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Sunday, 10:46 a.m. — I slide into the passenger front seat of a 2011 Mini Cooper Sunday. It belongs to Team Exergy, a renewable energy company based in Boise, Idaho. It is one of two team cars that will follow and support the eight Team Exergy riders throughout Stage One of the Amgen Tour of California. All 16 cycling teams have two team cars. To those 32 cars add vehicles with race officials, law enforcement, medical personnel and a bunch of motorcycles. The caravan will number about 100 vehicles snaking its way to Sonoma County. Feels more like an invasion than a bike race.

10:54 a.m. — "Someone once paid $500 to get in a team car and do one lap of a 13-mile circuit in Philly," said Ken Mills, the driver and Exergy's assistant director. It's easy to see why: You never stop for a red light or a stop sign. You rarely go the speed limit. People do crazy things (See: 1:07 p.m. for further details).

11:02 a.m. — A blind draw determines the order in which the team cars follow each other. Exergy is No. 15. It will slip in and out if its slot to find a rider and his needs, which could be food, bike parts, instruction. It's a 115.9 miles of cars constantly moving up or back, never trailing the car in front of you by more than two cars' length. "It helps (to drive a car in a bike race) if you've raced before," said Mills, who raced in America and abroad for 10 years.

11:12 a.m. — We pass seven CHP cars as we near Graton. Did I say this was fun or what?

11:21 a.m. — Exergy's Sammy Johnson has been in the eight-man break from the beginning. "Sometimes we need to keep a leash on him," Mills said. "We don't want him to drive (lead) the break. We don't want him to kill himself."

11:32 a.m. — A rider in the break relieves himself while staying with the lead group. "No one in a break," Mills said, "takes the time to stop for a pee."

11:40 a.m. — The eight-man break is 7:05 minutes ahead of the peloton. "The rule of thumb." Mills said, "is this: For every 10 kilometers, it takes a minute to bring the break back to the group."

12:01 p.m. — There is no salary cap in the upper echelons of pro cycling. A Pro Tour team can spend as much as they want. "BMC will spent probably around $10-15 million a year," Mills said. A Continental team, Exergy will spend between $600,000 and $1 million annually. Unlimited spending? My, how Major League Baseball teams would love to have no salary ceiling.

12:30 p.m. — Mills speeds past all the team cars and official cars to remind Johnson not to burn himself out. "We say that every rider has three to four bullets in his gun in every race," said Mills, 43. "He only has three or four times in which he can red-line it."

12:31 p.m. — Johnson responds by saying, "I'm a little scared. These guys are going to smoke me on the KOM." Johnson is not a climber.

1:07 p.m. — On the Russian River bridge into Monte Rio, a woman lifts her top.

1:34 p.m. — Over the race intercom, Mills is told to race to the break. How did Johnson communicate help? "He raises his hand and an official riding behind him sees it," said Mills, referring to cycling's version of the call button.

2:02 p.m. — Mills practically drives off the Fort Ross Road when he sees Tom Ritchey standing there all by himself. "The man who made mountain biking happen," exclaims Mills, as if he just saw a vision.

2:22 p.m. — We're cranking down Myers Grade Road. Going 60, maybe a little more at times. Mills handles the car beautifully. We are basically keeping pace with the break. I felt like asking Mills to stop for some cotton candy so I can enjoy the ride even more.

2:45 p.m. — We turn onto Coleman Valley Road. "Please do not paint signs on the roadway," read a sign that apparently was heeded well.

2:50 p.m. — A woman dressed as what looks to be Joan of Arc points a sword skyward while looking into the distance. I love off Broadway theater.

2:53 p.m. — Off to the right as we climb Coleman Valley a chubby man dances and waves his arms wildly, looking like a guy who lost all motor control. Mills calls him "a nozzle" and even though I am not quite sure what it means, I love it.

3:09 p.m. — Johnson asks for a Coke. He needs the rush now. He is still with the break but he is a bit off the pace, but still in hailing distance. "Dig, Sammy! Dig!" Mills screams.

3:13 p.m. — We are trying to catch up to the riders after a nature break. We are on Occidental Road, going faster than 50 miles an hour. It was an unvarnished thrill, crossing over two lanes on this one-way road.

3:26 p.m. — On Occidental Road a car comes at us from the opposite direction. He's in the other lane as he passes us. It's still a closed one-way two-lane road! Didn't that bother you, I ask Mills. "A bit," he said.

3:28 p.m. — A rider is holding onto his team car. A moment later an occupant in that team car places his hand on the rider's back, pushing him. "Isn't that illegal?" I naively ask. Sure it is, Mills said. "But there's no officials around." I will not name the rider. It's the humane thing to do. He was obviously suffering enough.

3:39 p.m. — A law enforcement official, in a flashing police car behind us, says from the bullhorn, "Do not go on the street until you see the last CHP vehicle!" And I wonder, how will the people know?

3:45 p.m. — That cop car still has on his lights, horn beeping. It's been seven minutes now. "This is the longest I have been in front of a cop car with its lights on ... " And Mills finished the sentence ... "Without getting pulled over?" Exactly.

3:56 p.m. — Johnson fatigues, drops from the break and finishes 4:53 behind winner Peter Sagan. He had a magnificent ride until he got to the top of Coleman Valley Road and dropped.

4:13 p.m. — We are nearing Santa Rosa. Mills is a bit tired and disappointed, for Johnson looked like he was going to be good to the end. "And, then I think I could be sitting in an office. I make less money than I could be making but I love what I do. I have too many friends in the corporate world who are miserable."

4:14 p.m. — Being miserable would mean you would do whatever you could not to be this miserable again. Myself, I'd do this 115.9 mile ride again. Tomorrow.

For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky's blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.