Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tour of California Stage 4 goes through MY BACKYARD!

And when I say "BACKYARD", I obviously mean that FIGURATIVELY, not LITERALLY my backyard would be pretty congested with 160 something racers, oodles of team cars, officials, photo-motos, etc.... (and there'd likely be some serious cyclist/dog interactions and eventually lawsuits), but you know what I mean... they were racing on MY ROADS (and yes, I do actually own them all, I only let cars use them cuz I'm a nice guy)! I don't think there was even a portion of the race today that I haven't ridden..well, MAYBE the finishing straight in Avila I guess...can't recall if I've ever been on that bit.And yes, they passed right thru Santa Maria again, just like they did TEN YEARS AGO in the inaugural race (won by a certain someone who still kind'a owes me some money). That year my brother Greg drove up and we caught the peleton in Guadalupe at the Sprint Point, then we tried but BARELY missed them at the Clark Ave/Bradley Ave intersection (about 2 miles from my house), and then we drove down to Santa Barbara and caught them coming down off of Rt 154 onto State Street right at the 90 degree corner. It was all SUPER EXCITING to me as it was the first Pro cycling event I'd ever witnessed first-hand.

This year the stage-start was in Pismo Beach and went south on Hwy 1, once-again right thru Guadalupe for a Sprint Point, then continued south on Hwy 1 and again turned East on Clark Ave, out to Dominion, Foxen Canyon, turned North on Tepesquet Canyon  (that is most DEFINITELY my HOME TURF) for a KOM at the top, then down Tep and West on Rt 166 to Thompson, Los Berros, up thru Arroyo Grande and eventually on to Corbett Canyon (these are ALL roads I ride all the time with my Main Street Cycles club), to finally finish in Avila Beach.

My basic plan for the day was to catch the peleton as many times as possible while still making it to the finish. To accomplish this, I carefully laid out a SUPER detailed and STRATEGIC plan. My detailed plan was to get to the start at Pismo, and then wing it all day and see where I can catch them. I had kind'a sort'a planned on making it up to the top of Tepesquet for the KOM, thinking I'd come in from the north side and then follow the race back to the 101, and while they work their way around I'd zoom to Avila for the finish. well did my incredibly sophisticated and planned to the minutest detail evil plan work you ask? Well, let me tell you. Kind'a sort'a. I nailed the start, and had a GREAT view as the racers gathered and finally began, right at the stroke of 11:30am.

Here they are, all lined up moments before the start. That's Cav in the Sprinters green jersey, front row, left of center, and looking to his left (talking to the rider in white/black and red, tho I don't know who that is, other than he's a Trek rider).

And here they go...a few riders start in FRONT of the rope line, I guess they didn't feel like making it all the way to the back of the bus. I didn't know they did that, as this is the first start I've seen in person.

 Got Cav again (got lucky with this shot, as I basically just had my camera taking shots as fast as it could).

These were my best shots of the start in Pismo Beach...pretty cool actually. And a perfect day for racing...I'd say the daytime high was in the mid 60's and sunny. Not too shabby at all!

I then zoomed back to my car (probably less than a half mile away and right off the freeway), loaded the bike and took off. On a whim I passed the 166 east exit as I THOUGHT I had a shot at getting to the sprint point in Guadalupe. However, I forgot how far Guadalupe is from the freeway (and how many red lights there are, AND how many SLOW drivers there are). I missed the peleton by about 2 minutes. So I then got back to my car and fought my way BACK to the 101. As I was close to jumping on the freeway I was passing a McDonalds...and thought to myself "self, we're HUNGRY and it will be a while before we get a chance at food again" I zipped inside and got a quarter pounder combo. I have to say I haven't ate at a McDonalds in was OK, but nothing to write home about.

I then made a beeline for the north side of Tepesquet Rd where it intersects with rt 166. Got there and parked the car right about 1pm, which was right about the FASTEST projected time they could be coming onto Tepesquet Canyon on the south-side (about 15miles away). I had no way to know where they were, so I unloaded my bike and took off for the top (about 5 miles). The first 2 miles are sort of flat, with the final 3 being the 1000' climb. I was about a mile from the top when the Highway Patrol moto's started coming by, telling me to get off the road. RATS. So I stopped, and got ready. I walked my bike a bit further up the road, looking for a vantage point of the riders coming down. I couldn't see any action, so walked a bit further. More moto's were coming down every few minutes, so I figured they must be close (no helicopter in sight yet tho). I waited and waited...yep. About FIFTEEN MINUTES before they came down. I could have WALKED that final mile to the top, let-alone ride it. Darn those CHP guys...I'm on a bike...I can be off the road in moments. OH well.

I did have a pretty awesome vantage point where I finally stopped tho...just far enough away from a turn to get a great view and plenty of time for some pictures. I also was shooting video at the same time with my little Sony Action-Cam that I got for videos of biking and such.

Here's the breakaway coming around the turn, moving pretty quick!

And as they were passing lucky again with this one as they were really moving!

And not too awfully far behind, the peleton. That's Cav again leading the main group in the was just a Cavendish-day for me my camera got a laser-lock on him or something.

After they had all passed, and all the moto's and vehicles had passed (of which there were a LOT) I jumped on my bike and raced to my car. Loaded the bike up again, and jumped in the line of cars and trucks. Rt 166 had been blocked for the race, and there was a pretty good queue but at least we were moving. The CHP seems pretty adept at the rolling road-blocks giving minimal interference to traffic. As we finally were nearing Santa Maria again, I could see the Helo and could tell the peleton wasn't really that far away...they were still on the east of the freeway, heading for Los Berros Rd. I jumped on the 101 and was making really good time heading north towards Avila Beach.

As I was nearing the Los Berros overpass I could see the Helo on my right and there they were...the entire field on Thompson Rd, getting very close to the overpass. I was now barely ahead of them! However, the CHP had the Los Berros exit blocked (RATS), but I could have actually jumped off onto the on-ramp and parked (as there was no cars entering the freeway as there WERE no cars...the road was blocked for the race). However, there were CHP EVERYWHERE...and they'd probably frown on me if I did that sort of I bypassed the chance to take pics of the peleton as they crossed under the freeway and continued my way towards Avila.

As I got to Avila Beach the CHP already had the Avila Drive exit I got off on the next exit: San Luis Bay Drive....and made my way BACK to Avila Drive, and parked about 200 yards from the blocked exit (does that make sense? Block the exit but let me drive right up to it from the OTHER SIDE?) No biggee...I had a great escape route...the on-ramp was right there close to my car. Got out the bike for the last time and started riding...and almost right away there was the 4k marker on the side of the road. Quickly the 3k, then 2k, and then the Kenda Tires 1k to-go Arch over the road. I came around another corner smack-dab into mayhem and madness...the finishing straight-away. There were OODLES and OODLES of people, barricades, all the usual stuff. I made my way up to about 50 yards from the finish line and found a good spot to stash my bike and backpack (I had shoes with me, so I didn't have to stand/walk around in cycling shoes).

Here's my view of the finish line...not too shabby at all!

And here's looking the other way: down the finishing straight-away. An uphill's steeper than it looks!

I had timed all this pretty good for such a loosey-goosey plan...we had loudspeakers everywhere, and the announcers were calling the race. Soon enough they were at the 4k mark (already on Avila Drive)...and moving VERY QUICKLY as you would expect! Sagan was now in charge of the screaming peleton(per the announcer), and the crowd started to go wild! When the front of the group came around the final turn onto the straight-away, the noise of the crowd was DEAFENING! The announcers were SCREAMING and I could barely hear them (that's loud-speakers in the last picture about 10 feet from me on the right side..and when I say "loud-speakers", I'm not kidding. Anybody even CLOSE to them likely can't hear much tonight I'm pretty sure).

Here's my only decent shot of the finish-madness. The front end is clear of the corner and accelerating HARD towards the line. They were moving quite fast, and my next (and final shot) of the front was looking too far to right (hey...I'm holding my camera up over the people in front of me pushing the button over and over having NO Idea what shots I'm getting), AND... while I'm doing that, I'm also holding my video camera in my left hand). I didn't get any shots to my left of the actual finish, as I kept taking shots of the main field coming by. But I do have video of the finish (I think, as I swung that around while still taking pictures to the left), and I'll include some links to my video's when I finally get it all processed and uploaded (most-likely to YouTube). Video files are HUGE and take awhile to load onto my computer (I film in 1080p).

All I really know about the finish (that I could make out through the pandemonium of the crowd and announcers) was that Sagan had won. I stuck around a bit for the podium, but I was off to the side and couldn't really see much, so I took off back for my car. As I was loading my bike getting ready to head home, I saw a BUNCH of the racers heading back on their bikes towards the Pismo Beach area...along with lots and lots of team cars. The Team Busses were all still back at Avila near the finish, and I have no idea what their plan was. I jumped into the stream of cars and we jumped on the 101 headed south. I was somehow right behind two Trek Factory team cars loaded with bikes and wheels (I could see the poor mechanic in the back seat of the 2nd car, surrounded by looked like he barely had enough room to BREATH back there!) I hadn't realized that the Trek team was sponsored by VW...they were driving TDI Golf 4-door mini-wagons (the TDI's are the diesels, like both Jeannie and I drive)! VERY COOL CARS! I stuck behind them like glue, and boy where they in a hurry...I guess they are heading to the next stop ahead of the riders so the mechanics can get busy prepping the bikes for tomorrow.

And that was my day. All in all a pretty fun way to spend it I must say. Saw the start AND finish of the same stage for the first time, and saw them two other times besides that. Not too shabby at all. Sadly, it's back to work tomorrow for me...but I have to admit today was a GREAT way to spend a sick-day (cough, I mean, I felt HORRIBLE ALL DAY...yeah, that's what I meant to say!)

Now I'll have to go to Velo News to read about the stage and see what I missed.



  1. Hey hey Matt, it IS fun isn't it, even though you don't see much of the race or know what has been going on! I'm trying to stay awake to see the end of the stage replay (was at the hospital during the live broadcast) but if I don't I'll watch tomorrow morning and look for you! And I hope that you have fully recovered from your 1-day flu!

    Loving the commentary from Christian Vdv and Jens!

    I know what you mean about those random shots getting the same guys over and over -- in 2009 I kept getting shots of Lance and I really wasn't trying to!

    The stages around your central coast area are always among my favorites when I have come to the race


  2. Soudns like there were no crashes with cows or cars either- unbelievable! Nice coverage, nice pics!

  3. Spoiler alert! (well I will not reveal the finish) What a stage up Mt. Baldy! That was great, great racing! You could see how hard it was and everyone was riding out of their skin. If you didn't see it yet, you have got to find a way to watch the replay either tonight or on the website.

    Once again I am struck by how many of the American fans are in silly costumes -- just don't see that in Europe.

    One thing that I have noticed in the commentary -- they have totally ignored Haimar Zubeldia, I don't believe that they have mentioned his name once, not even when going through the overall standings, and he has consistently been in the top ten. Yet, multiple times highlighting Robert Gesink who has had bad luck in his career for sure, but is not factoring into this race this year and hasn't done nearly what people expected of him. I wonder what they've got against Zubeldia? He has always been a consistent performer, even when working as a domestique only he has gotten placings. Maybe because he is approaching the end of his career, and is of no particular interest to the USA audience?


    1. Hey Rae....after I got home from my awesome MTB ride this morning I TRIED to watch it online...couldn't get the Tour Tracker to come up for some reason...(it plays on my work PC, however I'm out of the office so much it doesn't matter...only get a glimpse here and there). Just got off of the Velo News reading about the stage today being as I didn't get to see any of it...Sagan did AMAZING for such a tough climb...I'm rooting for him tomorrow to take back his time and win it...that would be a big deal to him...he's had a tough year so far, and winning this ToC would go a long ways to quiet the doubters.

      Also following the Giro (on Velo News)...what a race THAT is! I"m rooting for Contador again...what's wrong w/ me? I used to SO not be a fan..but he's really working...and riding after dislocating his shoulder, yeowch! I can only imagine the pain (I did that once in Karate class....most painful thing I've ever done to myself thus far). He did good today, tomorrow is another huge stage, but if he can hang in there....

      According to VN, Porte is expected to take big time out of Alberto in the ITT...since WHEN did Porte become a better TT'er than Alberto?? I seem to recall Contador kicking some serious butt in ITT's (after the first year he won the TDF, when his TT skills were not so great). It will be interesting for sure to see how he manages to ride in that position for an hour w/ his shoulder pain...but every day it should be getting a little bit better...and cyclist's by nature are tough guys able to ignore a LOT of pain...we shall see!

  4. WOW, what a finish for the ToC! I had thought about driving down to Pasadena, but it's a long drive, and a Sunday, and I have tons of things to do at the I did a quick MTB ride in the morning and my chores in the afternoon. ANYWAY...good for Sagan! I was hoping he could pull it off...quite rare to change the GC like that in a really have to give him credit. I mean, he's NOT really a sprinter...yet he was in the mix challenging Cav every day (he was on the podium every single day I think)...he's definitely a rare breed of rider...that he was able to stay close on Mt Baldy w/ the Mt goats is SUPER impressive! I love races w/ time bonuses....I think it changes the dynamic of the race, and gives everybody a reason to put it out there and take risk...this race would have been pretty boring w/ no time available at the sprints and finish lines. I wish the TDF would do the would really liven up some of the stages for sure. And I love it that the bonus time makes it that leaders can't just sit back and let their team protect them...sometimes they have to come out and play even when they don't really want to.

    Overall we had pretty good weather thankfully...they did get rained on during Thursday's stage...(which was quite a fluke...rain in MAY? HERE???) The organizers did a fantastic job on the TT re-locate...I can only imagine how difficult that was...I'm betting a lot of people lost sleep on that one. And the relocate/shortening of the TT worked in Sagan's favor...the fact that he WON it is just amazing! I never realized he was that good (albeit at a short distance). And at least they were able to keep the Mt Baldy Summit finish on Saturday....that would be a real blow to the race to lose. All in all a great race!

  5. LOVED your pics & write-up, Matt! I tried to comment here last week & couldn't sneak the time.

    I'm in a quandary about Sagan - happy for YOU that he won & did that amazing ride up Baldy to keep himself in contention, but god, I DETEST Tinkoff (the man, not the team)! The man is despicable. He's been trashing Sagan all season because he hasn't won & NOW wants to invalidate the contract (i.e. pay him far less money) that HE gave Sagan! And I was never the biggest fan of Bjarne but Tinkoff says that HE, a guy who never competed as a pro cyclist let alone won a Grand Tour can do the same job as Bjarne did for the team. This guy is HORRIBLE for this sport!

    I'm not sure who I will root for now at the TDF. I would have rooted for Contador again but man, I HATE the idea of Tinkoff winning. And maybe I'm completely wrong about this, but don't you think it was Tinkoff that pressured AC into riding both the Giro & Tour? How Contador will be able to ride a TT or get up several mountains for 2 more weeks with a dislocated shoulder is beyond me. I guess not all dislocated shoulders are the same but the Cavs Kevin Love had his shoulder dislocated by a Celtic in a playoff NBA game a few weeks ago & he is DONE - had to have surgery & won't even be able to practice again for 4-6 MONTHS!

    Anyhoo, happy to see Cav win again & am keeping my fingers crossed he'll be able to win at least 2-3 stages at the Tour. I really want to see him break the all-time TDF stage win record one of these years - that would be SO cool!

    I was hoping Tyler would get a stage win too. And where was Tejay? Don't think he's at the Giro so thought he'd be at ToC. Is he injured?

    I THINK NBC-SN will be broadcasting either the Dauphine or Suisse (probably taped) but not sure. Hope so.

    Also, Matt - loved your pics of Sydney. Made me tear up again. Hope you both are doing ok. And you know - Sydney was a STAR! In every pic, she was the focus of attention as she "posed" the best! She was a natural!

    Hope everyone is having a good Spring. Supposed to get into the 90s again today here. Then another thunderstorm.

    Later gators! :)

  6. Yo Susie...glad you could make it back (work is quite busy here too). I admit I don't care much (it: a ALL) for Tinkoff, however in these times of dwindling sponsors, he's better than nothing...look how many teams have folded due to lack of sponsors the last few years. Hopefully the win gets Sagan a bit of slack. I would THINK if he stays healthy he'll have more wins this year....I forsee both Cav and Sagan winning more stages in the TDF this year.

    As to Contador (and the Tinkoff team), I don't know what to believe (as to Contador racing the Giro AND TDF). We'll se how his Giro does, if he even makes it through to the end w/ his dislocated shoulder...hopefully he will be in TOP form for the Tour...time will tell.

    Tejay dropped out of the ToC a week or so before it began, can't even remember why...(I'm SO not a fan...he just rubs me the wrong way for some reason). And tyler was close in the ToC, but couldn't quite hit paydirt...(sadly, much like most of his career...he's close but no cigar a LOT sadly).

    gotta run...looks like I might be heading up to Sunnyvale NEXT week (I've been scheduled and then cancelled THREE TIMES in the last month or so to go up there...getting pretty annoyed, so IF they turn me on to go, it better stick!)

    We think about Sydney every day...still breaks my heart that she's not 'alive' with us still...looking at her pictures and such is very sad still). I guess with time we forget how hard a time she was having in her final months, and think that we didn't need to put her down when we did...just have to remember that even though mentally she was fine, her body was really failing bad at the end...and I still think it was the right thing to do, no matter how sad it is for us. But I guess we're always second guessing ourselves on was surely a hard decision.

  7. Hey Matt - you absolutely did the right thing & remember - you & Jeannie gave her a FABULOUS life! And far longer than if she'd been with anyone else.

    And normally, I'm happy to have almost ANYone involved in sponsoring or owning a cycling team but Tinkov is so WRONG for the sport in SO many ways. He actually states that the team is "just a toy" for him. This alone is why these kind of team owners must be weeded out of the sport or it will NEVER be a real professional sport. And HE gave Sagan the ridiculous amount of money in the new contract even after Sagan was NOT exactly burning up the roads last year. To try & get the money back now because Sagan hasn't "won enough" is AGAIN not what a real professional sport does. Do you think the NBA or NFL owners get their money back on a guy's base contract who "under produces"? LOL! The idiot should have offered a base contract with bonus incentives for wins. If Sagan turned him down, then that's the way it goes. Was there really any OTHER team about to pay Sagan $4 million?

    Tinkov is worst than the late George Steinbrenner who thought if you spent the most money you'd ALWAYS win. In cycling this can be true but with all the variables (sickness, injuries, other cyclists falling into you, flat tires or other mechanicals at wrong time), the big money just gets you a better class of domestiques & better/more training. No amount of money can keep the above variables from striking down a single rider. You would think he'd know that, especially after last year's TDF!

    I honestly don't understand how Contador can stand riding for him, let alone Sagan. I guess Tinkov figures if he pays a guy 2-3 times MORE than they'd get anywhere else, he can heap as much pressure & abuse on them as he wants. Again, would a REAL professional sport with a player's UNION allow such a thing?! He's a pre-modern capitalist - before there were employee safety regs & unions. Of COURSE - he's Russian! Is there a Russian billionaire who got his money without nefarious means & doesn't expect things done HIS way or ELSE? NYET!

    Anyhoo, I checked NBC-SN's TV schedule this morning & they are going to show taped coverage every day of the Dauphine. Granted, it's at MIDNIGHT on the east coast & will be shoved aside if the hockey playoff game runs over, but this scrap is better than nothing.

    Also, if I can get past Sagan's voice (which is like fingernails on a friggin chalkboard to me!), maybe you can give Tejay another chance? :) :)

  8. Well, I haven't heard TJ speak this MAYBE somebody coached him some...we'll see soon enough. Never really been bothered by Sagan speaking...(nails on a chalkboard? Gosh..when I was an instructor in the Navy I actually HAD a chalkboard in my room...I was pretty good at getting everybody's attention with a good ol' SCREECH down the board making everybody's skin crawl). Anyway, I'll do my best to give TJ a fresh chance...maybe he can come off like a professional this year..I can hope.

    As to the sponsors, that's a tough turn away a sponsor in these times would be brutal...I'd say (for the riders on his team) being under Tinkoff is better than sitting at least they're still I the show. I'd even be happy for Michael Ball (wasn't that his name, the dude who sponsored Rock Racing?) to come back...and get that many more racers on a top-tier team...

    and life goes on..I won't be seeing any racing likely until le tour...when I up my DTV program to get NBCSports...

  9. Have a great Memorial Weekend everyone! My CAVS (LeBron) play tonight, Sunday & Tuesday. Plus, Indy 500 on Sunday. If oooooonly I could see the Giro, it'd be a perfect sports holiday! :)

    Also, my car turned 1 year old last Sunday. It was at 3890 miles, which is about my yearly average the past 6 years or so. Can't believe it's been a year! I'm still parking WAAAAY away in the grocery parking lot so I don't get dinged. :) :)

    Anybody else watch Letterman's last show? I watched him every weeknight for years, especially before I got cable in Nov 1995. The last few years I guess I didn't watch as much, but boy, I will miss him. He'd been on late night TV 1 year longer than I've worked here! I was still in grad school when he started on Late Night (the NBC show). I got a little teary at the end when he was thanking all the staff & his family & then they ran all the highlight photo clips. Memories! And boy, did I feel old! Can't say "it seems like yesterday" but I remember Johnny Carson's final show as if it was just last year!

    Meanwhile, I have rarely watched Kimmel or Fallon. I occasionally see a clip on the internet if I read something that links to it, but almost never watch the actual show. Not sure if it's an age thing or not. Do ya'll watch them?

    Well, gotta run. Have fun this weekend!