Worked the Tour of California on Thursday.  Up at 4:00am and hauled the Kawasaki out to Bakersfield for Time Trial Motoref duty.  Bakersfield is actually a pretty neat city if you know where to go.  If you just drive through on I-5, you will hate it.  I always did until I spent some time there. Thursday’s Time Trial Stage was on the East edge of town, well away from the worst parts of the metropolis.

Anyway, it was hot early on Thursday.  You shoulda seen the lineup of motors!  CHP, guys with 25+ years experience as Motorefs, some new blood too.  Like, 45 or 50 motors.  We got our pep talk and basic instructions, then went for an orientation lap of the course.  Riding with other motors is just like riding bikes.  Some fast, some slow.  And maybe a squid or two.  This was a pretty good group though.

Each rider gets escorted down the course by a motor.  Each.  Started with the VIPs, about twenty.  Then the Women Pros, but there were only ten.  A sticker with the rider’s name gets slapped on the windshield, you stage about 200m down the course, right away after the previous rider goes by, then you wait. You hear the starter counting down, then your rider starts, and you are off.

VIPs.  Women.  Then a break.  Easy duty so far.

The pros were next, and this is where it got busy.  I was one of the first in line.  Well, THE first.  Get a nice gap going down the grade to the highway, and settle in watching my rider.  You want to stay far enough in front so the rider can’t draft, but close enough so you can see that they are playing nice and see if they fall or have a mechanical.  And also close enough so you can watch behind for a rider coming up to pass.  Always looking ahead and behind as far as you can see.  A good Motoref skill is the ability to turn around on the motor far enough to see behind you, left hand on the passenger seat, and still ride a straight line.  Those little mirrors just don’t work at that kind of distance.  My rider got passed, but did not pass anybody himself.  There is this little sequence of moves everybody has to make to get the motors, the riders, the team cars, and maybe a media car or TV motor or VIP car all sorted out when a pass happens.

Got done with my first lap, hustled around the back way to queue up again just in time for a two minute break between riders.  Second Pro rider a lot like the first.  Lots of looking, lots of time in the mirrors, a little passing action.  The third rider was a little more fun.  One of the top riders this time, and we were the ones doing the passing!  Turns out you need to be able to pick your rider out from the other one during a pass.  One pass was a three-way affair, with motors and cars and the media circus and everything. The motors just got out in front and waited for it to sort itself out.  My guy popped out just as the finishing climb began.

Oh, and the Prime Directive of the Motoref.  DO NOT INFLUENCE THE OUTCOME OF THE RACE.  Part medical ethics – “primum non nocere” paraphrased from Hippocrates…part Star Trek Prime Directive – “no interference”, which combine to suggest that the best Motoref work is usually invisible.  The skilled Motoref is never in the photo, you know.

Good times.  Then it was back home to change vehicles and go to a totally different event the next morning.  More about that next time.

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