The big races are far and away a different experience than the NRC calendar. The infrastructure is so much more intense. Take sign-in for instance: an NRC race sign-in is often a folding table in the middle of a deserted parking lot, with a single official checking off riders. At the Tour of California, you’ve got to hand your bike off to a volunteer, bushwhack through a thicket of fans (signing autographs along the way), climb a set of stairs up to the stage, wink at the podium girl as she hands you a Sharpie, sign your name, smile for the photographers, and (if you’re unlucky) answer questions from the announcer. It’s a lot crazier. —Sam Johnson