I Fought Mt. Baldy, and Baldy Won
May 22, 2011 Leave a comment
What an epic day yesterday! As I wrote in a previous post several months ago, the Amgen Tour of California, the most important pro cycling race in the U.S. that spans 8 single-day stage races throughout California, rolled through Los Angeles yesterday. Everyone knew Stage 7, up Mt. Baldy twice and covering 76 miles and 10,000 feet of vertical climbing, would be the deciding stage of the race. And it was! Team RadioShack ruled the day, with Levi Leipheimer winning the stage just ahead of the overall race leader and ultimate winner Chris Horner.
Since the pros didn’t start the stage until 11:45am, it gave us amateurs a chance to test our mettle by getting up early and riding the course. With Renee in the support truck, I headed out at 7:30am intent on riding the entire stage route before they shut down the roads for the pros. Here’s the play by play:
As soon as I mounted my bike in Claremont at the base of the mountains, it’s a 20-mile climb to the top of Mt. Baldy. This first climb of the day ascends 5400 ft. to an elevation of 6500 ft. at the summit of Mt. Baldy. I was grinding it out for nearly 2 straight hours, most of it was manageable at 5-8% grades… until the last 3 miles from Baldy Village to the summit of the ski area, which involved 15 switchbacks and 2000 ft. of elevation gain! The last quarter mile was a 22% grade gut-buster to the summit. I actually felt pretty energized once I reached the top, which is good since I still had nearly 60 miles to ride, including another 10-mile climb at the very end. The next 40 miles were a series of rolling hills and a fast descent through Glendora Ridge Road, San Gabriel Canyon and ultimately all the way down to the base of the mountain to the town of Glendora. After a pit stop and some fuel in Glendora, it was back to climbing, up Glendora Mountain road and to the final King of the Mountain (KOM) marker at the summit – a 10-mile climb covering 4000 ft. of ascent.
At 3 miles into the climb, I was pretty wiped. I had been on my bike for nearly 5 hours, was out of food and had about half bottle of water, and I still had 7 miles to the summit of the climb, THEN final 15 miles of rolling hills to the finish in Baldy Village. And the sun was beating down strong at this point. I knew I would have to bum some food off some spectators once I reached the summit of the Glendora Mountain climb.
About 1 mile from the summit, I looked down and realized I had a slow leak in my back tire. No wonder I was dragging! I needed to make it to the top where the KOM marker and all the crowds were gathered so I could change my tire and get supplies if necessary. At this point, with no cell coverage and the roads closed, Renee could not get to me.
So I pulled into the summit parched and with a flat, changed my tube, pumped it up and BOOM! my tube was pinched and exploded. At this point, tired, hungry, out of water, out of tubes, 67 miles and 9200 ft of climbing behind me – I was toast. I only had about 15 miles to finish and reach Renee, but they were about to close the roads for the pros to come through and even with a good tire it would have taken another hour. So I took off my shoes and helmet, took a seat, and waited 30 minutes to watch the pros come through. By the way, what took me nearly 6 hours to complete, the pros rolled through in under 4. Incredible.
Luckily, about 30 minutes after the pros came through, Renee had received my message and showed up with Gatorade and snacks in hand! It was an epic day of cycling and gorgeous views that rivaled some of our views in France (just with more smog and no random cows in the road). We finished off the day with burgers, fries and beer. A perfect end to a (near) perfect day! Here are a few pictures from the day.