A day on Sierra Road

Sierra Road
Photo by Ken Conley

above: one of the many cows that line the Sierra Road climb

Sierra Road was a hard climb for me last year. I hadn't even done Old La Honda yet, so being hit with a 15% grade was more than my body knew how to deal with. I took my time. I think I was more prepared this year, but I decided to up the ante by carrying 10-20 lbs of gear, including a tripod. To compound my foolishness, I didn't tighten my rear skewer enough so my tire rubbed against brake for the first kilometer -- I discovered this after taking an overheating break and being unable to get my rear wheel spinning again -- and I also climbed in my second chainring when I thought I was using my granny gear. Sierra Road was steeper than I remembered, but I finally made it up.

Saul RaisinIt was a long and cold wait at the top, but we were entertained by Shimano throwing out free jackets and Toyota passing out cowbells, thundersticks, and chalk. More riders showed up the closer the race got and it was a fun and friendly atmosphere. Saul Raisin sped by on his Raisin Hope Ride and was gone in the blink of an eye.

We watched the helicopters to tell us how close the riders were -- the marshals told us they were climbing at 10-12mph (I averaged 4mph). When the big moment came, it was over before you knew it. Everyone bunched onto the road so you couldn't see anyone approaching. There was a sudden parting and my eyes registered Levi's golden jersey flying past. I also saw McCartney and Horner and figured that the CSC rider must have been Jens Voigt from the occassional race update we got. The photos below were probably the most difficult of any I've taken the whole Tour:

Robert Gesink at the top of Sierra Road Jens at the top of Sierra Road Levi and Jason over the top, KOM

It became easier to spot the later groups as people didn't crowd the roads as much. Julich came over in a large group with Bettini. Then there were a lot of riders by themselves or in small groups. And then there was Basso and Cancellara in a fairly large group and, even further back, Tom Danielson with a bunch of Liquigas riders -- Danielson must have been putting in some big efforts today (correction: food poisoning). Near the very end was Discovery sprinter Allan Davis, who I'm told helped Discovery nail back the breakaway. His long day ended back on the podium with another green jersey.

With the last riders past us, we were free to begin our descent. Its fun to descend a road that you know is relatively car free, especially with other riders to accompany you. It got a little iffy when I locked up my rear end going around one of the tighter bends, but we made it to the bottom safe and sound despite our hurried pace. Riders were already crossing the base of Sierra Road on Piedmont, so we knew that we didn't have much time.

Sierra Road
Photo by Ken Conley

above: from the top of Sierra Road, you can make out San Jose City Hall where the riders finish

Al drove like a madman and we were able to make it to San Jose City Hall in record time. We had a feeling we were already too late, though, when we could see the helicopter swing around onto Santa Clara. We hopped back on our bikes and rode over to City Hall, but the first two big groups of riders had already come it. We watched the stragglers roll in and then made it over to the team cars. Lance Armstrong was just getting off the Discovery Channel bus and ran over to a waiting van to avoid fans. There wasn't much to see as the riders were already aboard their team buses. Allan Davis rolled in and then quickly back out as I'm sure he was informed that he needed to get over to the awards presentation, which is where we next headed, but not before I snapped a photo of this Team Slipstream/Chipotle dog:


Awards ceremony (shot from an awkward position):

Levi Leipheimer, overall leader Stage winner Jens Voigt

The Tour podium a bit to close to the ceiling:

Jens Voigt

There was one last errand to do while at the finish line. I'll talk about it in my next entry.

related articles: Tour of California 2007
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