Viewing Amgen Tour of California Stage 3 – Tunitas Creek

This year, I am viewing the Tour of California as a spectator.  Last year, I volunteered to be a traveling Course Marshall, and that was a lot of work.  But what I noticed was I wasn’t really able to enjoy the race as a spectator.  This year, I decided to be a spectator.

I decided to wait until the tour comes to our backyard, so Stage 3 comes to Tunitas Creek.  They climb Tunitas Creek, before descending King’s Mountain, then head towards the coast via Hwy 84.

This year, the tour is held in May, in an effort to avoid the rain, and avoid the cold … well, that was a nice plan.  Guess what … it’s mid-May, and we have rain and cold.  As luck would have it, I would get a flat, on a cold and wet day.  I eventually got to the base of King’s Mountain, and as soon as I get onto King’s Mountain, there is a constant stream of cyclists climbing up King’s Mountain Road.  One thing I found odd … I saw a bunch of riders going in the reverse direction.  Now that is the direction in which the racers will be going, so maybe they just wanted to ride the same route as the racers?  I just found that curious.

The rain wasn’t too hard, but it was constant … like a heavy drizzle (hmmm, is that an oxymoron?).  In any event, I was getting more damp, and more wet, and how I wish I had brought my rain shoe boots.  Now my feet are soaking wet, and I’m still climbing Kings.  You never realize how much rain and cold will drain you until you actually try climbing it.

Most of the hard climbing is not at the top of the hill, but actually 3 miles down from the top.  So the KOM for this climb is not that significant (in my opinion).  Heck, I can actually pick up some pretty good speed in the final 2 miles of the climb.

It seems the further I go down the other side, the colder it gets.  Finally, I see my friend Steve, from Alto Velo, at about the last steep section of Tunitas Creek, where it makes a sweeping right hand turn.  This is where I would stake my spot.  This is a nice spot, not just because of the view, but also the way the trees are, it is sheltering me from rain drops, in the event the rain does start getting harder.

Some of the tour vans/trucks will throw out freebies to the crowd.  I was anticipating they would hand out a bunch of cow bells, or thunder sticks or something like that.  Last year, LiveStrong handed out a bunch of chalk where fans can write messages to their favorite cyclists (but I think this created too much chalk dust when they pass by).  This time, they threw out something, but we couldn’t tell what it was.

Ok, how many cyclists does it take to decipher a freebie?  Four seems to be the magical number … and what was the freebie???  a stinkin’ patch kit.  I guess economic times are tough, aren’t they?

This spot was getting more and more popular.  We had some marine boot camp stop by our same spot … I think they knew about this spot, as later, I saw a big bus at the top, and they just ran their boot camp down 3 miles just to view the race.

More and more marines were coming down, till we had almost 40 marines there.  Looks like we won’t have a security problem here.  Looking for a few good men?  How about a few good cyclists?  Sorry, I had to throw that one in.

We even had the Kings Mountain elementary school pay a visit.  I met my friend Alan (aka SesameCrunch, from bikeforums.net) there.  His kid is in the elementary school, and they were there to cheer on the likes of Lance, DZ, Levi, George, and other American cyclists.  This was truely becoming an awesome venue.

It’s a good thing we had all this much going on where we were … otherwise, we’d be bored out of our gorge.  Being cold and wet is one thing, but suffering through that with nothing to do???  That would be pure torture.

The riders finally come … yippee!!!  However, due to my ineptitudes with doing action shots with my camera, most of the shots didn’t come out (and those that did came out really blurry).  Since this is the first KOM (King of the Mountain), there wasn’t a big split in the group.  There was a small group of 5 that charged up ahead … but the rest of the pack stayed intact on the climb up Tunitas.  I have never before seen a 100 rider pack, all ride together up Tunitas.  I heard one report they were going up Tunitas at 16 mph …. that’s 16 mph.  I’d be lucky if I maintained 6-7 mph.

Ok, that is it … now to get off the mountain.  Since it is so wet and slick, I’m not in a real hurry to get down the mountain.  I had made it down without incident, but about 500 yards from the bottom of Kings, we see a rider down.  That is definitely not what I wanted to see.  It turns out the cyclist was riding a touring bike, with panniers on both sides … he was carrying some road cones … what the heck is he doing carrying road cones on his bike?  Perhaps this caused some inbalance, and he lost balance?  He was a little cut up, but what drove me crazy was that he was on his back, and he kept trying to roll around, move, and do everything that someone injured should not do.  We kept telling him not to move, but he wouldn’t listen.

I waited long enough for CHP, fire trucks, and paramedics to come.  Out of respect, I chose not to take any pictures … these are scenes I do not want to take.

As soon as I got out of Woodside, and closer to Palo Alto, I see sun, and shadows … where the heck was this while we were freezing our asses off on Tunitas Creek?

Just to add insult to injury, I get home to watch the live coverage, and they are on Bonny Doon; it is nice and sunny there.  I bet you anything that the sun popped out right after the pelaton headed towards the coast.  Just our luck.

Hopefully Stage 4 will be clear and sunny.  I definitely don’t want to be sitting in rain while on Sierra Road.

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