Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tour of California, Stage 2

On Monday I rode up to see the second stage of the 2012 Tour of California pass through the Santa Cruz mountains.

View ToC Stage 2 in a larger map

The stage started in San Francisco, went down Route 1. It climbed Bonny Doon, went through Boulder Creek, then climbed Bear Creek Road to Summit. It went southeast on Summit, then down Soquel/San Jose to its finish in Capitola.

I had scouted the route earlier, and decided that I'd hang out on Bear Creek Road. It was too far from the finish to be selective, but I figured that this late in the stage, the riders would be strung out a bit. And there were steep-enough sections to allow for pictures.

The last sprint, at the top of the hill
just before the Summit Store
I started out early, and rode up to the Summit Store for lunch. At this point it was cold, and even raining a little. After lunch I reversed the course, riding northwest on Summit, passing the last sprint and the Bear Creek KOM point in reverse order. I found my place on Bear Creek Road. Originally I was thinking about a steep section near 1500 feet of elevation, but in the end I watched from a less-steep section near 2000 feet, figuring that the peloton would have strung out more nearer the top.

The last of the breakaway, nearly caught
In retrospect, I should have continued riding, somewhere. It was a long, cold wait. There were hundreds of riders climbing the hill, some looking amazingly strong. I saw the distinctive banana-shaped, power-assisted bike of Bill Bushnell pass by. And then finally, after perhaps 20 motorcycle police and other official vehicles, the lone leader passed through.

The peloton, climbing too fast for my camera.
Chris Horner is near the center.
He was followed a few seconds later (5 seconds, according to my photo timestamps) by the peloton, which passed by so quickly that I could only get two pictures. In fact, they were literally a blur. As they were passing by I couldn't recognize anyone.

The peloton caught the break just past my position, but alas, that happened during a commercial on the television coverage so I didn't appear on the broadcast.

Tom Boonen, two minutes back
As I had hoped, there were in fact stragglers. Some looked young enough to be my kid, and several were really suffering. The only rider I recognized as he passed by was Tom Boonen, two minutes down.

The main peloton had passed by in silence, but these groups in the back were quite chatty. One guy from Garmin was introducing himself to a fellow American on a continental squad, and another (apparently English-speaking) rider was asking for something I didn't catch in completely un-accented Spanish.

The last two riders, contending with traffic
Eventually the last of the riders and team cars passed through. I slowly packed my stuff and rode up the hill, now following the path of the race. As I walked my bike through the KOM point, threading through cars, pedestrians and other bikes, officials were making the point that the course was still closed. I assumed that warning was meant for cars, since clearly the race was over, but as I passed skyline the officials more emphatically pointed out that riders were still on the road, so I pulled over. I was incredulous, but sure enough two guys came flying through a couple of minutes later.

After that I very slowly descended Bear Creek Road, along with hundreds of others, and headed home over Kennedy.

Elevation profile
This was a 43-mile ride, with 3900 feet of climbing, apparently. It took over seven hours, but for more than 3 hours of that I wasn't moving. It was only the second time I've ever seen a professional race in person; the previous time was the final time trial in the 1992 Tour du Pont, won by Greg Lemond in Washington DC.

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