(Includes photos from the 2006
This is the meanest, nastiest climb
on the entire Tour of California,
and it's right in our
backyard. 1,946ft in 3.74 miles according to my bike computer. To
put that in perspective, Old LaHonda climbs 1290 ft in 3.37 miles.
This is much steeper. And totally out in the open.
just in from the 2007 event-
maybe I'm reading this guy's sign wrong, but it appears to be an
insult to the riders (these guys aren't much in front of the broom
wagon). "TURN DOWN THE SUCK
I have trouble with spectators starting back down the hill before
the last rider, thinking that's not giving the respect they (the
riders) deserve. But this goes way beyond that.
Maybe there's an alternative way to read that placard that I'm not
getting. Perhaps someone can enlighten me. I just know that, in the
six years I raced, I never saw anything like that, nor heard anyone
say anything like it. And trust me, there were a few times it might
have been correct! But to say or write it is, in my opinion, just
Did we tell you that Sierra Road was steep? The photo on the right is one of the few that
truly gives a sense of how steep the climb is. This is one of those
rare hills that you can really sink your teeth into. Just having low
gears isn't enough; you'll actually have to supply a fair amount of
force to the pedals and in a few places work a bit to
keep the front wheel from popping up.
Thankfully, it's not one of those hopeless, never-ending type of
climbs. The constantly-changing views (including cattle that are
sometimes actually running on the hills, why, I don't know), the
many twists & turns and the changing grade make it go by pretty
the top (King of Moutain), where a small town seems to be setting
up, hours in advance of the race. Someone's even flying a Tour de
Two hours before the
race, and it's a fairly quiet place.
But as the
riders draw closer, the hill becomes packed with spectators, most of
them right where I thought would be a great place for photos.
Everybody else thought the same, making it not the greatest spot for
photos, but that's a realization that comes too late to do anything
And here they come!
Levi, Kohl and Landis in the middle of a crowd that surged into the
road, as if this was our version of Alpe d'Huez. Everyone was moving
directly into the path of the riders, and then jumping back at the
last-possible second. To the best of my knowledge, nobody got run
over, but there had to have been a few close calls.
George Hincapie and
crew, making their way up almost exactly one minute behind Levi's
group... a minute they'd make up on the following descent and then
the final run towards the finish line.
The infamous "broom wagon" with,
literally, brooms! The broom wagon "sweeps" the course, following
the last rider to the finish. It lets people know there's nobody
California! In February, no less. We have a gorgeous day, great
spectator turnout, the San Francisco Bay in the background, and the
Marlboro Man looking on.
While I was hanging
around on the main climb, brother Steve was down at the finish,
capturing George crossing the line ahead of Chris Horner and Josep Jufre Pou.
George later noted a sense of relief at winning such an important
stage, given that he's made something of a transformation from
sprinter to climber.
This shot was taken the
Sunday prior to the race, when Jeff and I did a scouting mission to
check out the course.
Posing with the beginnings of their handiwork.
Unfortunately, you've really got to be BIG and BOLD for it to be
legible, for both the riders and the TV coverage.
The map below, showing the KOM
(King of the Mountain) spot on Sierra Road (which I always knew as
"Sierra Grade Road" back when I raced) shows the location
of Sierra Road. It's
mean. It's nasty. It's steeeeeeeep. And the only way to get there
on race day was
by bike or foot. By bike, a good climber is going to make it to the
top in about half an hour, while the racers will do it in 15 minutes
or so. Plan on an hour and a half if you don't enjoy steep grades.
Walking? At least an hour to get to the first photo spot, shown in
the pictures below, and over two hours if you want to make it to the
Below is the timetable showing when the riders will
pass through various points. Note that they're expected at the top
of Sierra Raod between 1:56 and 2:30pm.
As if one needs to show a profile of Sierra Road. A
fast climber is going to get from the bottom to the top in half an
hour; the racers will get there in maybe 20 minutes.
The casual cyclist should probably allow an hour and a half to get
to the top.
Signage at the base says the road will close at noon, but it doesn't
differentiate between cars and bikes. In any event, you'll want to
start up a bit earlier than that anyway, to get a good spot.
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