Thursday, May 25, 2017

Spectator Report: 2017 Tour of California Stage 1 and Stage 2

2016 is the 7th year in a row that I've visited the Tour of California. Here are my previous posts on races that I've visited.
I focused more on video this year, so there won't be many pictures on the blog. The videos show pretty much everything interesting that I saw along the way.



Stage 1


Stage 1 was the typical sprint stage that starts and finishes in Sacramento. I've been to a version of this stage a couple of times before. I thought I knew what to expect, but this year was a little bit different.

Last time I was in Sacramento the buses were all parked in a big square and it was easy to hop around from one team bus to another. This year wasn't so easy because the buses were all stretched out in a long line.

The above picture shows a little bit of what I'm talking about. You can see some buses on the right. Last time there were also buses on the road to the left. This year the road on the left was part of the race course. That made it easy to stay in the team bus area and still have time to get to the course in time to see the race, but it made it more difficult to jump from bus to bus to look out for different riders.
If I wanted to see a lot of different riders, I needed a different strategy. Well, the riders all have to ride from their buses over to the start area, so I just hung out on the road there and waited for the riders to pass me by. I saw a lot of different guys this way. I tried to ID most of the riders in the video if I got a close enough look at them. I even got lucky and saw Peter Sagan roll right by. He popped a little wheelie, which made me laugh. Then he rolled by and I called out, "Go Peter" like a big dork. You can see it all in Stage 1's video.

What you won't see in the video is that I also saw him after the race was over. I just so happened to be riding back into Sacramento not too long after the race when a lot of riders were on their bikes riding back to their buses. I was just rolling along, and here comes Peter Sagan, rainbow jersey and all, riding right towards me with absolutely nobody around. It was an amazing sight. Forget that he's one of the best riders in the world and I have zero talent. For one tiny moment I felt like we were just two guys who love to ride bikes. I doubt he felt the same way, but let's go with it.

Maybe they need to test me for something?
 I also got a good look at Marcel Kittel as he was being interviewed by NBC Sports.


He brought disc brakes to California.



He seems like a nice guy. I don't know why Grivko punched him in the head. He signed a lot of autographs and was patient taking pictures with plenty of fans.

Bike porn is always fun here. Cyclingnews did an article on these bikes, which were inspired by kids and will be auctioned off for charity. I thought the snake bike looked the best in person.


Rob the bank or steal the bikes?

After the start I rode the course backwards for a while, then stopped by the river to watch the riders roll by.


It was a nice day- sunny and cool without much wind. There wasn't a hill in sight, so there was no doubt that the day would end in a sprint. Marcel Kittel won the stage, followed by Peter Sagan and Elia Viviani.


Stage 2

This was mostly a ride day for me with a little bit of race spectating added in. I started in Livermore and rode south on Mines Road to meet up with the course on 130. From there I followed the course on 130 to the top of Mt. Hamilton.

Mt Hamilton is a pretty difficult climb- not long, but steep. I'm not sure if I've ridden it in this direction before. I know I rode the other side back in 2015 when I rode across the country. That was on day 1 of Petoji, which you can read about here. Back then there was a ton of gravel on the road, which made for a sketchy descent. No gravel today, thankfully.

Lick Observatory is a the top of the climb, which is a good place to take in the views. They also have nice bathrooms up there and a few vending machines.


I turned around and headed back to where I came from. There was a little uphill section along the way that looked like a good place to watch the race. I expected big crowds on Mt. Hamilton. There weren't a lot of people there when I made my climb, but on the descent there were a ton more riders coming up and all of the little turnouts were getting filled with vehicles.

I made it to my viewing spot with a lot of time to spare. I had a pretty good little corner picked out, but towards the last minute a guy in a car parked not too far away from me. Then as the race got real close I had one of the photo motos pull out right in front of me and basically ruin my view. Oh well. Then there was a service moto that did the same, and one of the guys took a piss uncomfortably close to my bike.

I probably waited at least an hour for the race. I wasn't sure how my legs were going to respond to that on the way back. Sometimes a rest is good, and sometimes your legs want to keep resting. Today the rest was a good thing. I felt nice and fresh riding back to Livermore. Mines Road is absolutely beautiful and a super fun ride. It was a nice change of scenery since I've been riding a lot of the same routes lately due to the weather.

I didn't think Stage 2 would do much to the GC. Mt. Hamilton is tough, but it was pretty far from the finish. I was wrong on that one. Rafal Majka won the stage and it turned out to be more of a GC day than a Sagan/Degenkolb day like I was expecting. Bora is killing it this month. Postlberger won his stage at the Giro, and now Majka won a stage here. Sagan also went on to win a stage later on.


I may or may not go to the Tour of Utah this year. I'm still deciding. I'm not a huge fan of any of the teams that were invited to the race, but the stage routes were announced today and they look pretty good. There are 2 mountain finishes and an uphill TT. I've never been to an uphill TT before. That would be a fun stage to see in person. I'm also a big fan of Utah (My second favorite state, perhaps?) and wouldn't mind an excuse to make another visit. We'll see how it goes. I have a lot of plans for this summer, so there may be some higher priorities on my list

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Week 19

Date
May 8, 2017

Distance
100 miles

Strava Link
Week 19

Route Map/Profile
Weather
 Ride Video


Ride Report 
Today was pretty easy. I did a flat route with the aero bars, which made for a short day. There's not much to talk about this week, really. Next week should be more interesting because I'm headed to California to watch stages 1 and 2 of the Tour of California. Stage 1 is in Sacramento, where I have watched the race a couple times before. I plan on hanging out by the team buses before the start. Stage 2 takes 130 to Mt. Hamilton, so I plan on riding the course a little bit that day. Should be a fun week. I'm looking forward to it.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Week 18

Date
May 1, 2017

Distance
100 miles

Strava Link
Week 18

Route Map/Profile
Weather
Ride Video

Ride Report 
338 was back open (mudslide), so I planned on riding out to Bridgeport and back. This was the second day of a back-to-back, so I was taking it easy. The weather was great and I was in a pretty good mood, so I decided to make it a loop and go home via 395.

It made for a more interesting ride with some great scenery. 395 goes next to the river for quite a while and the river is rushing like crazy this year. The only reason I tend to do an out-and-back on 338 instead of doing the 395 loop more often is that there are some long stretches of 395 in that area with no shoulder. Traffic was pretty light today, but 395 can be a busy road with fast-moving traffic. For the most part it has good shoulders, but this stretch is one of the exceptions to that rule. Once you get past Topaz Lake there are shoulders all the way to Carson City.

Shoulders or not, I had a lot of fun today and the weather was great. My legs felt a little dead early on, but as the day warmed up they felt better and better. Ride on.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Week 17

Date
April 25, 2017

Distance
100 miles

Strava Link
Week 17

Route Map/Profile
Weather
 Ride Video

Ride Report 
Nothing too special going on this week. I put the aerobars on my other bike and did some flat riding. I'm still feeling pretty good on the aerobars. The one thing that took the longest time to get used to was actually actually getting into and out of the aero position. It feels a little weird at first. There's a time while you're bending down where you feel a little vulnerable. It was probably the same way a long time ago when I started using drop bars. After a while it starts feeling more natural.

This was the last long ride of April, which was just an average month. As mentioned in the video, I was hoping to ride across Nevada this month, but logistically it just didn't work out. What I want to do is drive my van out to the NV/UT border one weekend, ride my motorcycle back home, then ride my bike back to the van the next weekend. I need 2 free weekends, but the cat needs to go to the vet 2 weeks in a row and then the Tour of California will be in Sacramento the weekend after that. The ride will have to wait until mid May,

I've thought about Everesting instead. All of the big climbs are still closed to snow, though. Part of me wants to try one on the mountain bike. My MTB skills are pretty limited, so I'm still looking around for the best climb. I'm going to go scout one next week.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Week 16

Date
April 23, 2017

Distance
100 miles

Strava Link
Week 16

Route Map/Profile
Weather
Ride Video


Ride Report 
It was going to be a windy day, so I wanted to get an early start today. I had a few things to do to the bike and was generally slow to get going, so I didn't start as early as I wanted. However, I was still able to get my ride in without riding through the really strong winds all day. I think only the last 2 hours or so had heavy winds.

My new go-to windy day route was blocked off. There have been signs up for at least a week now that 338 is closed at the California state line. (Not sure why, but I'm guessing road damage from recent rain.) My plan was to ride there and back and do the extra 20 miles or so close to home. I made it to the Sweetwater summit and the road was closed right there. That's a good 9.5 miles before the CA state line. That meant I had to figure out what to do for an extra 19 miles.

I ended up just doing loops on Lower Colony Rd and Upper Colony Rd. That worked out pretty well because the wind was picking up by then and I was never riding into the wind for extended periods of time. I had the aerobars on and was feeling pretty good. I ended up finishing in around 6:15, which shows that I did time things pretty well. On to next week.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Week 15

Date
April 10, 2017

Distance
100 miles

Strava Link
Week 15

Route Map/Profile

Weather

Ride Video



Ride Report 
It was cold out there, but I'm getting antsy and wanted to do some climbing, so I went over to Markleeville and did the easy side of Luther Pass. There's still a ton of snow up there. I've never seen it quite like that before. I was thinking back to when the Tour of California came through here last year (Here's the report.). I remember that Tom Boonen came through behind the peloton and if you watch the last video you can hear me, in my dorky way, call out his name as he passed by. Here we are about a year later and his last race was yesterday at Paris Roubaix.

I think I started following pro cycling around 2004 or so, and Boonen was always one of my favorite riders. Maybe that's kind of lame because 2005 was when he did the Flanders-Roubaix double and won the worlds, so that's kind of like starting to watch football and being a Tom Brady fan. Either way, he was a lot of fun to watch over the years and one of the guys I always looked out for at the Tour of California. It's sad to see him retire. Like many, I was hoping he would win Sunday, but it wasn't meant to be.

Just for fun, here's a link to my 2012 Tour of California report where I saw Boonen in person for the first time. Here's a link from 2014 when he had a really nice custom bike. There's also a picture of GVA, yesterday's winner. Speaking of the Tour of California, it's about a month away and I should have time this year to watch 2 or 3 stages. I know I'll be at the first stage in Sacramento for sure.

Tubeless Update


It's been a while since I did a tubeless update. That's because things have been going great on the Hutchinson Intensive tires. They finally started wearing out. I just did the math and the rear tire got 3,979 miles. I would have done an extra 21 on it to get 4,000 if I had known it was so close. I got a few punctures on that tire, but never one that sealant didn't fix. I never had to stop riding. There was one larger puncture that I was a little worried about, so I patched the tire after a ride. That patch held up just fine. I was happy with the Intensives. The one minor complaint I have is that they say they're 25s, but they look and ride more like a 23.

I may do Ride America South to North on a new set of Intensives. I know they are durable and dependable. However, you know that I like to experiment with different tires, so I couldn't resist trying a different tire just in case I end up liking it better. I was going to try something in a 28 (maybe a Specialized), but I found a great deal on some 25s- Panaracer Evo 3 Tubeless.

I only have 200 miles on the Panaracers, but so far they feel pretty good. They feel more supple and faster than the Intensives, but I get the feeling that they won't be as durable. That remains to be seen. I can say one thing for sure. They are a real pain to install! I put them on my Ultegra wheels and they were super tight. That was one of the tightest tire/rim combos I've seen, and I've been riding seriously for 14 years now. Unfortunately, the weather hasn't been great around here, so putting them out in the sun for a while didn't really do much. I had to just pry the hell out of them with tire levers. It took a pretty long time and a lot of F bombs to get them on. Once they were on the rim, the actual tubeless setup wasn't that bad. I got the bead to set with my standard practice of leaving a tube in overnight and using a ton of soapy water the next day.

We'll see how it goes. My one worry with taking these on my tour is that if I get a really bad flat and need to put a tube in, will they still be super difficult to get back on the rim or will they stretch out a little bit? As of today I'm leaning towards doing the tour on some fresh Intensive tires. I'll also be looking around for a deal on some 28s that maybe I can test out a little on my other bike.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Week 14

Date
April 3, 2017

Distance
100 miles

Strava Link
Week 14

Route Map/Profile




Weather


Ride Video



Ride Report 
I went and did the Spooner Summit climb for the first time since probably October or November. I was a little bit worried because there was construction at the bottom of the highway and it was one lane, but that didn't last very long and I ended up having a lot of fun on the climb. There's a lot of sand in the shoulders still, so be careful out there.

I ended up doing this ride with the aerobars on just to see how that felt on the climb. I didn't really miss not being able to ride on the tops as much as I thought I would. By this point I'm pretty much used to it and riding on the hoods is my new default climbing position. I'm also used to the extra weight in the front and climbing out of the saddle feels normal again. At this point in the year I'm so out of climbing shape that I definitely don't feel slower because of the extra weight of the aerobars. Look at the elevation profile. Today's route is a good example of a day where any time lost going slower on the climb will be gained back by going faster on the flats. There were plenty of flat roads for gaining back time on today's route. My Ride America South to North route in June also fits that description.

Speaking of Ride America South to North, I just bought a lot of small stuff so my bike will be ready. I got new bottom bracket, new cables/housing, a new chain, and some new tires. My Hutchinson Intensive tubeless tires finally wore out. I found a good deal on some Panaracer Evo 3 tubeless tires, so I'm going to give those a shot over the next 2 months and see how they perform. I would definitely feel comfortable just getting some new Intensive tires and using those for the ride, so it's no big deal if I don't end up liking the Panaracers.