Camping and Viewing ATOC Stage 7 at Mt. Diablo

For the first time in the history of Amgen Tour of California, the queen stage (the hardest, ultimate stage of the race), is in the Bay Area.  Also, since the tour was going from south to north, I didn’t follow the tour down … I basically waited for it to come here.  We were all waiting with great anticipation for this stage, and so when Ruth tweeted that she’s reserving a camp site for this, and asked if I was interested, you bet I jumped at the opportunity.

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The only drawback of this was I was not going to be able to view the Time Trial in San Jose.  I probably could have seen it, then met up at the camp site, but I didn’t want to hassle with driving, and traffic, so met up with everyone at Marco and Ruth’s house, and load up for the weekend camping trip.

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So we got to the campsite in Live Oak at Rock City. I’ve always whizzed past this on my previous rides up Diablo, so it was a little refreshing to actually enjoy the scenery … ooh, what a concept.

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After seeing up camp, we decided to scope out the best views to see where we should see the stage. We found a spot about 3km from the top, just past Camp Juniper, with a view of the road leading up to Camp Juniper, then having them whip around the hairpin. This would be an awesome spot.

Going back to Camp, I just realized I didn’t really come camping prepared. I forgot how cold it would get overnight. I didn’t bring a jacket (other than a windbreaker) and had to rely on arm warmers and knee warmers.

Our camping neighbors were a pair of families with some 5-7 year olds … and you know what a challenge they could be. They were so challenging that we didn’t need an alarm clock. At 6 am, I could hear the kid yelling “I want to play in the bush”, and was telling that with an attitude and a vengeance. Oof … I hope things improve with the kid layer on. Later I told the dad he’s got a tough job. Luckily we didn’t have to be on the road till about 9 or 10.

Now I brought this solar powered battery pack, with hopes I can charge the phone. Well I was able to get a slight charger out of it, but I couldn’t get more out of it. My phone was down to 60% charge, but I was only setting one red led lit .. normally I should see a green led. I later found out it shuts off after it fully charged a unit. I didn’t realize that it has a switch, until I came home. That teaches me for trying a new gadget without testing before a camping trip. Oh well, let’s see how long the phone lasts.

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Marco and I rode up ahead, but we could only get to a little past the 2 km mark. They had a bike valet there, and no bikes were allowed past that point. We met fellow ultra distance cyclist Jason. He made it up here .. you guessed it … on his fixie. If we wanted to continue on, we would have to hike it up the rest of the way. No thanks … we decided to just go back down to Camp Juniper.

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We settled in above Camp Juniper, and we were the first ones at that spot. It was only a matter of time before everyone else discovered that spot as well, and it soon turned into a zoo. I was soon fighting for my spot, and what was a great unobstructed view became a challenge.

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I don’t see how photographers do it .. film spring events with these challenges.

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Then the race came up to our spot. Talk about a madhouse ….

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Now usually when they race up, you wait for either the broom car, or the end of convoy car, and that gives you the sign it is safe to go down the hill.

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I don’t know if this happens in other events, but in all the ATOC hill stages I have been to, fans always break that rule, and ride down the course before all the racers have completed the course. That just drives me crazy. Maybe that’s the course Marshall in me.

When we finally went down, there was mad confusion at the junction. Seems like the course marshalls were trying to direct the team’s to go straight, even trying to direct the fans to go straight. Well over of those fans was Joy, who was camping with us. It turned out she went a couple miles down the hill before realizing this did not look familiar, and better turn back. Marco went ahead and picked her up in the van, but at least she got more climbing than the rest of us.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Camping and watching the tour … what a great combination.

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