Category Archives: Tour of Ca

ATOC means another 1 week PTO for Me

It’s that time of year again … Amgen Tour of California is coming to our backyards.  This always gets me excited … there are several things I look at on the calendar … Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and the week of Amgen Tour of California.

This year, it will come up and over Mt. Hamilton, before making its way to Morgan Hill.  This gives me a great excuse to climb Mt. Hamilton.  I had to look up the time on the ATOC web site, to see what approximate time they are expected to reach the KOM on Mt. Hamilton … it stated 1:45 PM.  Hmm … well I was originally going to start off around 9 am, so that I can get to the top by noon.  Things didn’t go so smoothly .. I always forget to bring something.  Even after all that, I managed to forget to bring my gloves.  D’oh.

I drove over to Cataldi Park, which is about a mile away from the base of Mt. Hamilton Road.  I didn’t want to park right at the intersection, as some residents there don’t like when us roudy cyclists take over their neighborhood.  I didn’t get going from there till 9:40 am.  By the time I got up over the top, it was around 12:40 pm.  Dang, 3 hours … I’m getting old and slow.

They didn’t have the KOM banner set up yet … I was trying to get near the KOM, but I couldn’t find it.  Well, I decided to go beyond the 1 mile marker (they have mile markers painted on the road, such that you can see it from a chopper hovering overhead).  I figure this would be a good spot, where we could still see some suffrage on some of the riders.

The pack didn’t arrive until around 2:15 pm (original estimate was 1:45 pm).  I guess the previous day, with 14,000 feet of climbing, spent a bunch of the racer’s legs.  This stage was still 9,000-10,000 feet of climbing, so it’s no slouch either.

We lucked out on weather, as by the time the riders came by, it was comfortable, short sleeve and shorts weather.  However, by the time we headed down the mountain, it started getting cold and breezy.

Amgen Tour of California was on this week, and as tradition, I took the week off.  I mean why not?

It started out pretty spectacularly.  I put out feelers to see who would be playing hookey, someone I can hang out with to watch the stage.

Lorri gives me a big surprise … She won a VIP pass for stage 2, but couldn’t make it.  She offered it to me.  Wow!

So I go there, not knowing where I’m supposed to go … I guess I’ll throw out the VIP term …  That gets people’s attention really fast.  I eventually get the star treatment and was able to meet Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin, in person.  But like an idiot, I didn’t think about getting any autographs, but I did get a picture.

Since I am in the VIP section, I was able to get very close to the finish line.

and I was actually able to get some podium shots too.  That was really cool!

The finish was at the top of Metcalf Road at the motorcycle Park, which meant narrow, twisting switchbackroads leading to the park.  These were also fairly steep roads, so when spectators ride up here, they have to be careful to control their speeds going down.  Well, one of them didn’t, and went down, which meant that narrow road was blocked … Our shuttle couldn’t get to us.  So we ended up waiting for the shuttle till about 6 pm (the race ended at 4 pm).  Everything was being torn down, and be we are here waiting for our shuttle.  Same thing happened last time it was here.  No matter how many times they preach to slow down, take your time, someone gets hurt coming off the mountain.

The next day, the start is at Pismo Beach, which is a long drive.  I originally wanted to go see the start, but I would have needed to get a really early start.  To complicate matters, my dad had some stomach problems, and I felt I should go there, instead of going to the start.  Oh well … Family matters take precedence always.  

Dad is doing well … He’s getting up there in age, and diarrhea can be a common occurrence, so I just had to be on the safe side.

I was next planning to see the Queen’s stage on Thursday, up Mt. Baldy.  That’s an epic stage, that actually does a loop from Baldy Rd to Glendora Ridge Road, to Hwy 39, up Glendora Mountain Road, back to Glendora Mountain Road, before going up Mt. Baldy to the ski lift.  I could actually cat h them coming by twice​.  It was madness, lots of fun, and one big wild party.  

There was a jester, guys in duck suits, superhero outfits (there was a guy dressed up in a Wonder Woman outfit).  Only thing missing was antler man, and the priest.

This was at what we call the Cow Saddle.  When they make the left turn onto Glendora Ridge Road, they have a short 10-13% climb up to this point.  We were yelling, screaming, banging cowbells …

After the pelaton went through, and everybody left, I headed along the course to catch them on the return.  I wanted to be see them coming up the KOM on GMR.  I found a spot by the shack, and there was already a crowd settled there.  While waiting, guys were forming a wave.  Never thought I’d see that.

We can tell the pack was coming when we see choppers above us.

Of course, the big caravan of Vans, CHP, photo cars was another big indication.

I got a little better view this time, because it was not as insane as soon the Cow Saddle, but it was still pretty crazy.

Wow that was fun.  However, spectators who don’t know how these races work, always think the exciting part is over and want to head down, not knowing it is not the end of the convoy …. The race is still going on.  I gotta hand it to the Course Marshall … He kept everyone inline, had everyone behave very well.

I could have made the slog up the ski lift for more madness, but my legs weren’t feeling it today, but at least what I did see be was a blast.

Some people go to Europe, Hawaii, Asia for vacation …. Me, I follow a world class bike race.  It’s my ritual.

ATOC Stage 4 – a Bay Area Cycling Holiday!

We should make it a cyclist holiday … every year, and I think it’s the same stage, on a Wednesday, ATOC goes through San Jose, and always has a huge turnout.  Everyone must be utilizing their PTO’s this day.  The question is, which cyclist was not out here enjoying the tour, and has to be slaving away in the office?

I rode to Sierra with my friends Michael and Henry, and met up with JoBob, who took this shot.  Thanks Jo.

I also took my helmet cam with me, and took a short video of me grinding my way up the initial steep part of Sierra (and there are many other steep sections to follow too).  But when you watch it, notice the guy in front of me with the Swiss flag.  I have a hard enough time climbing Sierra, and to carry a flag, with the wind kicking around?  That’s HTFU!

With the sucky weather (in May!!!), there was still a gloomy outlook that it might rain, but luckily it held off.  It stayed dry, but it was still very chilly.  We got a spot about 1400 feet up … couldn’t miss it … there was a “Kitten of Flanders” flag proudly displayed.  Gee, could you tell it was cold???  Everyone shivering waiting for the race to come by.

Reports were that riding up to the top … you couldn’t get to the top, as it was all roped off.  Still, we had a really good spot.  We could see the riders coming from below coming up.

We got really lucky, as the race got closer and closer to Sierra, clouds shifted, and the sun shined exactly where we were.  Perfect timing.

There was huge separation between the leaders in the front, and the rest of the riders.  There were probably 10 different packs on the climb up.  After a while, we started seeing some of the lead climbers, who made it to the finish, descent back down Sierra.  Someone forgot to tell them the back of the pack is still climbing up Sierra Road.  Wow, that could have been dicey.  It was actually quite dangerous, flying down the hill, and not knowing there’s a big pelaton still climbing up the hill.

Finally, the broomwagon comes, and we now know the end of the race has passed by.  Wow, that was fun!  Now for the descent down.

For more pics, click here

Tour of California Stage 7 – Time Trial in LA

I couldn’t get enough of the ATOC, so  I made the trek to LA (oh, and visited dad while I was down here … nice excuse, eh?).

Now this time trial is right in the belly of LA … starts right by the Staples Center, goes by the Coliseum, passes through City Hall …. basically it is shutting down LA, the third largest city in America.  This is huge, and I had to be a part of this.

Not wanting to deal with traffic and hassles of getting around downtown, I decided to take Metro Rail from South Pasadena.  I had never taken Metro Rail before, so this should be interesting.  I went with my friends Mary and Joe, and we took the Gold line, transferred to the Red Line, then a short hop on the Blue line, and it dropped us right at the start of the time trial.  It wasn’t quite as bad as I thought … in fact, it was pretty smooth.  I’m going out on a limb, and saying it is even smoother than taking BART into downtown SF … ok, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea … taking the train to LA is a nice alternative.  For those in LA, wanting to get to downtown, try Metro Rail as an alternative.

It’s a good thing I didn’t decide to take my bike on Metro Rail … there was little room to manuever and many times, had to carry the bike up and down stairs, just to get around.

Ok, onto the festivities of the time trial.  First, we gotta do the usual, like searching for free schwag at the festival.  The usuals were out there … Livestrong, Radio Shack, Garmin, BMC … all the big teams with big booths.  What was surprising at this year’s TofC was no giveaway cowbells, no free Livestrong chalk.

It’s just another excuse to try finding goodies, oogle at some of the fully decked out bikes, and just wasting time before the actual event transpired.

We ended up just around the corner from Flower and 11th Street.  Since we had spent quite a bit of time at the festival, the crowd gathered finding their spots, while we were still looking for schwag.  Eventually, we did find a spot that didn’t have too many obstructions, and we also found a shade … that’s good and bad … good that we wouldn’t get sunburned … bad, in that later in the day, shadows would creep across, causing some havoc with exposure on our pics.

It turned out we were situated where we would see the riders twice each lap … and since the time trial ran for two laps, we get to see each rider 4 times.  This provided some challenges in taking action shots as the passed by in front of us.  The better shot was when they came across the other side.

I found when trying to shoot the riders passing in front of me, it tested my skills of panning with the rider.  For the fast TT riders, like Fabian Cancellara  or Dave Zabriskie, it meant having the picture not completely framed the right way.

There was a bit of an anxious moment, about a quarter of the way through the field.  One of the moto’s took the turn a little too fast, and couldn’t negotiate the right turn, and proceeded to crash into the center dividing barrier.  The rider after the moto managed to just avoid the obstacle just in time.  They were able to get the barrier back in place before the rider on the other side came through.  Kudos to the tour folks for acting quickly, so that none of the competitors were affected by this.  This was way before the GC contenders were scheduled, and this was not covered on Versus.  Lucky for the moto.

All in all, I’d say the time trial in downtown LA was a success.  Whether or not they will do it again, that remains to be seen.  Initial reports from the LAPD was very favorable, in the way it was organized and the way it was controlled.  If it was held in downtown again, I’d come back for it. Getting in and out of downtown was very smooth via Metro Rail.

We later went to the team buses to see if we could get some free schwag.  Some got lucky, but not me.  I guess I’m not persistent enough.  I was able to get a shot of Levi as he was leaving the team bus. I could tell he was not in the mood to sign, but he was gracious enough to take some time to sign a few autographs.

We also hovered around the Columbia-HTC truck, with hopes of seeing Michael Rogers (they had a big camera set up for a possible interview).  However, we didn’t hang around long enough for him to show.  Instead, I took some bike porn pictures … nice, eh?

Viewing Tour of California Stage 4 – Sierra Road

Stage 4 starts in downtown San Jose, and after a few miles, they climb vertically up Sierra Road.  Anyone, who could take the day off, who was anyone in cycling in the area, made the trek over to Sierra Road.  Some in fact climbed it all the way to the top … yours truly included.  Here’s proof … me and my friend Michael, at the top by the KOM.

They actually had an amateur competition … a Sierra Road hill challenge.  They had it all professional, with a booth and everything.  It’s pretty cool.  Too bad I didn’t find out about till later.  My friends Chris and Deborah did the challenge.  In a way, I’m glad I didn’t know about it.  Otherwise, I’d be stressing about how good … or how bad I did.  This way, I didn’t have to tweet about my power output to the rest of the Wrecking Crew.  LOL

I also got to hook up with a bunch of old friends.  This seems to be what the tour does … it provides reunion of sorts.

I met my friend Michael, from BF, at the top.  Later on, Jo, Lee, Deborah, Chris, and Bassem … we all hung out together at the top.  It was very cool.

Now this was a change … it was actually sunny out there.  The last time I was up here, for the Tour of California, it was sunny too.  Maybe this isn’t cursed after all.

After being moved around a bit, I situated myself on the right side shoulder of the finishing stretch of the KOM.  I had some really excited cycling fans to the left of me … these are the type that can’t just stand behind the white line, and have to get in the middle of the road, yelling like a crazed animal, ringing their cowbells … and obstructing everyone’s view in the process.  Why do I complain about this?  Well, there is this law of physics, you see.  In order to take a picture of an image, the light that forms the image of the object need to reach the CCD of the camera by line of sight.  If this line of sight is obstructed, you won’t get the image you want.

I was lucky enough to get one shot of the first two cyclists to make it up the KOM.  It was not one of the top GC contenders, but it was still cool to see them really charging for the line.  Gotta love Gimp (open source alternative to Photoshop).

What’s my point?  Well, if you are at the top of a KOM, and it’s a very popular KOM, don’t even try to take a picture of the racers as they go past you.  You won’t get a shot in.  I should have learned from my experiences at Balcolm Canyon 2 years ago on TOC … same thing happened, but I guess my mind is going these days.

After the pelaton had gone through, we decided to descend the other side by way of Felter, then Calaveras, then back to the cars.  Chris and Deborah didn’t know this route, so I decided to guide them through.  It’s a nice alternative, instead of just doing an out and back … plus descending the 16-20% grades we had just climbed, didn’t seem like a lot of fun.

Everything was going alright, until the cars in front of us just stopped.  One of them was a Calfire truck, and one thing I feared was that it was a cyclist down.  Why did I say that … it turned out it was a cyclist who had gone down.  Looks like they already had him in a neck brace and on a stretcher.  Oh, I hate seeing that.  This is the second day in a row I have seen this, after coming down a hill after watching the TOC go by.  Why, people why???  Be careful when you are descending.  It is not good karma to have cycling accidents on the day of the TOC.

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 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.

Reflections on the Tour

I’m sitting here waiting for my flight back to San Jose, so that gives me some time to reflect on the past week with the Tour of California. What a week this has been. Last year, when I was a spectator, I followed the tour all the way into Pasadena. Even though the weather was miserable, wet and cold, I still said this was the best vacation ever. Well, let me revise that statement. This year, being a traveling course marshall, this became my best vacation ever, even though I saw less of the race than last year.

The first thing about being a traveling course marshall is that I wouldn’t see as much of the race as other spectators. Being on the road all the time, and in most cases, without access to Versus, I am only able to see maybe 5 minutes of the tour, if that. This is the sacrifice we make by working the tour. In case you want to work the tour, let me warn you this is not for everybody. If you want to experience what it takes behind the scenes to deliver this, then this is for you.

The first priority of any course marshall is keeping the course safe, not only for the riders, but also for the spectators. This meant making sure the course is free of debris (almost an impossible job, especially in the mountains after a snow drop), keeping fans off of the race course, and making sure their toes don’t get run over by racers, or worse yet, their support vehicles. One of the constant tasks that I had was telling everyone “Please stay behind the white line” or “Please clear the course. Riders are still on the course”. This was a real challenge, especially on near the KOM summit. Stage 8 was madness, with crowds that closely resembles Alp d’Huez. The crowds lean over, and the line of crowd spills onto the course. It’s not as bad as in the Tour de France, but it could get dangerous.

When we get dropped off, obviously we have to be picked up. That is where the adrenaline is. The pick ups need to be fast and efficient, so getting onto the van, we need to time the entry, and get in and seated as fast as we can. Once that is done, if you have a good driver, you weave through the maze of other car traffic, and foot traffic, with fans not knowing that the convoy of vehicles following the race is not over. So for this one week period, I was in a van, honking at everything in its way, and speeding through as fast as legally possible, in order to get to our next drop off point. The biggest challenge as a traveling course marshall team is to get in front of the pelaton, and dropping off the course marshall, in time to do the usual crowd control. This is the adrenaline rush. As you can imagine, this can be hairy rides at times, and drammamine is standard issue every day.

A big pet peeve we have is dealing with the local course marshalls, also known as LOC or Local Organizing Committee. Course Marshall are supposed to ensure the safety of riders and spectators, but what do we see most of the time??? LOC’s taking pictures of the race. In fact, at one of my drops, the LOC was video taping the Solvang Time Trial. WTF???? We could easily spot an LOC with the bright orange T-Shirt, with the words Volunteer on the back of the shirt. We passed by the course, and blatantly saw LOC’s on their bikes, and with a huge friggin camera in their hand. What useless nonsense!

This year, since Lance is on his comeback, the Livestrong VAN gave out free chalk for everyone to write messages on the street, cheering on their favorite racers. The unfortunate after effect of this is once cars or bikes pass through, it kicks up the chalk, and leaves the air a little “chalky”. Not sure if there is much that can be done about this.

One huge bit of irony … each hotel is proud to welcome the Amgen Tour of California, but most of them did not have Versus … in fact, only one of them did (Paso Robles).

The crew I worked with was terrific. We all worked like a well oiled machine. We could count on everyone to perform the duties they needed to do, without fearing or questioning competency. Most of the crew was from either Missouri, Georgia, or Florida. The veterans had experience working the Tour of Georgia, Missouri, and California. We called ourselves Team Gamoca (Georgia, Missouri, California). The crew did have an accent, so it felt like I was in the Tour of Georgia, and not Tour of California. We all had a kick out of this.

Now, would I do this again??? Definitely, in a heartbeat. Despite the drawback of not riding at all during this time, and not being able to see a lot of the action, the adrenaline of the drop offs and pick ups is exciting and fun. We do get to see more of the country we normally don’t get to see.

Stage 8 – Finale

We stayed overnight in Rancho Bernardo, and the race actually starts here too, so we didn’t really have to get up too early. However, the transfer ride from Pasadena to Rancho Bernardo was really long. It wore out a lot of us, due in part to the traffic getting out of LA County, but in another sense, because, as Christian VandeVelde put it, “It was a very very hard day”.

Xavier rounded up the troops for one final speech to all the Traveling Course Marshalls. It was really more of what to do when we wrap it up today after the race, and how we are to get home.

Today’s day was even harder than yesterday on the riders. It featured 4 KOM climbs, of which we worked on two of them. The first climb was on Hihgland Valley Road, which was a Cat 4 climb. My drop off was actually after the KOM climb, and down in the farm fields, by the orange trees. I was dropped off at Bandy Canyon and Academy, and when I first got there, there was no one. I thought, great … I’m going to have no one at my station. However, people started coming in at the last minute, and instead of having a lonely desolate intersection, I was surrounded by around 30 fans ( most of which didn’t know anything about cycling). There was a school nearby, and that’s where all the kids came from. The only person they knew was Lance, and no matter how many times I tried to explain the sport of cycling to them, they had no clue.

I came by with a stash of cowbells, and started handing them out, one kid after another, until I just decided to put the whole bag out in the open, and let them have at it. In retrospect, I should have saved a few for my next drop, which I thought would be even bigger, and it was.

At this intersection, there were some really angry locals. Apparently, they claim there were no signs posted warning them that this street would be closed and that access would be limited. I talked to the organizer for the LOC’s here, and she did mention they did not do a very good job at giving ample warnings, so this is definitely something they’ll want to address for next year.

We followed the course until we could find a short cut, and eliminate the entire Palomar Mountain climb. We then proceeded to our next drop off, which was at the last KOM, at Cole Grade. The Technical Guide lists this as only a Cat 4 … but that’s the hardest Cat 4 anyone has ever climbed. This hill was steep … really steep … and it was hard. The only saving grace was that it wasn’t too long.

When we got there, there were already a lot of people waiting there. Roads were full of chalk already, fans were lined up on both sides of the street … The big challenge here was to get everyone to clear the course when the riders came up. This climb immediately reminded me of Balcolm, but something tells me this is even tougher, even though I never climbed Cole Grade. I would get all the usual questions … how long … where are they … how far … but at least this was definitely more of a cycling crowd, who knew how road cycling works. There was this young couple that kept taking pictures of each other, standing in the middle of the street, with the Cole Grade descent, or ascent, floating in the background. Once or twice is great, but they must have done this 10 times … enough already!

When the pelaton finally came through, everybody kept want to lean over, and everyone was inching their way onto the course. I don’t know how many times I asked them “Please stay behind the white line”. What is it about this phrase that people don’t understand. “Can’t you hear the words that are coming out of my mouth”? Thankfully, there was no issues, and the race went through smoothly. The LOC there at least was not a “Camera Club” LOC, and instructed her to make sure fans don’t go onto the course … but that was a losing battle. She wasn’t being forceful with them, but at least she wasn’t taking pictures through all of this. I almost felt like John Madden, pacing up and down the sidelines, trying to coach his way out of a mess. My voice doesn’t carry that well, and when I started yelling “Can you please get off the course”, it didn’t carry well.

The split on this climb was crazy. There was at least a 14 minute gap between the first rider and the last rider. I almost felt like this was the Alp d’Huez. The scenery was breathtaking, and the cliffs suddenly drops, similar to that in France. Although this was only a Category 4 climb, I think this ended up splitting the group more than the HC climb on Mt. Palomar. Kind of ironic, but there it is.

I tried hooking up with some friends at the finish, but things were just too crazy. I was able to snag another water bottle from Jelly Belly, which was cool.

Now, the next chore is to get back to my hotel room. Since some of the course marshalls were leaving immediately after the race, all the vans were stripped down, and we had to carry everything with us to the van that we would take to the hotel. It just happens that the van we went on had no driver. After about 15 minutes, we found out the driver hopped onto another van as a passenger. We had no driver . WTF???? We eventually found our way back, but that could have been ugly.

Anyhow, in retrospect, this was a great experience for me. I have always wanted to get the feel of what it is like to put on an elite bicycle racing tour, and you couldn’t ask for a better situation than this. I am truely honored to be able to do this, and many thanks to my friend Lynn, my contact from the inside. I want to thank Xavier, for putting up with my frequent emails, inquiring on my status as a traveling course marshall. And I especially want to thank Larry, my team captain, and the rest of my team …. Kellie, Russ, Dave, Karen, Brian, John, Pauline, and Nick. We had a really good team, and everyone got along great together. We all acted goofy while we were driving to our intended destination, but we all knew exactly what we wanted to accomplish. I could not have asked for a better set of teammates, and I really hope our paths do cross again soon.

Larry did say that I should do Tour of Missouri, and I thought that was an high endorsement. I want to thank Larry for such a huge complement, and it looks like I didn’t screw up. I think I will show interest in doing the Tour of Missouri, and hope I get invited to that, and to next year’s Tour of California.

I hope you enjoyed my daily blogs on this.

Stage 7 – Santa Clarita to Pasadena

We were very close to the start of the stage, and our roll out time was at 10 am. This allowed us to have a nice relaxing breakfast before rolling out. They had a really nice free continental breakfast. It was a whole lot better than the continental breakfast we had in Clovis (and they charged $6 for that). This was in the meeting room by the main lobby of the hotel, so we didn’t even have to wait in line. This is great! By the time I finished, it was still 1.5 hours left before we had to bring our luggage in. So what did I do to waste the time away with? What else … look for video coverage on Versus (since the room didn’t have it).

Today would be an aggressive drop and pickup. The first drop off point was after the 3 mile neutral run, then about a mile out, on Bouquet Canyon, just outside of Santa Clarita. I was basically situated on a street that had 5 house cul de sac, and for the most part, there was no activity. I lucked out, as some of the other course marshalls had busy intersections, having to deal with citizens irrate about the situation. But it’s not like they didn’t know about this. I even talked to the sheriff, and he mentioned they had a big public media blitz on this, and warned everyone a month in advance this was coming.

There wasn’t any cops stationed at my street corner, so I had to close off the street with cones. Since this was an aggressive drop off and pick up, I would immediately have to clear the cones from the intersection as soon as the end of convoy truck passed through. Luckily, there was no activity on my intersection, so when the first riders started passing through, I decided to clear the cones right then, and just use my body as the street blocker. That seem to turn out well. Kerrie and I coordinated to get picked up at the same point, so that the van wouldn’t have to do multiple pickup stops, since we were in a hurry.

After the pickup, we continued on a caravan behind the pelaton. That was a wild ride, and we all definitely had to have our drammamine fix today.

The views along the ride were glorious. There was snow still left, and of course, a lot of sand on the road. This could make for some sketchy descents, and hopefully, the riders will be aware of this (especially after Stage 4, when it went into the Sierras). My Georgia friends were amazed at the scenery and the terrain, and I could tell they were jealous that we have this terrain in California.

We passed by shprung, and later on, scootcore, just before we got to ACH. After a pitstop before the right turn on ACH, we continued on down the course. We were running short on time, so we had to bring our lunch with as after our drop off point. My afternoon drop off was near Inverness, on Linda Vista. I had the luxury of having an LOC who actually was doing their job … course marshalling!

As a side note, we have another nick name for the LOC’s … I believe I told you earlier that most of the LOC’s were not course marshalling, but actually taking advantage of their spots, and taking pictures. We called them “the camera club”. Anytime you saw someone with an orange t-shirt, and “volunteer” pasted on the back of the t-shirt, you know they are from “the camera club”.

Ok, back to the topic at hand. On my corner, there was a school teacher there, so it did help that we had a responsible adult there, making sure the kids stay put. My LOC was very consciencious, and NOT a “camera club” member. She made a point to make sure no one had there feed hanging off the curb.

There were about 6 different wave of riders passing through, and I had to remind everyone the convoy is not over yet. But still, no one listened, and I even saw some LOC’s go riding through the course … I eventually had to yell at them that the course is still closed. I guess someone up ahead told them the course is open, but if the “end of convey” truck has not passed, that is my cue that the course is not closed. This is worse than baby sitting … I have to baby sit adults!

After the convoy passed, we got picked up, but then we were asked to go to the finish line, and help out crowd control. Now this was a challenge. We had to make sure the crowd stayed behind the white line, but every now and then, they would inch their way forward. I kept having to remind them to step behind the white line.

The circuit race around the Rose Bowl was for 5 laps. One time, the pack came through, and the support vehicle went right up to our barrier. I saw one spectator with a camera, that had stepped over the line. Lucky for her, she saw the oncoming support vehicle was hugging the far edge of the street, and promptly took one step back. You see, if she had obeyed my first order, she wouldn’t have had to do that.

What I didn’t realize were that a few of my friends were at the Rose Bowl, and I didn’t contact them by phone. Sorry … I didn’t get to hook of with my friends, but I did see some familiar faces, and I tried to shout their name. They didn’t hear me … it was a crazy atmosphere out there, and there were so many people that came out to view this. I don’t have any numbers, but I am sure there were more than last year (due in large part to the weather).

Too bad Christian VandeVelde didn’t win the stage, but he did get most aggressive rider honor for this stage.

We scurried out of Pasadena after the race finished. Getting onto the freeway wasn’t too bad, but once we got to central part of Pasadena, it was bumper to bumper traffic up to Azusa, then it freed up until we got to Hwy 91. It took us a good 3.5 hours to get to San Diego. I had forgotten how bad the traffic got in LA on a Saturday. I definitely think it has gotten worse since I lived there.

I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of the tour, and the last day to spend with this fantastic group. I will certainly miss the cameraderie with this group, as this was a very enjoyable vacation. Everyone in the van was either from Florida, Georgia, or Virginia. I felt like I was in the Tour of Georgia, and not the Tour of California. They are a lot of fun, and this is an experience I will not forgot any time soon.

If you have the opportunity to become a traveling course marshall, definitely take it. If you can’t do traveling course marshall, and can only do LOC, please remember what we are here for … we are here for the safety of the riders, and the safety of the spectators. We may miss some good shots as a result of that, but everyone has to make sacrifices.

Stage 6 – Solvang Time Trial

We stayed overnight at Paso Robles, and that was pretty nice. For once, we had Versus in our hotel room, and was able to enjoy the day’s action from the comfort of our hotel room (we previously had to ajourn in the bar to watch the action). They also left a bottle of Merlot for each of us, that says “Amgen Tour of California”. These were complements of the hotel, and I thought that was really nice of them.

Today was still going to have good weather, but the morning was still a bit chilly. My hope was that by the time we got to Solvang, the temp would warm up, and it did.

Part of my duties, every day, is to get water/drinks for the team, to load up in the van. The food and supplies crew was still prepping up, so they weren’t ready for us to pick up our supplies. I finally was able to browse through some of the vendors, and see some of the teams set up. Everyone was waiting around the Astana team van and bus, and it was crazy there. Garmin team wasn’t set up yet, so I went over to BMC, and checked out their nice TT bikes.

After getting drinks, we brought them back to the van, and we proceeded to our drop off points. My drop off point was at the intersection of Grand and Park St. I basically had to keep residents on Park from entering the course on Grand Ave. I lucked out here, because if someone needed to get anywhere, they could go the back way, through a gated street, to get wherever they needed to go.

My local course marshall, was one who met me at the airport, and got me onto the van to get to the Doubletree Hotel, which is where my registration for the whole traveling course marshall started. Anyhow, she had two twin daughters, and chalk writing would keep them busy, and mostly out of trouble.

Now the course marshall is not supposed to be spending time chalk writing, but there is a limit to what you should be enforcing, so I let this go, as long as it didn’t interfere with their duties. However, I did have to keep the local course marshall from doing a lot of chalk writing.

Course marshalls are not supposed to be using their positions to take pictures, which is exactly what this local course marshall was doing. We’ve had these problems with other local course marshalls. In fact, this one was even taking videos with a video camera.

One unfortunate thing that happened to the local course marshall was … and they deserve this … was they left their car doors open, and radio on, and eventually, the battery went south, and could not turn the engine over. So she had to find someone to help with jumper cables … that at least kept her a little occupied. She got what she deserved.

Ok, back to the time trial. I did get a good view of some of my favorites … like Christian, George, Zabriskie, Levi, and this guy named Lance. Of course, the big question everyone asked was, when does Lance ride, and how will we know when he is coming? Well, based on the ride order, he would be the third from the last. They had a chopper hovering overhead wherever Lance was. So I let everyone know that if you want to know where Lance is, just look for where the chopper overhead is. When Lance finally came through, there was a total of 6 motor vehicles, and a chopper overhead following him. Well, I guess I’m not surprised by this, but he isn’t even the leader. Compare that with when Levi came through (the yellow jersey), and he had 2 or 3 cars, and a chopper following.

I had my Blackberry browser on, which gave updates on the progress of the riders in the time trial. I saw the Dave Zabriskie had taken the lead in the time trial, and Lance wound up with the 12th best time. Wow … Dave Z could take the time trial. Michael Rogers had a slower time, so all the was left was Levi. Levi passed by my station, and then I was picked up. From race radio, we could hear that Levi was behind, but from some miraculous burst, Levi overcame the deficit, and beat Z by 9 seconds … oh, heartbreaking. The TeamSlipStream twit only had one response … “Close”.

One oddity during the time trial … we had the order of riders, and we somehow had missed Ivan Basso in the list. I later found out through his twitter, that he did not start the time trial. “I cant continue the ToC, I hit my knee on the handlebar, tried to warm up for the tt, but too much pain. I’m sad but I need to stop..”, and “I’m sad to have to leave the race, but it’s the best only way to recover from the problem. Thanks to all who supported me here. I’ll be back”. That’s too bad.

It was definitely a larger crowd than last year (weather had a large part to do with this). In fact, this was the best weather for the time trial in 3 years. Seemed like everyone had a great time.

Now we needed to get out of Solvang, and over to Santa Clarita before the rush hour hit. So we proceeded to follow the course, but the last rider had already passed, and we were stuck with traffic, and pedestrians walking down the hill, obstructing traffic. What delayed us more was another car, not part of the Amgen Tour of California caravan, got in front of us. Never mind the fact that we had our horn blasting at them, they kept moving slowly. Eventually we got ahead of them, but we still had to contend with other riders who were continuing to ride the course (after the last rider had passed). Somehow, having our horns honking constantly didn’t phase riders, as they kept hogging the middle of the road. One of these days, they are going to become hood ornaments.

We finally got out of Solvang (it was probably around 2:50 pm), and did get into Santa Clarita by 5:15 pm. Our luggage van didn’t arrive yet (still stuck in Solvang probably), and we went off for dinner. After coming back from dinner, luggage still had not arrived. Oh boy … it did eventually arrive, but not till around 7:50 pm.

Oh, and the Versus coverage???? Not available in this hotel. Dang! I guess I’ll have to rely on short 1-2 minute clips on the Versus web site.