This was our schedule for Saturday, May 19, 2012:

Stage 7, Ontario-Mt. Baldy (78mi/126km) 

  • CTS Breakfast Time:             5:00-5:45 am
  • CTS Depart Hotel:                5:45 am
  • AM Transfer:                        1 hour 45 minutes
  • CTS Ride Start Time:            7:45 am
  • Pro Riders Start:                  12:00 pm
  • CTS Finish Time:                   1:00-2:00 pm
  • Pro Finish Time:                    3:30-4:00 pm
  • PM Transfer:                        1 hour 15 minutes
  • CTS Dinner:                         6:30-8:30 pm  

It took me 5:50 hrs to complete Stage 7, the second and last mountain stage of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California. Other interesting stage statistics include 3,981 kilojoules, average power of 189 watts (normalized power of 217 watts) and 3,442 meters (11,358 feet) of climbing. It was a hard day. The whole CTS team completed the event except Steve who took a wrong turn. Although he rode the same distance as the rest of the group, he ended up far from the finish line, without money or cell phone. We were happy to buy him a drink once we got back to the hotel.

We were also a bit concerned for a while not being able to find Rene. Once we found him we learned that he flatted on the descent of Mount Baldy after the event and he ended up having to walk four kilometers – in addition to riding the 126 kilometers stage!

Everyone is a true champion for having completed such a gruelling stage, especially after a whole week of long and hard riding. Every rider will go home with lots of stories to tell and with the feeling that they have accomplished something truly unique. I am proud of all my teammates.

I do need to point out the courage and dedication shown by Quentin who crashed in the middle of Stage 6. In spite of some serious bruising and road rash he not only finished Stage 6 after the crash but he also completed Stage 7 – with a smile on his face!!! Well done!

I should also point out that Greg rode the last three or four stages with a seriously swollen left ankle. How he did it, I just don’t know. And let’s not forget Willy who broke his chain at the bottom of Stage 7 and seriously hurt his Achille’s heel in the process. That wasn’t going to stop him. He took a couple of Advils, put ice in his sock and completed Stage 7.

A lot goes through your mind when you struggle up the last five kilometers of a 126 kilometer mountain stage in 80 F temperature and the average grade is about 10%. One of the question that keeps coming back is: “Why am I doing this? It would feel so good to call it quits.” Although I would never get off my bike and quit, I came close to that point yesterday. And getting close to the quitting point is good, it helps you “Harden The Fuck Up (HTFU)”, as my good friend and Canadian Champion Gord Fraser would say. HTFU is a key component of becoming a better cyclist. Whenever you get close to the quitting point, suck it up and keep riding. Champions don’t quit. Pain and discomfort truly are temporary.

The other thing that getting close to the quitting point highlights is that, as my CTS coach Jason Tullous tells me all the time, “as you progress as a cyclist, it doesn`t get any easier, it only gets faster.” So that is the choice we make, we can`t have it fast and easy. I`ll take faster over easier any day. I kept reminding my Group B teammates all week: “We hurt just as much in the A Group. The only difference between the groups is that we are in front.”

Yesterday I spent the last two hours riding with Scott, a very strong climber from New Mexico and CTS coach Jason. We encouraged ourselves, each taking pulls on the flats (not many of those) and taking turns setting the pace on the climbs (lots of those). And as Scott was stronger at the end he pushed me to keep my power up in the last 2 kilometers. Thanks to Scott I ended up finishing way harder than I would have on my own. Cycling truly is a team sport. I look forward to riding the USA Pro Cycling Challenge with Scott in Colorado in August.

Pictures taken today:

Description of Stage 7

If the Stage 6 climb to Big Bear Lake created some separation between the contenders and the chasers, Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California will be the ultimate test of the rider’s resolve to capture the Amgen Leader Jersey. Did they leave it all on the roads to the Big Bear Climb, or did they hold back enough to survive one of the most difficult stages in the history of bicycle racing in the United States?

It’s been called the “Queen’s Stage” and compared to the epic stages of the European Grand Tours – a return to the mountain top finish that thrilled so many during Stage 7 of the 2011 race. This is the training ground for many of the local racers in southern California, but only a handful have done the entire route, and none have done it after six days of racing more than 750 miles. It is very possible that the winner of the 2012 Amgen Tour of California will be decided on the final 15 switchbacks to the finish on Mt. Baldy.

The race will begin in the thriving city of Ontario. Situated just 35 miles east of Los Angeles, Ontario is the center of commerce in southern California. Just a few miles from the start, the riders will start a 13-mile climb to the Village of Baldy. After an acute left, the racers will face another mile of climbing up Glendora Ridge Road to their first of three monster KOMs. From there, they will have 12 miles of narrow and twisting roads that gradually descend to a fast and technical descent down the backside of Glendora Mountain Road. Riders and fans alike can expect spectacular vistas throughout the Angeles National Forest.

Another descent down East Fork will take the riders to Highway 39 and the town of Azusa. Heading east, they’ll race through the City of Glendora for the only Sprint of the day. At this point, the remaining number of flat miles for Stage 7 will have dwindled to less than two, and there are still nearly 30 miles to the finish.

A left turn onto Glendora Mountain Road and it will be game on. The next KOM will be a nine-mile climb, 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 feet in just three miles…and the real climbing has not even started! At Ice House Canyon, the route will make a hard left turn where 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. With 1.2 miles to go, the road will straighten out and the finish will be seen ahead. At .25 miles to go, the route will make a hard left and the racers will face the final five switchbacks to the finish line. This will be the stage where legends are made and winners are decided.

Map of Stage 7:

Profile of Stage 7: