Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tour of California Stage 3 spectating

I rode over Hwy 84, first misty, but then a steady rain at the summit, near Skylonda (but technically Woodside). 84 is normally too heavily trafficked to be popular with local cyclists, except as a descent where good riders can outpace most cars. It's the easiest route up to Skyline in the area: Old La Honda Road, Kings Mountain Road, and Page Mill Road (in order of increasing difficulty) all much-preferred. TOC tried to get Page and OLH, but residential resistance meant they had to go with 84. In any case, I rode 84 today in the spirit of the race.

Fortunately, the skies cleared as I descended to the west, a long gradual downhill into the town of La Honda. after passing through, a left onto Pescadero at the "5 km to KOM" sign took me into the redwoods.

A short rise, a bit of flat, then a right over the bridge marking the climb proper of Haskins Hill. Here it was chilly, the roads a bit damp, but thankfully no rain. This climb is the highlight of the annual Pescadero Road Race each June, so I think about that race every time I climb it. Really, really nice.

Tunitas summitThe pack crests Tunitas on way to Haskins Hill (Franz Kelsch)

At the top I waited for the riders. It was a bit longer than I'd anticipated: the pace was obviously restrained. But eventually, they came amidst the usual motorcade: first the break, then a gap of around three minutes, then the peloton taking up the full width of the road. At least the break seemed determined: the pack was at a conversational pace. Armstrong, in fact, was riding next to the Radioshack car, conversing with someone inside, his teammates mostly at the front of the pack chatting together.

After they passed, I was starting to shiver from the chill, so I headed back down the way I'd come. As I descended a lone Spidertech rider was climbing the hill, well behind the broom. I wonder if he finished.

Going back to my office I climbed Alpine Road, descending Page Mill. Both absolutely spectacular roads with amazing views. It's too bad the race couldn't have passed that way. Still, I'm grateful it was able to even get the route it got: cycling events always face resistance on the roads surrounding Woodside, CA.

I'd always known the real action would begin on Bonny Doon. And this turned out to be even more true than I'd predicted: not even a chase group. Just the leaders moving along, the pack moving along, and lots of cars. I didn't even get any photos out of it: I'd brought a good camera, but had forgotten to insert the memory card. So was it a mistake to watch from Haskins Hill, rather than ride down to Davenport for the final, critical climb? I don't think so. I saw them on my home turf, in a sense. These are roads I've ridden many, many times, roads I know very well. That's really cool. I felt like I was sharing something with the international pro peloton. Letting them in on the secret which is the spectacular beauty of the roads in the open space and parkland of the otherwise crowded and sprawled San Francisco Bay area.

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