Tag Archives: Stage 7

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.

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?