The same thing happened last year. As I accumulate time on the bike, miles on the road, I become more and more tired and I fall behind on my blog writing. The human body is an amazing creation – no matter how you believe it got created. It will allow you the concentration to ride at 40 km/hour three inches from the wheel in front and six inches from the rider next to you for six hours but once you are done it will shut off and make it too hard to spend any energy on anything else but what is essential: refuel and rest. And the next day, your body will allow you to do it again and again. You just have to have the will because once you get going the body will keep going if you fuel it correctly. The mind will tell you to slow down, to take a break or to stop altogether. If you don’t listen to your mind and let the body do the work enough times you start to have more and more confidence that the worst that will happen if you keep going is that you will be tired at the end. And we all know the cure for that and it is a free cure: sleep.

Yesterday was the fourth stage. It was scheduled to be the longest stage yet with 130 miles and six climbs and a two hour drive to the next town after the stage. When I got to the hotel after Stage 4 I was happy to just have dinner with the team and then have a glass of wine with the other two Canucks present as well as with Willy, a strong 42 year old rider who recently retired from the US Military after 22 years of service, including nine years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thanks for your service man!

I wrote “scheduled to be” as we actually shortened it by 30 miles and took out one climb in the process. The shortened route was announced in the parking lot at 5:45 am before our departure. Funny enough, no one complained. Our goal is to finish every stage ahead of the pros. We usually leave three hours before they do which leaves us just enough time to eat after we complete a stage, walk over to the finish in the VIP tent and catch the end of the pro race. Given the length of Stage 4 and the number of climbs, the CTS crew estimated that we would get caught before the finish if we tried to do the whole stage. I assume no one would have liked to leave for the start at 4:45 am or stay on the side of the road in 100 F heat for 45 minutes while the road was closed for the pros. So the only option left was to shorten the stage. The truth of the matter is  that no one objected to riding 100 miles as opposed to 130 miles.

So we started out at the top of the first big climb and got on our way at around 8:00 am. It should be noted that there was talk of a “truce” in the peleton. The peleton having fought really hard on all of the climbs of the first three stages we now have a good understanding of each other’s fitness level and climbing ability. The conclusion is that there are several strong climbers who have all won King of the Mountains points. With the two real mountain stages ahead of us, I think the peleton was happy to keep the riding a “little easier” on Stage 4.

On the last big climb of the day I ended up at the front with Marco, a strong and talented cyclist from Zurich. Marco does not speak English fluently and it is sometimes difficult for him to understand what everyone says in the heat of the moment, rolling at 40 kilometers an hour. Anyways, on the last climb I was actually trying to talk Marco into a truce and he noded and looked at me with his infectious smile. And then Marco would pull ahead and I could see my power jump from 280/290 watts to 325/350 watts. I wasn’t sure if Marco wasn’t understanding what I was saying or if his surges were just a way of say “no truce my friend” but I assumed that it was “game on” and that I was in for a fierce battle. Fierce battle it was, all the way to the finish line. We had a great time racing each other and congratulated each other at the top.

There was about 45 miles to go from the top of the last climb. Most of that was downhill on very large roads. Needless to stay, we covered a lot of ground in a very short time.

With about 25 kilometers to go we were riding two by two in a perfect pace line. I asked if someone knew how fast we were going and someone said 41 km/hour. Now that is some serious group riding. The peleton went through the finish line together and and we headed out to the VIP parking lot where the soigneurs had recovery drinks, meal, cold wet towels and chairs in the shade for us. The royal treatment.


Amgen Tour of California Stage 4 Description

At 130 miles, Stage 4 is the longest stage of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California, and possibly the most difficult. This will be the race’s first visit to Sonora, a town that many consider to be the most preserved Gold Rush town in California. There is no question about the important role that Sonora played in the Gold Rush, and today it serves as both the gateway to Yosemite National Park (just 75 miles away) and the seat of Tuolumne County. Sonora has California history written all over it, and you need to look no further than the location of the Stage 4 race start. As the riders roll south from the start, it will be easy to imagine what it was like more than 150 years ago as wagons rolled down the same roads.

 As the riders head south towards Mariposa and Oakhurst (both Sprint cities), they will enjoy the incredible beauty and challenge of historic Highway 49. As they skirt Yosemite, they will encounter everything from numerous KOMs, twisty and technical descents, and raging rivers, but very few sections of flat roadway. Once through Mariposa, Highway 49 widens a bit, but two more KOMs will await the cyclists as they head to the final Sprint in Oakhurst. The riders will no doubt be fearless as they attack the final 40 miles into the return to Clovis, perhaps recalling the snow and ice along this same route in 2009.

 What better way to help celebrate Clovis’ 100th anniversary than to watch a thundering peloton sprint to the same finish won by Mark Cavendish in 2009. Clovis is another city belonging to California’s Gateway to Yosemite and is home to the world-famous Clovis Rodeo.

Click here to see the map to Stage 4.

Click here to see the elevation of Stage 4.