pelted the racers. For the third year, Levi was first. Everyone won.

Merlin Bike SwishOf course, big name cyclists missed San Rafael this month for Paris. But next spring the Tour will return to California and Merlin will be there to bark them through Marin and onto the Golden Gate Bridge.
Ride on!
Cyclists, Tour de France: 2,174 miles
Cyclists, Tour of California 2009: 781 miles
Cyclists, San Rafael Criterium: 225 miles
Merlin, 8 mile loop

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