When the route of the 2011 edition of the Tour of California was announced I was really excited about the opportunity to do stage 7, a mountain stage with a mountain top finish in the Village of Baldy up famed Baldy Road. I focused my training around this stage, even putting in 100 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing only a week before my departure for California. After a good performance on the other mountain stage on Wednesday and a recovery day before stage seven I was ready for action, ready for a five hour battle on a true mountain stage.

And then we got lost while driving to the bottom of the climb in Claremont. When we finally got to our destination most riders were already on the road. To make matters worse, miscommunication led to the mechanics putting the wrong wheel on by bike. We had to switch the wheel and change the cassette which further delayed by departure. I was the last one to leave for the summit. And so seven months of anticipation about a hard five hour group ride climbing those long California climbs was replaced by what appeared – at least initially – to be just another five hour solo training ride.

Coaches Jason and Justin helped me pace myself up the first climb where we caught a group of riders. These riders wanted to keep going ahead at their own pace so we motored on.

First Climb With Coaches Justin and Jason

A few minutes we caught JF who was riding alone. The four of us made it up the first climb together. Justin descended first with JF while Jason and I stopped at the top to shed some clothing. We caught them again at the bottom. A few miles down the road we picked up Paijee and then two or three more team members.

Extra Fast Descent With Paijee, Justin and JF Leading the Way

While riding on a flat section we started talking and I found out that several of our riders were having serious intestinal problems. Hydration for them became even more important. When we hit the second climb – Glendora Mountain Road – the group split up again. Some riders went ahead climbing with the coaches. I rode up with JF who wasn’t feeling 100% to say the least.

One of the aspects I like about bike races or camps is that most athletes do a good job of looking after each other – great camaraderie. Cycling is a team’s sport after all. We don’t leave our wounded on the battlefield. Imagine a blog post that reads like this: “I kick the butt of my sick teammate going up that long climb in 80 F heat.”

Glendora Mountain Road Climb

A bunch of us regrouped at the top of Glendora Mountain Road and we each made our way to the bottom of Baldy Road at our own pace, eventually stopping on the side of the road to watch the pros go by.

I then proceeded with the last climb of the day: Baldy Road. With 500 meters to go I started to sprint to the finish line. I had to finish strong – and with style – as I was thinking about my friend Jamie who would expect nothing less from me. Mission Accomplished, the T Shirts made it to the top.

Day Was Dedicated To Jamie

Thanks for all the good vibes my friend.

See You Here Next Year Man!

I love mountains:

Mount Baldy. Check.

When I got to the top of Mount Baldy about ten team members were already there and the rest of the team was not far behind. Everyone made it to the top including T.J. who rode up Baldy Road twice. Paijee was determined to finish the stage, went at his own pace and showed up with a smile on his face.

Paijee Enjoying A Well Earned Rest

Tim looked after Vince who had a bad day on the bike (we all do once in a while) and kept him motivated for several hours.

We all stayed at the top for a while to catch the end of the pros’ race.

Although the day was different than what I had envisaged it turned out to be the best bike ride of my life with stunning scenery, great road, beautiful sunshine and lots of stories about courage, determination and team spirit.

Here are a lot of pictures from the ride (WARNING: you will have to stare at my butt a lot but please send your complaints directly to Coach Jason at CTS):

 

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Stage 7 according to Tour of California’s Website

If the Stage 6 individual time trial created some separation between the contenders and the chasers, Stage 7 will be the ultimate test of the rider’s resolve to capture the yellow jersey. Did they leave it all on the road in Solvang or did they hold back enough to survive one of the most difficult stages in the history of bicycle racing in the USA? It’s been called the Queen’s Stage and the first true mountain top finish in the Amgen Tour of California’s history. It has been compared to the epic stages of the European Grand Tours. This is the training ground for many of the local racers in southern California, but only a handful has done the entre route and none have done it after six days of racing over 700 miles! There is no question that the winner of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California will be decided on the final 15 switchbacks to the finish on Mt Baldy.

The race begins in the college town of Claremont. The Claremont Colleges are universally regarded as one of the best college consortiums in the world. Two neutral circuits in Claremont will get the rider’s ready for the first climb of the day. Just 3.5 miles from the start, the riders will face an eight mile climb to the Village of Baldy and their first KOM. An acute left turn at the summit will provide them another mile of climbing up Glendora Ridge Road. From here they have 12 miles of narrow and twisting roads that gradually descend to a fast and technical descent down the backside of Glendora Mountain Rd. The vistas are spectacular throughout the Angeles National Forest. Another descent down East Fork will take the riders to Hwy 39 and the town of Azusa. Heading east, the race dips into the City of Glendora for the only Sprint of the day. At this point, the number of flat miles for Stage 7 has dwindled to less than two and there are still nearly 30 miles to the finish.

 A left turn onto Glendora Mountain Road and it is “Game On”. The next KOM is a nine mile climb. That is followed by 12 miles of a slight climb back to Baldy Village. A left turn back onto Baldy Road will see the race gain 1,000’ in just three miles…and the real climbing has not even started! At Ice House Canyon, the route makes a hard left turn and the sign to the ski area points towards the sky. Over the next 2.5 miles, the riders will face 10 switchbacks on a road that is so steep that many of the race vehicles cannot make it to the top. At 1.2 miles to go, the road straightens out. The finish line can be seen ahead. At .25 miles to go, the route makes a hard left and the racers face a final five switchbacks to the finish line. This will be the stage where legends are made and winners are decided.

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Profile

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