Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On the Up and Up!

Well things look a lot different this year on the AMGEN Tour of California!

No snow, no ice on Donner Pass Road, no cancelled stages, no low hanging marine layer on the Mt Hamilton summit...Nope, none of it!

Friend of CorduroyPlanet, KirkVallus is in town for the race, and we rolled away from the SturgeUrge Compound a little after 10AM Tuesday morning headed for Mt Diablo. The race was climbing Mt Diablo for the first time, and we wanted to be up on the Devil Mountain at the King of the Mountain summit.

The mountain is in fine springtime shape, most of the grassy hills are still green, washed with colorful rafts of wildflowers looking from a distance like masterpieces from the Impressionist movement...think Claude Monet.

I had plenty of time to admire the beauty, VirkVallus was driving. Mt Diablo is a California State Park, and the roads are narrow (not to mention steep and windey) Oh, there were hundreds of bicyclists climbing the road as well!

A half an hour of climbing the mountain, and we stopped at Rock City, and paid the $10 Day Use Fee. Another 15 minutes and we found our little Valhalla 150 ft from the KOM line.

KirkVallus parked the Suburu wagon so the back would be our own private bleacher seats. We sprayed ourselves with sunscreen and took in the passing scene. We were at Junction City. There's a Ranger Station and a campground, and the road to the summit takes off from the junction with the park's main north/south thoroughfare. There were around 50 fans there when we settled in about two and a half hours before the race would pass over the summit.

Mt Diablo's Junction City KOM Summit
The people watching was World Class. A beautiful day marred only by some haze in the air. There must have been a hundred bicycles climbing the mountain for each car that did.

By the time the race was near, there were thousands of fans lining the road.

It was like a bicycle show. There were millions of dollars worth of bikes up there. Lots of high-dollar racing bikes. Composite bikes were the most common...lots of $4000-$6000 swoopy carbon fiber Time Trial bikes, and flat out racing bikes. I only saw one Lightspeed Titanium frame...these used to be the favored "unobtanium" weapon for poseurs and racers alike.

As the crowds built, we spied some beautiful old classic bikes. We saw a good half dozen LeMond bikes from the late 80s-early 90s. Beautifully brazed steel frames from America's first Tour de France Champion, Greg LeMond. I saw LeMond ride through downtown Truckee years ago on his training ride. He blew a shift and cussed as he turned right from West River Street onto HWY 267 heading back to Lake Tahoe.

I started snapping pictures of the more interesting bikes. A grizzled old guy on an old classic lugged steel framed Masi asked if he could park his bike next to the car. I said sure and snapped a photo. The frame was gorgeous, but the wheelset was the most modern carbon fiber rims with radial bladed titanium spokes.

Naturally 95% of the rides were road bikes. Mountain Bikes were the other 5%. We only saw two tandems and one recumbent.

Once the crowd filled in, I was struck by all the people on their handheld devices.

A couple of mountain bikers made a Facetime Video Call to their office to brag at a coworker about where they were and what they were doing as they wagged their gelato pops in front of the iPhone.

I didn't notice just how many people were on their devices until I got home and looked at my photos on my laptop. In some photos everyone was using a device!

I started taking pictures of people taking pictures...without much luck. Most of these people were quick draw experts with their digital cameras and iPhones.

Of course there's an app for the Tour. I asked our nearest neighbor if she had the TourTracker App. She didn't know about the app, but said she was getting tweets, and that the peloton had just gone through the sprint in Livermore.

Perfect. I'd printed the Stage Map and Stage Log before we left, and I looked at the log and it said The race would pass our place at hour and ten minutes away...

About 3 hours after the first photo...10 minutes before the peloton arrived Use the Stop Sign as a reference point
The crowd kept was a huge party...without the sloppy drunks...this was a fitness crowd...and as the race neared, the volume of the crowd grew along with the excitement.

The caravan began to stream by. All the Marshalls, Race Directors, Highway Patrol cars and bikes with lights a-blazing, yipping their sirens, then the crowd roared and the four men in the breakaway blew by. Pro cyclists go crazy fast...UPHILL!

The tweets said the break was almost nine minutes. The crowd kept itself on a slow boil. I listened for the helicopters, but never saw or heard them overhead as the main field approached. Truth be told, I'm sure the choppers cam right over us, but we couldn't hear them over the crowd.

It was an awesome spectacle. Team CorduroyPlanet's Peter Sagan won his third stage in a row. Well done...

1 comment:

  1. aka as "electronic leashes" or "tethers" (handheld devices). I can't believe how people freak out if they have no reception. I can actually see the terror in their eyes.

    Where am I? Like who really gives a flying gug?

    Anyway, the Mount Diablo is a beautiful mountain, especially when wearing her verdant green spring colors. However, the oaks are in sad shape due to the sudden oak death disease. Often spread in the rainy season (unintentionally) by those that ride mountain bikes in the mud.

    I can't imagine a California without an oak tree. I guess that's evolution for ya.

    Sounds like a good day was had by all. Wish I was there. But it was pretty awesome in the fog shrowded Mt. Hamilton with the telescope bubbles in the background.