The Rash: Tour of Cali & Strava Redemption

Happy Sunday peeps. If there’s a time to geek out on cycling outside of July, this is truly it. Bike month, ATOC, Spring weather. Can’t beat that. Welcome to another edition of “The Rash”.

Tour of California 2014

The Tour of California is complete and the level of excitement and competition was outstanding. Hair-raising sprints, promising breakaways, brutal mountain finishes have punctuated this year’s race. Being able to watch the pros in real-time without a pre-dawn wake up call is a treat of its own, but having the chance to see the world’s champions stomp our own club routes is beyond terrific in my book. So without further ado, here is this fan’s account…

Stage 1: Back in Sac

It was a nice bit of redemption to see our capitol city tapped to host the initial stage once again. Starting in Sacramento and rolling over our foothills, the massive peloton sped its way to Auburn and back. Battling wind and first day jitters, they still managed to make mincemeat of some of our favorite climbs. At the end of the day, the break was never a threat and the sprint in the river city was one of the closest I’ve ever seen. Cavendish’s pure power was too great for Giant’s John Degenkolb and the photo finish confirmed it.

“It’s the first time in my career I really didn’t know the result until it was confirmed to me,” – Cav

Stage 2: The Mean Streets of Folsom

Even better, Monday’s time trial was hosted in none other than our own Wholesome Folsom. With a well spent vacation day, Bran and I wandered the streets to catch every bit of action that we could. From the starting gate to the final bend, there was not a bad seat in the house and through the day even the slowest riders humbled our best efforts at that 12 mile stretch. With an average speed of rough 32mph through the course, Sir Wiggo showed his competitors why he’s still a man to be feared. I’m awed.

Stage 3: Devil Mountain

With all the local hype behind us, the tour quickly traveled over to Walnut Creek to pit riders against the long steep grades of Mount Diablo. A favorite stage from last year, the riders put the hammer down in similar fashion and shredded their legs up the climb. Though it initially looked like Wiggins’ pure power and exquisite team tactics would prevent any bother of opponents, Garmin had something different in mind. In the last minute, Rohan Dennis emerged from the leaders group with an outrageous acceleration for a terrific upset win. The healthy bite into the leader’s time was a welcomed surprise for this fan. Wiggo had looked like he’d be an uncontested leader thus far, but now the race was on.

Stage 4: The Underdogs

When stage 4 rolled around, I was content to relax, take in the scenic coastline, enjoy a beer and some snacks before watching a bunch sprint to the line….so was the peloton. Unfortunately for them, the break had a different idea and put together a monster effort to stay away for the day for a win. I never get tired of that. Watching the (Sacramento) Kings through childhood has nurtured unhealthy love for the underdog within me. Every time a break sticks it to the main field, I rejoice. This time around Will Routley took home all the mountain points and the stage win. Another amazing day.

Stage 5: A Demon Descender

OK. Stage 5 was finally going to be a day for the Hulk. More than content to watch a high speed journey through the heat and hills toward Santa Barbara, I settled in to await an outrageous effort from the Slovakian superhero. Taylor Phinney had plans of his own. Honestly, I’ve never seen anyone descend like that before. The man pointed his front wheel down, hugged the top tube and pulled away from a furiously pedaling pack. A man possessed, he time trialed his way to one of the more satisfying victories I’ve seen. Beautiful.

Stage 6: A Defining Climb

Stage 6 took the riders through the desert heat up to Mountain High (super original name, I know). This would be the last true day to fight for the yellow jersey. However, despite an ambitious Garmin Sharp team effort, Team Sky are a bunch of pros and handled business as such. Watching it play out was less eventful than I’d hoped, but satisfying nonetheless. Add to that a sensational stage win by a Colombian rider (I’m liking this trend on the So-Cal Mtns) and I walked away quite pleased.

Stages 7: Sprinting with Style & SMH

Stage 7 would finally be Sagan’s day to breathe a sigh of relief. The ride into Pasadena was punishing for the show ponies and this would bode well for the Cannondale rider. Reaching downtown at high speed, the catch occured just in time to send a serpentine peloton racing through downtown Pasadena. Ultimately Sagan’s power propelled him past his tired colleagues in the final lap of the circuit with time to devise a piano man style salute. Sadly, on the way there, one of the leaders on the Jamis team lost count of laps and attempted to claim victory one lap shy of the finish. This was mortifying to watch. I can’t imagine how he felt. Hopefully he can look back and laugh soon.

Stage 8: The Finale

The final stage delivered the riders to thousand oaks for another punishing day in the saddle and an action packed sprint finish. Though there was much speculation that Cav would drop out, the Manx Missile held strong, gritting his teeth to arrive at the finish with a final sprint victory. Another narrow margin, it was fun to see Cavendish pull it off and leave the race the way he started it.

Parting Thoughts

Well Done Amgen Tour of Cali. This year’s event was packed with variety and excitement that easily topped what I’ve seen in previous years. You’ve truly made this a special event and I can’t wait for next year.

Strava: Picking Up the Pieces

So Now that the Pros have destroyed your Strava glory, it’s time to start picking up the pieces. From charting to the wind to segment doctoring, shedding gear (Hi, Mike), and even flagging your KOM successors, These guys nailed it. The video may be comical, but honestly these are some very real tactics that we see out on the roads every day. Take a minute to enjoy.

Fin

Thanks for reading. See you next time!

Photos from Stage 2

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