Sun Breaks through for the Tour – Stage 4

After continuous rain from Saturday through Tuesday, everyone was waiting for the sun to come out. Low and behold, when I woke up today, the sun was shining. However, it was by no means warm … this morning, weatherbug showed it being 38 F in Merced.

This morning was an early start, loading luggage at 7:30 am, and leaving by 8 am. Due to where our drop-off points were, we volunteered ourselves to be reconnaissance for the rest of the groups, and scope out good alternate routes for the course marshalls to beat the pack and get their drop off points all situated. So we drove off past the first drop off point (which was the sprint in Mariposa), and scoped out Triangle Road, which skips over some portions of the main road, and the course route in Mariposa.

It was a really hairy alternate route driving wise, but it did have lots of snow on the shoulder. We timed it as being 10 minutes faster taking this alternative route, so we did our duty for the team. It would have been interesting if the tour went on this route, but it would have been really hairy.

Once we finished our reconnaissance mission, we proceeded to our drop off point in Mariposa. I was moved to be the course marshall to warn the riders to slow down, as coming off a sprint, they are approaching a really sharp, unbanked right turn. The fans in Mariposa were great. There was such an air of enthusiasm that I would have to say it was the best crowd. Nothing ever comes through that town, and to have a world class cycling race to come into their town, it must have really boosted their tourism business. Everyone came out, and it brought the community together.

After the sprint, we were picked up, and followed the pelaton through the course, to the next KOM, and sprint. As we passed through, the crowds were really crazy, but excited. The one bad thing though, was there was a bad crash. I think it was due to the sand on the road, as a result of the snow that was dumped the previous days. Kirchen and Ferrare both had broken collarbones, and I had the unfortunate opportunity to see them being carried off in the ambulance. I hope they do okay.

I wasn’t able to do any twitter updates from Mariposa, due to lack of cell tower coverage there. That’s the only bad thing about this stage, but you had to have experienced this in person. There are no words to describe the atmosphere. I do hope the tour comes back next year to Mariposa, as the crowd was fun, enthusiastic, and it’s a quaint little town. It’s towns like these that needs to boost from the sport of cycling.

I was then dropped off about 7 miles from the finish, just outside the city of Clovis, at Northfork. The crowds there were crazy too. I worked a corner that featured a steep rollie hill, and they would be picking up speed as they entered the right turn. I made sure that I held the flag up high enough so that the riders could see my flag pointing them into the correct direction. Visibility here was an issue, as cars ahead of them are picking up dust. The turn went on without issue, which was all we could ever ask for.

I got a kick out of one local course marshall, trying to get a the cap off the top of my head as a souvenir. She wanted to trade my Tour of Ca shirt for a Team in Training shirt … umm, I think there is a little bit of a difference in prestige between the two, and had to say no … but she was persistent. It’s fun dealing with local volunteers, and it’s all about having a good time.

I was able to snag a Rock Racing water bottle, as they were just throwing these things out left and right.

This was one of the most scenic stages in the history of the Tour of California. The snow and the backdrop of the Sierras made this a breathtaking stage.

I heard that at the finish, one of the command cars stopped right after the finish, causing a bunch of riders to immediately stop, stumbling over each other … not quite the most elegant way to end a stage race.

I’m now in Clovis .. where the heck is Clovis. And what the heck is in Clovis? I don’t know, but maybe I’ll just hang out in the bar next door, and see what everyone else is doing.

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