Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tour of California Stage 3, Mt Diablo finish

Once again I was again able to make it to the finish-line, this time atop the legendary (in my own mind anyway) Mt. Diablo. My riding partner for the day ended up having to bail out due to family issues, so I was left to do the climb alone. was just me....and a few thousand of my closest friends who also rode bikes up the mountain.

You see, I had another plan, VERY similar to my Stage 1 plan (which was to drive to Sacramento to see the finish). This plan was to ride to the top to see the finish. There were a few road blocks to my incredibly well-thought out plan though. For one thing, by the time I got to the area, parked my rental car, unloaded my bike, pumped my tires, and donned all my gear, it was high noon. In the hottest day of the year (so far...Wednesday is supposed to be even HOTTER). All I can say is that it was plenty hot.


I'm thinking mid to high 90's from the moment I hit the road. And as the climb progresses, there are continually spots where there was zero breeze, making it feel like I might burst into flames. No clouds either, just bright sun and the few shade spots from tall trees in the right places. Thankfully with my thousands of close friends, there was always people to draft on (cuz that's what you want on a scorching day: someone in front of you blocking any breeze). Actually it was like a continually changing wave of people...some passing me and some being passed by me. There were lots of people really flying up the mountain, and then I'd just keep chunking along (in my granny) and eventually I'd see most of them stopped at one of the big tent complexes that had cropped up on the big turnouts and such. I was the tortoise to the MANY MANY hares. Except for those I passed, in which case I was the hare.
 Here's a shot of me (taken by a very nice fireman on one of the turnouts) looking up at the top. I'd guess I'm about half way at this point. Sure glad I opted for my white 'Fatty' jersey...wearing a dark one would have felt horribly hot.

 There were port-O-potties on the side of the road every so often, which is a nice touch for all the scads of people. Many rode only part way up and then quickly settled into a shady spot with chairs and whatever else that they had carried. Cars weren't allowed past the lower slopes, so it was all bikes and hikers. But some had obviously gotten there before the barricades as there were trailers and such all over the place.

One thing I learned about the Diablo climb: it starts of easy and just gets steeper and steeper as you go, the hairpin turns looking very similar to the high mountain climbs of France we see every year in July. At 2k left to climb a huge part of my plan was shattered when I found out that we mere peasants wouldn't be allowed to ride all the way, we had to check our bikes there and walk if we wanted to go higher. So I did. You see, on a stroke of pure genius, I swapped pedals and shoes before I left with my Mt I had shoes with tread and cleats that are I could actually walk in them. I would have destroyed my road cleats with 2k of pavement walking. I'd almost brought a backpack with tennis shoes or sandals, but decided against it as I didn't want to carry that on my back in what was sure to be a very hot day (good call on my part I must say!). So I parked my bike, grabbed my Garmin and my water bottle, and set out for the summit.

 This is a shot looking back at the bike check station for us peasants. The elite had a bike check station just short of the summit, I think around the 300meter point.

 Here's looking back at the 1k kite that they were in the process of inflating when I walked by.

 As I neared the summit I found out another chink in my evil plan: lowly peasants are not allowed past the finish line (or actually even about 30' or so from it on the downhill side). Man, it sucks being a peasant! You had to be a VIP to ride your bike to the top (or get a free ride in busses and such), and go past the finish, and then sit in luxury tents being schmoozed/wined and dined and such (while I sat huddled behind the barricade about 50' from the line in the blistering sun with nothing to drink for about 2 hours, trying to get in any small amount of shade I could find without losing my spot). About the last three or four hundred meters there were full barricades on one side of the road only.We were only allowed to be on the steep down of the road, leaving us about 2' of walking width (past that you fall off the mountain).  I clawed my way past all the people guarding their spots up that last few hundred meters until I got as close to the finish as I could, then sat down in the hot dirt/gravel and sipped the very last of my water. Then the long wait for the peleton began. And they were running late as it was very hot for them out on the course too.

 Here I am at my awesome spot on the finish. The distance isn't as far as it looks, maybe 50' or so. Did I mention it was HOT out?

And FINALLY the riders were nearing the finish. We had race commentary for most of the climb, and now you can see the switchback below us as the lead group fights for the win. You can barely make out the yellow jersey of Wiggens leading the group around the switchback.

 About 30 meters from the line, Rohan Dennis of Garmin Sharp being chased to the finish by a small group.

 And there you have it, Rohan Dennis from Garimin Sharp won the day, closely followed by Tiago Machado  from NetApp-Endura finishing second. 

The last 100 meters or so are QUITE steep, and pretty much all the riders were really groaning and grinding just to get over the line. During the commentary the announcer had mentioned that the leaders were climbing at around 17mph! I'd guess the average grade of the climb was around 8 to 10%. I know I was barely holding 8mph average (if even that) on my climb. AND I didn't even get to do the final 2k (and steepest part). I will surely have to come back and do the ENTIRE climb one day when it's NOT so freaking hot out. It appears to be a GREAT climb with really good road conditions. I was amazed at how fast they came up, especially considering the long stage and the heat. VERY IMPRESSIVE to say the least.

 Here's Sir Bradly Wiggens just about to finish (he almost slipped by me in all the excitement). He had a pretty good day, especially considering he was isolated on the mountain for a good while and still kept his yellow.

After the leaders had came across others were filtering up in small groups, as the peleton had been totally demolished by the heat and tempo. Here's the crowd favorite Jens nearing the top (wearing black on the left).

And there you have it...that was pretty much my excitement for the day. I had to claw my way back DOWN to the bike check station, descend to my car (with a heat/dehydration headache creeping in on me rather quickly), THEN jump in traffic and drive the 39 or so miles back to my hotel for a shower, dinner, and then a mere 2 hour snooze (which is why I'm just NOW updating the post on Wednesday morning...I just got off work an hour ago).

Today they start in Monterey, but I won't be making that one...I'll be SNOOZING. It was a rather long shift last night as I didn't get more than 5 hours total sleep yesterday. But hey...that's the price I'm willing to pay to be your roving Stage  reporter!

So that ends my Tour of California experience for this year. Sadly I will miss them as they ride almost through my back yard on Thursday, as they pass THRU Santa Maria on their way from Pismo Beach to Santa Barbara. But catching 2 finishes was pretty cool so I'm not complaining. And I didn't even have to take vacation...I just had to sacrifice sleepy-time!

And with that I sign off for the 2014 Tour of California. Have a great week watching the daily coverage (I can't see that until I get home, as it's on my DVR). 

Later gaters!


  1. Looks like a fantastic day great write up Matt.

  2. You don't see nearly as much when you go to a stage, but the excitement and energy is so fun! I am glad that you got to go to 2 stages this year! Your finish photo in Sacramento is fabulous. Wish I were there (except when I read about how hot it is).

    Really glad Rohan Dennis was able to pull back some time on Wiggo, hoping that he can continue to chip away at him (although I doubt Sir Brad will let THAT happen).

    And Susie B, I am with you in annoyance at NBCSports. No replays available, two of the bigger races of the year hidden in the wee hours of the morning (no I don't DVR either) IF they were even shown -- the last one I tried to watch seemingly wasn't. And their "cycling home page" , up until yesterday, was still all about last year's TdF. I don't get BeIn sports or Universal with my cable system either. Thank goodness for pirate internet streaming.

    (Oh, and I didn't want automatic, powered this & that on my car either but now I am totally spoiled. I do worry that the systems won't last as long as I like to keep a car -- only 9-11 years, nothing like you! -- but they do make driving much nicer)


  3. Helllllllloooooooo!!
    First apologies for being absent for so long! I have missed you all and as soon as the Tour of CA began I started thinking about you, Matt, and wondering if you were one of those folks sitting at the finish in the intolerable heat. And you were!

    I decided that I must come back to visit the IA and see if there was an interesting race report....and there was! I always love to hear about the day from your point of view and you didn't disappoint. I'm thrilled that you were able to make it to some stages. I absolutely LOVE the excitement of being at the race with all of those other crazy people who understand why you are there. I haven't been to a big race since the first Pro Challenge and I certainly miss it. Of course my some of my favorite race memories were back from the Tour of MO w/Theresa and Rae!

    I really love watching some of the young guys out there showing their stuff in CA. Wiggo is impressive in his control of the race, but I love watching the young'uns come into their own.

    Hopefully I can catch up with what is going on with everyone. How fantastic that you're getting a new car, Susie!! Enjoy it! We're getting ready to put our house on the market, so I've spent late nights for the past 3 months trying to get it shoveled out and made presentable. NOT easy with 2 kids a dog and a cat. I haven't had a chance to read backwards past the race reports to see what everyone has been up to, but hope life has been treating you well!

    1. Hey Janann...welcome back! Was wondering where you were. So selling your house...moving to a new city, or just a new area? Moving is quite stressful...can't even imagine how much that is compounded with kids. And the longer you've been in one place, the deeper your roots and the harder it is to go somewhere new. Good luck with that, and keep us informed.
      OK...breakfast time, then some snoozing is in order (6:30am and I'm just off shift, and I'm kind'a tired after yesterdays ride and low sleep tally).

  4. That's awesome. I should have taken the time to spectate one of the stages in the Tour of California.