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.
So...how 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.
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"...so I zipped inside and got a quarter pounder combo. I have to say I haven't ate at a McDonalds in ages...it 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.
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 move...so 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 blocked...so 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).
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).
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 wheels...it 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 cough...er, 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.