Wednesday, May 19, 2010

They're not on dope, they're on rocketships.

[Update 5/20: Well, according to Floyd Landis, they are on dope.]

Your faithful cycling correspondent here again, the Ayatollah of Geek & Rolla!  I made the arduous journey to the wilds of Santa Cruz yesterday to watch the Tour of Calfornia go over what has become one of its signature climbs--Bonny Doon.

The climb itself is about 7.5 miles and climbs from the beach to 2,000 feet.  The bottom is really hard, with a long stretch (about a mile) of 10%+.  Then it just climbs steadily for the last 4.5 miles.

I got the chance to do 2 trips up the climb before the pros arrived, which was an experience in itself.  The fans packed along the side of the road were cheering for everyone riding up the climb.  I was already tired from riding around Pescadero earlier in the day, so when I hit the 10% section, the legs started to scream.  But when dozens of people are ringing cowbells at you and cheering, you don't think about how you feel.  You just get out of the saddle and hammer, because this will not happen again.  

Absorb the "Pro" moment.  Cowbells, drunken fans, absurd costumes.  Deep in the pain cave.  Totally epic.  For extra Pro credit, instead of falling off the bike at the top of the steep part, slam it into the big ring.

Sporadic cowbells for the next few miles, and then at the 1km to go sign, it got loud again.  Big Ring.  Thankfully it is not that steep, and I could fake it over the top.
Uhhm...the gorilla was clearly not impressed by my speed over the top.  Presumably he got a bit more pumped for the pros.

I did not get photos of the crowded part of the climb, around mile 3 where it is steepest, but you probably saw it on tv.  Because they closed the road while I was riding down after my second ascent, I watched at mile 4, where it is only about a 4% grade.  I chose my spot because a resident had dragged their tv out to the street, so we could watch the live coverage while we waited.

They were hauling ass, even though at this point, Levi had decided not to push 100%.  Looks to me like they are rolling in the low 20s.

Here comes the chase.  You don't often see guys going uphill in the full aero position like the guy on the front here.  I do it, of course, but mostly because I am too tired to hold myself up anymore.

Ah, finally.  Here are some chaps I can appreciate.  The "autobus" rolls by at a pace that seems more human.  Chatting, smiling...looks like a party bus.

Local boy Scott Zwizanski of Bissell came by between the chase group and the peloton, looking exhausted but focused.  When I have ridden with Scott he never seemed to leave zone 2, so it is nice to see him suffering like a dog--I taught him that trick.  One guy who did not look to be having fun was Andy Schleck, who looked like he had swallowed a live badger when he trudged by behind the peloton--he should have been hanging out in the party bus.  

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