So, if you’re following along in the suite of ways that you can check in on a person these days (twizzling the InstaFace so to speak,) it’s not hard to see that I’m in California and I have been for the past several weeks. First, there was the riding of The Rapha Prestige in Los Angeles, then there was the Tour of California; I can barely believe that one whole year has passed by since this trip, and that now a whole new book of memories and stories has been created surrounding this great race, with these great riders, and these people in this place. And, I can hardly believe what a difference a year makes.
Last year just the wake up calls were a wake up call. Cookies were just a twinkle in my eye. We baked hundreds of meals – yes, fed hundreds of mouths and powered some 700 miles across California. And, at this time last year I felt the same sense of exhaustion/excitement/relief/overwhelming. But this year, I feel there’s more.
The behind the scenes are the same: upon arrival, all the teams, athletes, directors and mechanics are head down, busy in thought, and caught up in the preparations. Reality strikes immediately for us too; early wake up calls to make ride food + portables. I always assume that these wee-hour wake up calls will crush me, but this year that didn’t happen. In fact, the lack of sleep I was getting seemed to inspire me more; this year, sitting in the cockpit and coordinating our culinary activation allowed me the opportunity to watch as more and more people learn how to do this special thing we do; this “real-food-thing-for-athletes” thing. Feeding the hungry mouths of the peloton – any and every rider in it, and sometimes their support staff too – is what we do; this year, we did it with new ideas and flavors on food that we’ve never expressed before. The more robust, authentic, dynamic and flooded with new energy + perspective our kitchen becomes, the more the Tour seems to pick its head up, to look around, to see us slinging rice all over ourselves, elbows deep in cookie dough, underslept and still having fun. The more they enjoy the food. They can taste the love, and when they do, it brings a whole new level of….something … to bike racing. The more this Tour becomes special, at least in part because we’re on it.
Ya, ya, so we made some 600 pounds of rice, and we baked some 2900 cookies (!!) with the cookie mix. Last year, we baked only 500 cookies the entire race. In my mind, (and in tired legs, hands + arms sore from mixing and carrying, and my brain weary of coordinating the logistics and considering the details that a team of 10 personalities on the road requires) these numbers are huge, these steps are big, and are mostly measured in the number of people that we got closer to this week. There was that one rider who circled back 7 times in an hour to pluck cookies from my mixing table, the sweet volunteers at the Time Trial whom had set up an impromptu barrier system for hours and smelled lunch being served – we sent them away with a smile and bowls of steaming hot food. There was the team of shy riders who hunted down our trailer for late night cookie snacks and left smiling and giggling, and the in-the-know rider who introduced them to The Good Stuff. The soigneurs who admitted (blushing) to sneaking bacon + maple rice cakes into their pockets for long days in the car, and the athletes from the Netherlands, France, Italy and beyond to made the point in whatever sentences they could muster that what they had eaten – made by our hands on the day – was so good, they couldn’t help but try to thank us.
These people, and the opportunity to get to know them, are the entire reason we come to the Tour of California. Real food does something to people – all people, in all places – and on bikes, in times of stress and suffering and need this is so very easy to see. Good food cooked with all the heart is good for our hearts, and good for the hearts of those we feed too.
This afternoon, I’ll flash a pass at the VIP tent near the finish line of the 2015 tour and have the chance to watch the last moments of a very exciting race, congratulate the riders on a fabulous week, and start to say goodbye to all the people that have supported us here. Then the withdrawal will begin; we’ll all actually miss the smell of rice early in the morning, and the smell of cookies baking; the feeling of mixing cookie dough by hand and the excitement of hunting through the pantry in the food trailer to search out new recipes. We’ll miss the snide jokes and crude humor that is part of our early morning ritual, and the belly laughs that carry us through the late evenings when no one else is around to hear them. But, most of all we’ll miss the enthusiasm and support of all the people here who – by the end of the week – are going out of their way to catch our eye, to pat us on the back, and say hello. We’re so proud to cook for you, ya know. We’re so proud to lay all of it on the line for you.
We’re all tired, and ready for this big circus to be over, but in the next hours I’m going to try to bottle up all the emotion that goes into this week and save it….I’ll need it to last me until next year. Thanks for a great week in California, friends. And to the team of People From Skratch who worked with us this week, you’re EVERYTHING.
Here are a few favorite images from the 2015 Tour of California, #fromSkratch. Many of them were shot by our photographer + friend, Peyton Skelton. Enjoy and more from the road soon! xoxo – L