Category: Tour of California

May 19, 2011

Gallery up at Peloton Magazine


I'm shooting for a new client this year: Peloton Magazine. I'm enjoying the assignment because it lets me get a little more artistic than in the past. My first gallery is now up at


May 6, 2009

Tour of California 2010: To May, and the Mountaintops!

toc.logo.gifThe Tour of California has been alternately criticized for being too easy -- no real decisive stages other than the TT -- or too hard, as it is an early season race. Each year the organizers have been able to make it progressively harder as it becomes a more important part of the race calendar, but next year everyone should get their wish:

The Tour of California will be from May 16-23 and it will have a mountain top finish. In 2011, it will have ProTour status.

The later schedule means several things:

  • the Sierra mountains will be more accessible as there will be less snow
  • riders will be more fit to handle more strenuous climbs
  • it will compete for the same calendar space as the Giro

This has long been rumored ever since the demise of the Tour de Georgia. The move should make it a more interesting race, though at the same time it is unlikely that it will be able to field the same quality of field that it has in the past. I had a feeling when I saw Leipheimer, Armstrong, Boonen, Cancellara, Freire, Cavendish, Landis, Hincapie, Sastre, FSchleck, etc... lineup it might be the last time that we saw that quality of field -- of course, if Armstrong starts his own team, we might see him in California one more time. It will be really exciting to start to really have a Tour of California, one that explores the real mountains we have around here, so I think the exchange is worthwhile.

March 7, 2009

ToC '09 through Darrell Parks' eyes

If you read Pez, you know Darrell Parks work. We spent a lot of time running into each other along the course of the ToC as we each sought out our ideal spots. He's a great cycling photographer with only one failing trait: he left California for Northern Virginia. I never knew there was such a thing as cycling when I grew up in Northern Virginia, and yet he maintains a finely tuned eye for the sport.

I didn't do a proper diary of this year's ToC, but I'll just pretend all his wisdom and insights are my own and point to his instead. Darrell's one of those guys I would shake my fist at from time to time because, even though we would be shooting the same thing, he'd find a better angle, so read up and enjoy.

Pez: The Photog's View: Chasing California!

February 27, 2009

Michael Rogers Neck Punch

Neck Punch

I buried this photo a little bit the first time around as I generally don't like posting out-of-focus photos (I was tracking Levi just in front), but the Flickrati have spoken: People dig the Michael Rogers Neck Punch. To give it some context, I believe two guys were running along side of the riders and one of the guys fell down. The other persisted in running alongside even though he was precariously close to the riders.


February 26, 2009

Tour of California 2009 Stage 8: A Day On Palomar

Palomar - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Click to see more Tour of California Stage 8 Photos

The shot you see above is what got me up early in the morning to spend nearly an entire day on Palomar. I shot it using a remote, which can be very stressful. The emergency crews had roped off an area for helicopters and they felt my camera position was too close. As a result I had to set the camera three hours early and had to hope everything worked out, i.e. the batteries don't run out, the rain doesn't get on the lens, the helicopters don't blow over the tripod. You also have to stay within range of the remote, which limits what you can shoot with your other camera.

The number of fans was also stressful. Crowds were non-existent when I got there and was setting up the camera. They improved by not to the expected number 10,000 -- it was much less than that and much less than needed to push the framing I chose above from good to great. I've heard the early road closures blamed for the smaller crowds. I've added a full-frame camera body to my list of future purchases: I had to position the camera much higher than I should have, which kept the cyclists too small to easily see at Web sizes.

I'm always trying to think of how I could have done a shot better as I'm rarely satisfied, so this perhaps gives you a peek into the things running through my head.

Chalk Fun - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley
Chalk Fun - (c) Ken Conley
Photo by Ken Conley

Chalk Fun - (c) Ken ConleyThere was plenty of fun to take my mind of my precariously positioned camera. Drunk fans took to using the Livestrong chalk to chalk up their hands then slap the butt of everyone that passed. Not even the cops were safe.

I was hoping to see Floyd going full at the top, but Astana was too much to battle. The riders were haggard and edgy -- Mick Rogers gave a fan a punch in the neck. The fan probably deserved it.

After the peloton came through, photographer and local Mark Johnson hoped in my car to show me the back way out. We descended down a sketchy dirt road that my car barely survived. There was some sliding and bottomed-out suspensions involved. Thanks to his route, we were able to make it to Cole Grade. I snapped a couple more shots, though by then I was too exhausted to take a descent photo. But as a cycling fan, I always enjoy the opportunity to see more of the race and it was interesting to see the effect the monstrous closing day had on the riders. Everyone appeared to be on fumes.

Click to see more Tour of California Stage 8 Photos

DZ's car found, man arrested

Still no sign of the important stuff, but a man seen getting in and out of Dave Zabriskie's car was arrested.

I hadn't realized until I read the article that Sideshow was putting up $10,000 as a reward for helping recover DZ's stuff. That's awesome and I'll have to spend some extra time at their booth while at Comic-Con.

February 24, 2009

Why I love DZ

Among the most important items he listed as being stolen:

According to police, the Marvel sideshow statues are distinctive in that they stand two- to three feet tall and are very heavy. The stolen statues were of: "Hellboy" pistol figurine, "Ash"Army of Darkness, "Tomb Raider" Lara Croft, "The Punisher," "Alien," "Ironman" Limited Edition, and a "Gears of War" character.

Complete list here. Hopefully his stuff gets tracked down as there simply aren't that many places to pawn off Olympic rings and Giro medals.

WTF, now Dave Zabriskie's stuff stolen too?

ToC, theft of collectibles:

  • dzabriskiedzabriskie If anyone out there sees anything you think might be mine, let me know. Thanks...DZ
  • dzabriskiedzabriskie My house was broken into while at TOC. They took everything, a lot of bikes,cars, and you name it they got it.
  • February 21, 2009

    Tour of California 2009 Stage 7: Nocentini Notches a win for AG2R

    Nocentini - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Mavic - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Breakaway - (c) Ken Conley Big Hair Superfan - (c) Ken Conley

    More Stage 7 Photos

    Nocentini was a surprise winner, beating out a break that included the likes of Christian Vande Velde, George Hincapie, Frank Schleck, and Chris Baldwin. With most of the teams represented in the break, Astana was content to set tempo and keep the break at a comfortable three-minute lead.

    I don't have a arms-raised finish photo to share -- Roulsten really looked to have the sprint, so I focused in on him. By the time I saw Nocentini raise his arms the buffer on my camera was full. I wasn't the only one to bet on Roulsten and loose the finish photo. The finishing straight was especially wide and with Roulsten on the far right and Nocentini on the far left, you had to pick your horse.

    I rode today with in Mavic 2, the support car that follows the breakaway. Unfortunately, Astana was intent on reeling in nearly every breakaway that went. Svein Tuft and Oscar Sevilla were among the riders denied multiple times by Astana. As it was, we only got to jump into the support slow with 1km to go on Millcreek Summit, which limited the shooting opportunities. I was still happy to get some shots of the descent, Baldwin and Vande Velde chasing on, and Big Hair Superfan.

    More Stage 7 Photos

    February 20, 2009

    Tour of California 2009 Stage 6: Levi in Solvang, Again

    Levi Leipheimer - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    The Solvang course is Levi country. It has yet to deny him, even with strong competition from Dave Zabriskie this year.

    I have to head out as the transfer today is quite long. My photos from today are fairly terrible. I attempted to go big with my Levi and Lance photos and fell on my face instead. I took some safe shots earlier and should have stuck with that, but with the Prologue in the bank it was time for something new.

    Tour of California Stage 6: Solvang

    February 19, 2009

    Better than expected

    Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    To see the photos I'm talking about, please visit the gallery

    First off, thanks to Paul of Vero for loaning me a spare 580EX flash and a 40D body. The shots today would not have been possible otherwise as you need the faster recycling and external battery compability of a 580EX-level flash to shoot the race starts. The 40D is also produces much better images than 30D.

    I tried and failed again to get in a moto. Based on the route's flatness, I didn't think that there would be many opportunities to shoot the peloton. As it turned out, the peloton decided to take a break at the beginning of the day and let the break gain some easy time. This meant it was easy to drive the long, straight, flat roads of the Central Valley to jump in front of them.

    That doesn't mean I made the most of each stop.

    I decided to finally really shoot a race start. I kind of did that yesterday, but I skipped the callouts and spent most of my time shooting the bikes. I don't like doing the race starts as they usually cost you a stop further down the road and everytime it's the same thing, but it's worth it to do it at least once so that you have a catalog of all the cyclists that you need. I stocked up on some Armstrong shots as he's always hard to find and then hit the road.

    At the first stop, I accidentally bumped my dial from Av to Manual and had to throw away some overexposed shots. I also went against my instinct and didn't shoot the angle I originally intended. The longer I wait for the peloton, the greedier I get about using both my cameras and jumping from one position to another. Usually my greediness results in half-ass versions of both shots with technical flaws. Always make sure you get the first shot before you try for the second.

    At the second stop, I originally drove up to the feed, only to discover it in the middle of a dirt-flat wasteland. I did a quick U-Turn, drove around the bend, and almost immediately found what I was looking for -- pink flowers. I had already jumped through several rows of trees when I noticed what I wasn't looking for -- bees everywhere! It hadn't occurred to me that the big white boxes along the road side were in fact beehives. I really wanted the shot, so my solution was to pull down my sleeves and act unflower-like.

    I knew the break was several minutes ahead so I walked to the roadside to shoot them alone. This was where being just after the feedzone cost me an extra shot. It was easy to tell with my 300mm lens that I was witnessing a nature break. Even though the nature break ended before they were fully in range, they were hardly posed for a suitable photograph. Luckily the peloton was better.

    I wasn't going to take any shots after that -- I had gone through the last two sprint points without seeing anything but brown hills and powerlines, but as I made my way to turn onto the road into Paso Robles, I noticed the course go uphill past a vineyard. Bingo! I drove up the hill and saw a big farm lift with a platform seven feet off the ground -- Double Bingo! Then the farmer came out to watch the race and made me get down, unwilling to let me stay there due to "liability reasons." Less Bingo.

    It's all for the best as the moto photographers arrived shortly thereafter and would have been standing in my frame had I shot from there, instead of where I placed my camera on remote a little further up the road. That's one of the frustrations you have to deal with when covering a course by car. No matter how good of a spot you find, someone on moto will arrive just minutes before the peloton and shoot it too, possibly stepping into the framing you've so carefully chosen. Accept it.

    I barely made it to Paso Robles ahead of the sprint -- the peloton finally started riding much harder and threw off my estimates -- but I got there in time to shoot Cavendish gesturing at his white shorts. It was one of the easier sprints to shoot as Cavendish won it so easily from so far out. Usually the sprint is a giant mess of confusion and you hope you pick your horse correctly. No such troubles this time.

    Tour of California 2009 Stage 5: Cavendish doubles up

    Blossoms - (c) Ken Conley
    Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken Conley
    Cavendish Victorious - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Lance Armstrong - (c) Ken ConleyLance Armstrong - (c) Ken ConleyPeloton - (c) Ken Conley

    Yes, that was his victory salute.

    See more photos in:

    Tour of California Stage 5 Photo Gallery

    February 18, 2009

    Hectic morning

    Caravan - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    I worried about covering today's stage as the course didn't really allow someone in a car to cover more than one spot out on course. I tried for a moto, but clearly everyone else can read the technical manual and came to the same conclusion. It didn't help that this was the first good day of weather.

    About an hour before the stage start I decided it would be a good day to try for a team car. I made the call and, lo and behold, I had a ride in the Fly V Australia car. We were the last car in the second caravan, which wasn't ideal placement, but very entertaining Nathan O'Neill was riding shotgun and there were some hot Parlees on the roof to make up for it.

    All was set, but I had to go and screw everything up. My camera slipped off my shoulder while I was getting some last-minute bike and rider shots. My 580EX II flash was down for the count. Mario from Vero came by and needed to get his camera body back. Then the team cars were lining up and I was nowhere to be found.

    I managed to sprint to the car and we immediately pulled out into the caravan. Only then did I think to ask Mario to drive my car to the finish line. But the car was already part of the moving race caravan. Mario was standing in the crowds somewhere taking photos. We were doing some neutral laps so I called him and frantically explained what I wanted him to do:

    He was going to drive my car to the finish line... and I was going to throw my car key out the window at him.

    It was a great plan. But I couldn't spot him when we did the first circuit.

    No matter. Nathan O'Neill took my key and as we passed across the starting gate he handed it to one of the officials, Jason. Jason gave that look of astonishment that you might naturally have if Nathan O'Neill leans out of a moving car and hands you the key to a BMW. I watched him raise the car key towards the stage like a Cracker Jack prize. What was done was done, so all that was left to do was scream to Mario, "Find Jason!"

    The rest of the day was much less eventful for me, though much more eventful for the riders. I saw Freire, Kirchen and Nydam on the side of the road, badly injured. I saw numerous riders retire for the day, unable to handle the brutal season opener. I watched the Fly V guys help out Jelly Belly's Bernard van Ulden when the refs for some reason weren't letting him get his spare bike. van Ulden still had to ride to the finish on a tiny bike with blood streaming down his leg.

    I saw Fly V's Curtis Gunn fight valiantly to get back into the pack after being dropped off the back. He drifted all the way back to the broom wagon before fighting his way solo up and down a freezing, snow-covered KOM. He finally managed to reattach just before the finish. I'll try to remember his ride next time I get dropped.

    Harden the F#$@ Up.

    Stage 4: Cavendish Gets His Win

    Into the Sierras - (c) Ken Conley
    Freire Out - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Nydam Down - (c) Ken Conley Fly V Australia - (c) Ken Conley

    Tour of California Stage 4 Gallery

    Cavendish had plenty of motivation going into this year's Tour of California. Last year his only stage victory was taken away as he was relegated for holding onto the team car in the final laps. Yesterday he was beaten out by Thor Hushovd after he tussled with Freddie Rodriguez. Today he got his first Tour of California victory and put Columbia on the board. It's a mixed day for Columbia as they lost Kim Kirchen to a crash that also took out Oscar Freire. I managed to catch Cavendish off the back on the approach into Clovis. He quickly got back with the help of Renshaw and a car boost.

    Mark Cavendish - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    I spent the day in the Fly V Australia team car, where the day's story became clear even before the first climb was reached. Eleven riders failed to finish, either due to sickness, conditioning, or crashes. Nydam appeared to have one of the worse crashes as there was blood streaming from his chin when I passed. Jelly Belly only lost one rider, but two of their riders were off the back most of the day. Another of their riders, Bernard van Ulden, crashed on the final descent and had to pace himself to the finish with a bleeding knee and a bike several sizes too small. Ouch, Team Type 1, and Fly V all had similarly bad days. There are a lot of sore bodies in the peloton, including Landis, who also crashed with Freire and Kirchen.

    Tour of California Stage 4 Gallery

    February 17, 2009

    Tour of California 2009 Stage 3: Hushovd Scores His First

    Calaveras - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Astana - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    Stage 3 Photos

    A four-man break valiantly tried to stay away all the way from Sierra Road and two made it to the streets of Modesto, but even with one of the circuits eliminated it was too hard to deny the sprint teams their much desired stage. Cervelo's Dominique Rollin delivered Hushovd around the final corner and he stomped his way to his first Tour of California victory.

    It was another hard day for the riders. The sleepy noon start worked against the riders. There were blue skies ahead and behind of the riders, but it was pure rain above. I passed by Ian MacGregor of Team Type 1 being transferred between ambulances after crashing on the descent of Sierra Road.

    Apologies for the overly processed photo above (and the like with the Golden Gate). I normally refrain from that extreme of exposure remapping, but with the rain destorying all the scenic takes, I felt it was necessary to try and show what the rain was hiding.

    Stage 3 Photos

    February 16, 2009

    Stage 2: Levi Takes Over, Peterson Scores for Garmin

    Golden Gate Bridge - (c) Ken Conley
    1k to go - (c) Ken Conley
    Thomas Peterson - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    Stage 2 Photo Gallery

    It seems that Mother Nature was intent on compressing an entire California winter into a single day. We saw near-freezing cold rain, sunshine, wind, and even brief hail. On TV it just looks like normal rain, but this is my-fingers-don't-work sort of rain and, my-camera-won't-work sort of rain. Rain blew directly into my camera while shooting the Golden Gate Bridge -- I managed to squeeze off three shots before rain drops started blurring out riders and bridge suspension. Tunitas Creek was coated in cold fog, rain -- and yet tons of Bay Area riders rode up to line the climb. I was hoping to catch the riders at Bonny Doon but mudslide repair took out a lane of Highway 17 into Santa Cruz and I shot from the top of a bike rental shop 1 kilometer from the finish instead. Thankfully there was finally sunshine in Santa Cruz; I felt warm for the first time this Tour of California.

    Yesterday was bad enough that my 30D is still non-functional. Whenever I turn it on, the shutter immediately starts clicking and never stops. I'm hoping for recovery by tomorrow. Big thanks goes to Mario of Vero, who lent me a camera body in lieu of my ToC-killed one.

    Update: the 30D lives!

    Stage 2 Photo Gallery

    February 15, 2009

    Tour of California 2009 Women's Crit

    Columbia - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Columbia - (c) Ken ConleyVanderkitten - (c) Ken Conley

    Emilia Fahlin won the sprint from an early break that was too hard to catch on a wet and nasty day. She had plenty of help from Kim Anderson, who took plenty of turns at the front of the break to control the attacks. I'm not sure if there were any crashes, but Brooke Miller had to switch to her spare bike after her rear derailleur hanger got taken out in a collision.

    Santa Rosa Women's Crit Photo Gallery

    Tour of California Stage 1: Mancebo Guts it Out

    Francisco Mancebo - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Francisco Mancebo - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    Tour of California Stage 1 Photo Gallery

    Usually when you go off the front in terrible weather and get caught by two riders who bridged on the finishing circuits, you're toast. But Francisco Mancebo was all kinds of tough today and outjumped those who tried to take his victory, single-handedly delivering Rock Racing perhaps its greatest victory (only Hamilton's championship can compare).

    The rain was equally tough, doing its best to destroy my camera equipment. As I dry it out and hope that it still functions tomorrow, I'll continue to post photos, including from the women's criterium that Columbia's Emilia Fahlin took in the breakaway sprint.

    Tour of California Stage 1 Photo Gallery

    February 14, 2009

    Tour of California 2009 Prologue: Cancellara Repeats

    Fabian Cancellara - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley
    Dave Zabriskie - (c) Ken ConleyLevi Leipheimer - (c) Ken ConleyLance Armstrong - (c) Ken Conley

    Tour of California 2009 Prologue Photos

    The field was even more impressive, but that did nothing to deter Fabian Cancellara from repeating victory in the Tour of California opener. The dreaded rain stayed away most of the day, with most of the riders racing under blue skies, but the final impressive role of riders was treated to threatening sprinkles. Today was also notable for gargantuan cheers greeting Armstrong's return to racing in America. The organizers awarded him a "Most Courageous" Jersey, aka "anything to get Lance onstage" award.

    The slow wifi here in the media room is keeping me from writing (and uploading) more, so look to these sites for more ToC 2009 coverage:

    Incredible end for tomorrow

    Check out the final riders to go tomorrow -- it will be a special 15 minutes, for sure. I'll lock in my predication for tomorrow: Cancellara. Who knows what his form is, but the distance seems too short and flat for others, except maybe a fit Hushovd.

    1. 15.34'00" 25 LUX 19780703 KIRCHEN Kim Team Columbia-High Road THR
    2. 15.35'00" 41 BEL 19801015 BOONEN Tom Quick Step QST
    3. 15.36'00" 21 USA 19730629 HINCAPIE George Team Columbia-High Road THR
    4. 15.37'00" 162 USA 19710301 HAMILTON Tyler Rock Racing RRC
    5. 15.38'00" 38 USA 19790112 ZABRISKIE David Garmin-Slipstream GRM
    6. 15.39'00" 2 USA 19710918 ARMSTRONG Lance Astana AST
    7. 15.40'00" 31 USA 19760522 VANDEVELDE Christian Garmin-Slipstream GRM
    8. 15.41'00" 11 SUI 19810318 CANCELLARA Fabian Team Saxo Bank SAX
    9. 15.42'00" 61 ITA 19771126 BASSO Ivan Liquigas LIQ
    10. 15.43'00" 28 AUS 19791220 ROGERS Michael Team Columbia-High Road THR
    11. 15.44'00" 101 USA 19751014 LANDIS Floyd Ouch Presented By Maxxis OCM
    12. 15.45'00" 1 USA 19731024 LEIPHEIMER Levi Astana AST

    February 13, 2009

    Tour of California: Race Preparation Photos

    Saxo Bank Specializeds - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    Tour of California 2009 Race Preparation Photos (Sacramento)

    It's cold and wet up here, but that didn't stop the team mechanics from cleaning and prepping the bikes for tomorrow. Bikes were washed, bar tape redone, and TT bikes cut.

    BMC - (c) Ken ConleyGarmin - (c) Ken Conley

    Bissell got its ducks in a line (perhaps the ducks thought the wet parking lot was the pond):

    Bissell - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    Tour of California 2009 Race Preparation Photos (Sacramento)

    February 12, 2009

    This is it folks!

    Bixby Bridge - (c) Ken Conley
    Photo by Ken Conley

    Tomorrow I head up to Sacramento to start partaking in the Tour of California action. My pick Landis had a bit of spill today but Team OUCH has proclaimed, "'tis but a flesh wound". I'll try to post some happenings on my Twitter account, probably when I'm killing time on the road side waiting for the peloton to arrive.

    Be sure to send love to (they also have Twitter accounts):

    • Steve's already covering the press conference. Should be plenty of original and aggregated ToC content.
    • Fritz will also be covering a bit of the ToC in person.
    • Podium Insight: Lyne and Steph already have a lot of content in the bank from visiting plenty of training camps and that dynamic duo is sure to do plenty more out on the road

    And, to toot my own horn, look for my photos at:

    • -- you may notice the double kwc/PCH action across their top banner right now. Thien is shooting tons of vids to share on the site, so look for some great content there.
    • Adobe Tour Tracker/Amgen Tour of California Flickr account -- I don't have the means or manpower to upload from the road, so expect nightly updates.
    • Road Bike Action -- I'm not sure you'll see my stuff on the site, but there should be some in the next magazine
    • Here, as always, on the

    Tour of California Prediction: Landis vs. Levi, Landis takes it

    Landis and Leipheimer chatting during warmups

    It's time to lock in picks. According to Cyclelicious, the favorites are currently Kirchen, Vande Velde, and Leipheimer. I personally don't really see Kirchen winning it -- sure Columbia is motivated on US soil, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the Tour of California has only been won by Californians. Motivation counts. Garmin already seems to be discounting Vande Velde's odds based on the fact that he's their horse for the Tour de France and isn't in prime form.

    Leipheimer is certainly motivated as a two-time winner. He also doesn't have to worry about the rest of the season as much: with Contador and Armstrong on his team, this is really the one objective that he'll have the team pushing him as the leader for.

    But for my pick I'm going to go with the inaugural winner of the Tour of California: Floyd Landis. He may not have many races in the legs recently, but the Tour of California still favors strong time trialers. There is that whole hip thing, but from what I hear Landis is fit. Team OUCH will have a hard time battling Astana's guns, but it's not something Landis isn't used to and the old HealthNet guys know how to do battle on North American soil. I predict a comeback.

    February 10, 2009

    Tour of California Viewing Spots -- Suggestions?

    The Tour of California will cover a lot of new ground this year. Feel free to send suggestions my way. I've outlined some of my spots I've used in the past based on previous experience. I usually finalize my plans for the next stage the night before or even the morning of -- you never know what opportunities come your way at the last second. I generally look for 2-3 prime stops to stop at along the course to shoot photos, or even just 1 stop if there's a can't miss location. Some people can do two or even three times as many stops, but I like to keep my sanity.

    As a general outline:

    • Prologue: short course, not much planning required
    • Stage 1: I'll probably be shooting in Santa Rosa all day to catch the womens' criterium. Santa Rosa shows up for the ToC so I'm sure the festivities this year are worthwhile.
    • Stage 2: Golden Gate plus one other location, possible chosen from Fritz's excellent Santa Cruz Shooting Locations Guide. This is the only chance to shoot Pacific Coast Highway this year, so it's hard to pass up.
    • Stage 3: Sierra Road plus somewhere else? Sierra Road is not likely to be the shooting spot it has been in past years due to the proximity to the start
    • Stage 4: Entirely new route, who knows?
    • Stage 5: Another new route, who knows?
    • Stage 6: Solvang classic -- I personally like shooting in the scenic Los Olivos. There's farms, windmills, trees, and vineyards. Lots of people like shooting the climb, though I'm looking for doing side profile shots instead of head-on this year.
    • Stage 7: The route just after Santa Clarita is a really interesting rocky landscape. The top of Millcreek Summit itself is rather boring. They do enough laps around Pasadena that you can follow the race into the city, park, and see the finish if you're efficient.
    • Stage 8: Palomar is obvious, but the key is where. From the AV list I found a couple of links that the El Camino Bike Shop put up for Stage 8:

    February 4, 2009

    Astana Camp II

    Astana Camp-55

    Astana Camp-14I woke up at 5am this morning to head up to Santa Rosa and shoot the Astana team training camp. Levi has been choosing the routes as its his home turf and today he selected a six-hour route for the"Queen Stage" of the training camp. Levi's BMC pal Scott Nydam even showed up -- a little late, so he had to draft up to the group using Liz Kreutz's moto. Casey Gibson was also out on moto today. Graham Watson was on scene but I think he may have stayed in, having just flown in from the still-in-progress Tour of Qatar (now that's a pro schedule).

    They rode up northwest from Santa Rosa, down to the coast on Meyers Grade, and then back to Santa Rosa via Coleman Valley. I joked that Levi was punishing the media by choosing a course with virtually no passing opportunities for the official media day. Then again, the coast was absolutely gorgeous with giant twisty descents, so we were well rewarded with the few photo opportunities we had -- about six photo ops for the entire six hours, barely better than an actual stage race.

    I rode mostly in the back of a pickup truck driven by Phil from Road Bike Action. It's thanks to his bold driving that we had as many photo ops as we did. I learned that shooting from the back of a pickup truck can be tougher than shooting from a moto, even if it's more comfortable. The bed vibrates and bounces quite a lot, especially on bumpy country-side roads. I had to shoot at 1/1000th to avoid camera shake and still lost photos to busted compositions or focus issues.

    Astana Camp-60The group seemed to stick together for most of the ride. The big attack came on Coleman Valley. We weren't far behind, yet the group was already shattered by the time we first got a glimpse of them. Lance, Levi, and Contador were already way up the climb. Apparently Contador won the climb, but only by seconds. So yeah, Armstrong's fit.

    Astana Camp-2Even if it was Levi's turf and even with Grand Tour Triple Crowner Contador in the house, it was hard not to feel that everything revolved around Armstrong. Perhaps it was the bright yellow kit that made Armstrong impossible to miss in any photo. Or maybe it was his custom-painted bike put out for display (different from the Tour Down Under Bike). But it probably wouldn't matter if he rode with a bandanna-mask like Contador and rode in the middle of the pack. It's Lance Armstrong and he's back.

    Astana Camp-36

    Astana Camp-8

    Reverse Armstrong Twitpic

    Astana Camp-49 Astana Camp-11

    We have company on the ride today! on TwitPic

    Astana Camp Photos

    Astana Camp-52

    Astana Camp-65

    Just got done processing photos from the Astana Camp. If I have time I'll write more, but now it's time to hop in the car and head home.

    Astana Camp Photos

    February 3, 2009

    Gearing up for the AToC

    The Tour of California may only be from Feb 14-22, but there's plenty of bike-related activity to keep you busy until then.


    • The Cherry Pie Criterium on Feb 8 in Napa looks like it will be a warmup race for Garmin-Chipotle as well as some Bissell and BMC riders.
    • The Webcor-sponsored San Jose Cycling Classic brings some crit-action to San Jose for those who can't make it up to Sacramento for the ToC start.
    • Astana has moved their training camp up to Santa Rosa. Media day is tomorrow but the training camp will run through the 10th.
    • The annual Breakaway From Cancer ride with George Hincapie will take place on Feb 8th in San Francisco.
    • Velolove on Feb 14th and Feb 15th will have the city of Santa Rosa ready to hail the arrival of the ToC peloton.

    Update: TONIGHT Sports Basement will host a special San Jose Cycling Classic evening, 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, February 3, located at 1177 Kern Ave., in Sunnyvale. Eric Wohlberg, Kathryn Curi Mattis and Andy Jacques-Maynes will be there.

    January 25, 2009

    Tour of California KOM Previews by Williams Cycling


    Williams Cycling put together something really special for this year's Tour of California fans: video previews of this year's climbs. Just visit their homepage and you can scan through the videos to pick out spots to spectate, do some pre-ToC analysis, or prep your legs for your own ToC-related rides.

    The videos were put together by Keith Williams along with NorCal-videographer Damian Gonzalez and narrated by Norcalcyclingnews' Michael Hernandez. Stuff like this takes time and love, so thanks! I'll definitely be using it to prep my own ToC photography.

    December 4, 2008

    More Tour of California Route Links

    toc.logo.gifFritz was at the Santa Cruz route unveiling this morning and posted some early details

    Lyne has all the elevations and maps linked up

    A blog report from the Santa Clarita press conference

    The ubiquitous CyclingNews Preview

    Tour of California 2009 Route

    Some of the details had already been leaked, but there are some important changes in the final route announcement:

    • there is a prologue after all
    • no mountain top finish after all -- the race will end in Escondido instead of atop Mt. Palomar


    Short loop around the State Capitol

    Stage 1

    Short climb up Monticello Dam, past Lake Berryessa, up Howell Mountain Road in Napa Valley, and up Calistoga Road to cross over into Santa Rosa.

    Stage 2

    Golden Gate Bridge to Pacific Coast Highway, with climbs up Tunitas Creek and Bonny Doon before descending into Santa Cruz

    Stage 3

    Runs in reverse of past year's routes: starts with a climb up Sierra Road, then Patterson Pass, followed by a finish in Modesto.

    Stage 4

    Stage 4 spends the day in the Sierras, a first for the Tour of California

    Stage 5

    Longest stage features a lot of flat racing across the San Joaquin Valley before crossing into Paso Robles.

    Stage 6

    The tried and true Solvang TT course

    Stage 7

    Like last year's final stage, the riders will go from Santa Clarita up the towering Millcreek Summit, before descending towards finishing laps in Pasadena

    ToC Stage 7 Elevation.500.jpg

    Stage 8

    Mt. Palomar: 4200 ft of climbing over 11.7 miles on the final day of the ToC

    ToC Stage 8 Elevation.500.jpg

    December 2, 2008



    Originally set to begin Feb. 14 with an out-and-back road race in Sacramento, the event will now begin in the state's capital with a prologue and then continue Feb. 15 with stage 1 from Davis to Santa Rosa, according to a report in the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat.

    Additionally, the newspaper reported in its online edition Monday night (Dec. 1) that the previously announced three-stage women's race has been reduced to a one-day criterium in Santa Rosa.

    Sacramento and San Jose, which were also part of the three-day women's stage race, have dropped out. A women's criterium is scheduled at 1 p.m. Feb. 15 on a .7-mile loop in downtown Santa Rosa.

    I'm pretty bummed about this one. It's sad to see that the women being let down again. Last year was also just a one-day crit in Santa Rosa, which I missed because it was a logistical nightmare getting from Sausalito to Santa Rosa in time for the event. I was hoping to see some friends in the race and a three-day event with the Full Armstrong Effect would have been a great experience.

    via norcalcyclingnews

    November 4, 2008

    Tour of California Stage 3 Details

    Stage 3 of the Tour of California is shaping up to be a gem. Here's the approximate route:

    • Sausalito
    • Golden Gate
    • Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay
    • Up Tunitas Creek to Skyline and La Honda Road
    • Back to Highway 1 via Pescadero Road
    • Bonny Doon Road climb
    • Down Empire Grade Road to Santa Cruz

    More details in the Merc (thanks AV list)

    July 24, 2008

    Tour of California: Mountain Top Finish!

    toc.logo.gifWe've begged for it and now we have it: the 2009 Tour of California will finish atop Mt. Palomar.

    July 23, 2008

    Amgen Tour of California 2009 Route Announcement (updated)


    Here's the route:

    • Stage 1 (Feb 14): Sacramento
    • Stage 2 (Feb 15): Davis - Santa Rosa
    • Stage 3 (Feb 16): Sausalito - Santa Cruz
    • Stage 4 (Feb 17): San Jose - Modesto
    • Stage 5 (Feb 18): Merced - Clovis
    • Stage 6 (Feb 19): Visalia - Paso Robles
    • Stage 7 (Feb 20): Solvang
    • Stage 8 (Feb 21): Santa Clarita
    • Stage 9 (Feb 22): Rancho Bernardo - Escondido

    The big standouts:

    • 1 more stage, no more prologue
    • The race finally makes it to San Diego (County) with a finish in Escondido.
    • Sausalito - Santa Cruz! I'm excited to see the Cruzians get their stage finish, even if it means that Palo Alto lost the bid.
    • No more Big Sur route (Monterrey - SLO), perhaps due to last year's death march. Sausalito - Santa Cruz will probably provide some Pacific Coast Highway scenery to compensate
    • Most of the stage routes are brand new, though a couple (San Jose - Modesto, Davis - Santa Rosa) appear to be reversed routes from last year.
    • Modesto-Clovis could have some good mountain climbs in it. It will be the first time the ToC hits the Sierras.

    And here's the press release

    January 1, 2007

    Tour of California Coverage

    Champagne Fight - (c) Ken Conley

    Tour of California 2008

    Levi on the ground

    Tour of California 2007

    Landis Warming Up-1

    Tour of California 2006