Tour of California
In February 2006 the first Amgen Tour of California professional cycling stage race came to California. A group of OTB'rs decided to follow the tour from San Luis Obispo to Redondo Beach.
About The Tour
The Amgen Tour of California brought the drama and excitement of a professional bicycle stage race to the California coast. The world's top professional teams competed over an eight-day, 700-mile race on a route that included the California redwoods, wine country and the Pacific Coast.
Shawn flew into Burbank airport from his new home in Arizona. He arrived in Burbank just fine but his bike did not! His bike never made it on the plane! The airline promised to have his bike in San Luis Obispo in time for the big ride the next day. They came through as they said they would! The bike actually beat us to the hotel!
Thursday February 23: We took the Amtrak train from Van Nuys to San Luis Obispo. With our bikes and gear. We knew we were on track for a good time when the Amtrak attendant upgraded us to business class for next-to-nothing. We could feel the buzz surrounding the Tour in San Luis Obispo when we arrived around 8:30 PM.
Friday February 24: Stage 5 from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara.
The ride from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara was officially 105 miles, not counting the Neutral Race Start which was 3.4 miles. Julio had the first flat during the Neutral Race Start, so maybe it shouldn't’t have counted as our first official flat.
This was one of the best days of riding I’ve ever experienced. The weather was perfect. The scenery was awesome. And the pace was fast. Somewhere near Solvang, the roads closed to traffic. The only cars were the highway patrol and official Tour cars who would give us the time gap back to the approaching pelaton. It felt like a swarm of hornets were catching up. Great motivation!
Kudos to Julio for hanging with Shawn, who was using the Tour for his spring training. And to Shawn for the courage to keep going for all 100+ miles after bonking early in the day.
I was barely able to hang with the pace set by James, Andres & Hans through miles 70- 90. They were relentless. By the time we hit mile 90 and the start of the San Marcos climb, I let them go ahead. It was a long climb! We stayed at the top and watched the pelaton come by, in awe of their speed up that mountain. Then chased them down to town for the conclusion of day one.
The Crew ready to ride!
Left to right James, Dave, Andres, Julio, Shawn and Hans
We started the ride at 7:00 am. It was cool and crisp out and the crew was pumped!
We were only riding for a few minutes when Julio got the first flat!
Then a few miles later Shawn got a flat! We hoped our luck would change and it did.
The OTB Crew is busted coming out of a bar with the Mayor of Orcut!
We made it to the top of San Marcos Pass ahead of the Pros (tough climb!)with about 20 minutes to spare.
This was a great place to watch the race so we waited for the Pro's here.
And the crowd went wild!
Some of the crew at the finish line.
Total miles for the day was 113 with a average of 17.4 The Pro's averaged 28 miles per hour!
Colombian Bath Tub!
Best Buds reunited.
Saturday February 25: Stage six from Santa Barbara to Thousand Oaks.
We spent the night at OTB’s Santa Barbara HQ, and the gracious hosts of Andres and Blanca. The local burrito restaurant where we had dinner was also where the Toyota-United Pro team chose to eat. They took over about a ¼ of the restaurant.
The next morning, we had a cup of coffee at The Santa Barbara Coffee Roaster, and then left the start line about 2 ½ hours ahead of the pelaton. It was another day of perfect riding weather. The first 3.7 “Neutral” miles passed by some fantastic neighborhoods The “official start was around Cold Spring Canyon.
There was a brief climb just outside Carpenteria. At the top above Lake Casitas Hans had our first flat of the day. Then it was on to the Ojai area. Soon after we cruised down Ojai Road and passed through Santa Paula, and the streets were lined with many fans awaiting the Tour. There was a sprint in town, and we somehow missed the turn to S. Mountain Road leaving town.
We were feeling pretty good at the 60 mile mark as we turned onto Balcom Canyon Road and started what was supposed to be the last hard climb of the day. Our pace was fast as we passed the 5 Km KOM sign. Still feeling good at 3 km, and at the 1km sign, thought, “what a piece of cake”. Then, we turned the corner and saw the wall. Dotting the skyline were the tiny shapes of people lining the top of the climb. The crowd grew with each turn of the pedals. Two boneheads said we were never going to make it, and wouldn't leave it at that. They went on to say that the grade we were on was 16%, but that around the next corner, it turned to 22%. Some guy dressed like the grim reaper was running beside us. And we were determined to not stop and walk. It would have been quite embarrassing given the size of the crowd. The last kilometer was tough, but it was just one kilometer, and we all made it.
The vantage point at the top of the mountain was too good to pass up. Hans wanted to continue on and beat the pelaton to the end. I think we could have done it, but it would have been very close.
Both days, watching the pros climb the same mountain we had just climbed, after completing the same mileage was just awesome. Their pace looked impossible. Even on fresh legs, I couldn't have dreamed of keeping up.
Riding through a Santa Barbara neighborhood.
Waiting for the Peloton at the top of Balcom Canyon. This climb was very steep!
The Peloton in the distance on the first turn.
The Peloton nears the top of the climb!
Sunday February 26: Stage 7 Redondo Beach
Andres and Blanca spent the night in Redondo. Julio brought Julie and Andrew down by car. Shawn was on the 8am flight back to AZ. So it was James, Hans and myself, joined by Ross, Gary, Ken and friends that made the 40 mile ride from the valley to Redondo.
Hope drove down and brought sandwiches, and we watched the closing stage along with thousands of others. It was exciting, and great to see the pros pass by so many times. But truthfully, I didn't’t find it near as exciting as the mountaintops of San Marcos Pass and Balcom Canyon.
it was one of the most memorable trips I’ve been on. Thanks to Hans, Julio, Shawn, Andres, and James. It couldn't’t have been more perfect.
Ride recap by Dave.
With only three of the original crew and a few fresh riders we roll to Redondo Beach for the final stage.
We did the race just like the Pros did. Well just not as fast! We did the sprints, King of the Mountain climbs and even took advantage of the feed zones.
Here are the results from our group.
Andres: Wins the sprinters Jersey!
James: Wins the King of the Mountain Jersey!
Dave: Takes the roadie with the biggest pack award.
Shawn: Most determined rider award and second place in the biggest pack category!
For more pictures from the Tour click on the following link.
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