Friday, February 27, 2009

Tour of California Adventure

Even though Lucy and I did not make it to Maui we fulfilled another dream of ours. A day after not being able to get on a flight to Maui we hopped a Southwest Airlines flight to Los Angeles, California. We rented a Toyota Prius hybrid (1. because Lucy really wanted to drive a hybrid since Drew won't let them buy new cars and 2. to save money since they would be driving a lot this vacation.) and drove north to meet up with stages 6-8 of the Tour of California. For Lucy it was quite an adventure driving up the Pacific Coast Highway. We spent our first evening in Santa Barbara where we had a whale of a good time.

After a relaxing evening walking around town (think Territory Ahead brand outlet store), we stopped off at the Santa Barbara Brewery. Nothing too crazy since we had to get up early and drive north to meet up with the race the next day.

The Tour of California is a relatively new road bike stage race. Even though '09 is only the fourth annual race, top riders from all over the world are now racing in the event. The race started in Sacramento with just over 135 racers and finished 9 days later in the outskirts of San Diego with approximately 85 racers. The stages were grueling and covered everything from individual time trials, wicked hill climbs, and long, 100+ mile stages in the flat lands of the Central Valley. Overall, the race covered more than 750 miles.

"Lucy likes the fast racers! Here she is pictured next to Levi Leipheimer's bike."

"Drew likes the slower endurance racers and their steady machines!"

The two of us caught up with the race in Solvang for the individual time trial. Each rider competed against the clock on a 15-mile course for the best overall time. Here is a picture of David Zabriskie wearing the USA national time trial champion uniform 200 meters from the finish line. The riders were so close, and the energy was contageous. Good vibes.

We drove almost 120 miles that afternoon to Santa Clarita. Since this was a very last minute planning effort, we knew not that we would serendipitously end up staying at the same hotel as the staff of the race! The hotels across the parking lot housed all the riders. The next morning Lucy trolled the parking lots gauking at the mechanics working on the sleek and serious bicycles.
Santa Clarita was the starting point for stage 7; a 90-mile course into Pasadena finishing at the Rose Bowl. This was our first opportunity to get a roadside view of team racing in action. After early stage action, we raced to the Rose Bowl to watch the racers on the finishing circuits. This was especially cool because it was an exciting finish down to the wire. We were positioned 50 m after the finish line, so not only did we see the racers fly by 5 times on the finishing circuit, we were right next to them when they stopped after the race, all breathless and sweaty. (Whale watching in Hawaii notwithstanding, this was most outstanding for Lucy.)

"Team Astana, including Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong on the finishing circuit, stage 7."

The final stage of the race started in Rancho Bernardo just outside of San Diego. This stage was insanely difficult and included a giant climb up Mt. Palomar plus over 100 miles of racing. Lucy was well connected wherever she went with minute by minute live web updates of the race coming in on her mobile device (cell phone). We were able to keep up with the race in even most remote locations, which made it MUCH better than watching on TV at home.
We watched the racers climb up the hill, attacks and breakaways included, and then scream by us down the hill. Here is a short video clip of the racers going by Lucy on the inside of a hairpin turn. As the racers go by at 45+ mph, they have their "game face" on, concentrating on the road, and it looks as if they are heading straight for you!

It was not the adventure we set out to have at the beginning of the week, but what an adventure we had navigating the California freeways, cheering on the top cyclists in the world, and enjoying a few tasty pints along the way! Until our next adventure we wish you all the best.

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