Tag Archives: ATOC

My Vacation at the ATOC 2018

Amgen Tour of California is the week, and as I have always done, I take a week off of work, aka PTO, or Personal Time Off.  Yeah, I know, it’s sad that I’m not off to France, or Hawaii, or something like that for vacation … but spend it local, watching a bike race.

Here’s my justification though … Where else will you find world class athletic competition come to your backyard, and you get to view it … for FREE!!!!  Ok, so it’s not quite my backyard.  I had to drive > 1 hour, to get to Laguna Seca Raceway, and I had to ride about 1.5 hours to get to Morgan Hill, but I didn’t have to pay to get in.

So I got to view Stage 3, at Laguna Seca Raceway, a 2 mile racetrack, most known for motorcycle racing.  It was cool to have a cycling race here on this track.  I got there early, and it’s a good thing I did.  I was able to take 1 lap around the track.  It was pretty awesome!

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Riding through that lap, it wasn’t really easy.  It had some significant pitches in it, but you only see either motorcycles race through here, or the pros racing here on their road bikes.  It’s much different when weekend warriors go and try ride this.  It was cool to ride through the corkscrew on this course.

I had to spend some time to waste, while they set everything up, so I decided to climb around the surrounding streets.  With just that little jaunt, I wound up with a 13.4 mile, 1500 foot climb ride … at least I got some workout in.

The race itself was really exciting.  I ended up watching it from inside the last corner before the finish.  It was cool to see the live video feed, then seeing the racers live in front of you as the speed pass you.

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I also saw Stage 4, which is the time trial.  It was held in Morgan Hill, so I decided to ride over from home.  It was a good 30 mile ride out to the start.  They closed the course off at 10 am, and I get there via McKean, and there were at least two very visible signs, stating there is a race today, and the road will be closed from 10 am to 4 pm.  Even with these warnings, there were a few cars that went all the way on this road, only to find … the road closed!  They had to turn around and backtrack … one guy even was trying to get to work … WTF … can’t you read the signs?

Anyhow, I took a few pics right after the left the start ramp, and a few when they finish the course.

After taking a few of these pictures, it became clearly evident that I would not be able to tell who each of these riders are.  But it was really exciting.  The only drawback is, that with the time trial, you get all these riders passing by you for 2 hours … that’s 2 hours of standing up.  That gets you a bit fatigued .. and I still have 25 miles to go to ride back home, and in a stiff headwind!

There is just nothing like watching a tour live, especially when you see others as enthusiastic about this sport as you are.

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Where else would you see something like this?

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.

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.

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

Davis Double or ATOC Stage 7?

I thought my Double Century schedule was all clear in my head … until I found the ATOC schedule.  A mountain top finish of ATOC Stage 7 at Mt. Baldy.  That will be epic.  Damn … decisions decisions …. Davis Double, or screaming like a maniac on top of Mt. Baldy?

I guess I could try CCD … Central Coast Double the week before … but that’s a tough ride.  Or do I dare try Mt. Tam???

On a side note, they will finally ….. finally have a mountain top finish on Sierra Road.  I am so stoked for this … filling out my PTO request … NOW!!!!!