Tour of California Preview: Get Ready LA

It was three years ago that a young, impressionable boy showed up on the streets of downtown Los Angeles to be inspired by the speed and pageantry from seeing pro cycling for the first time. This young protoge bought his first racing bike the following week and became one of the premiere cyclists in the world in mere months.

That person was me.

Well, there are a lot of false details in there. My story is far more boring, but the excitement the Tour of TourofCaliforniaCalifornia brought did propel me into my first foray into lycra.

I do now count the days not only to the race, but for the route reveal and the team announcements. The event only gets better and bigger with age and this year is no different.

First, the race starts with Peter Sagan, who’s normally the main attraction. His sprinting and showmanship abilities have amazed crowds across the globe and has been a stalwart for the green jersey competition.

If the race was just Sagan, then “dayenu”, but sprinting superstar Mark Cavendish is returning for his second straight year after taking the final stage of last year’s event. Once again, “dayenu”, except uber-kid Marcel Kittel, the winner of four Tour de France stages last year, will also be joining the fold.

That’s THREE elite sprinters.


In the USA.

That rarely happens. Except in the Tour de France, which you’ll see all three at.

In fact, the leader in the sprint points competition will probably wear the yellow jersey for the start of the race. Stage 1 & 2 are no doubt sprinter stages. The separation between the General Classification contenders starts on Stage 3 featuring a 2,000 ft climb up Mt. Hamilton and an uphill finish.

TourofCalifornia2While Stage 4’s profile looks like another sprinter’s stage, recent finishes in Avila Beach has seen stiff winds causing splits in the peloton and unexpected finishes.

Stage 5 will be the Tour’s first appearance in the southland, running from Santa Barbara to Santa Clarita. While it looks to be a sprint finish, look for this stage where a breakaway may hold.

Even though the ToC has eight stages, the race will be decided on 6 & 7. Stage 6 is a 15 mile time-trial in Big Bear, meaning there might be some significant time gaps coming from the elevation.

Stage 7 is the queen stage, featuring a heady climb early up Glendora Ridge. The peloton will likely regroup around the Highway 39 loop before rolling 2,500 ft. up Glendora Mountain Road. There will be a little reprieve coming down Glendora Ridge, but the real fireworks will begin up the final ascension up Mt. Baldy. Whoever comes out ahead after the steep switchbacks and vertical finish will most likely finish the Tour in the yellow jersey.

The final stage is a good viewing opportunity, seeing the peloton do five laps around downtown(I’ll be watching the climb up Temple) before heading to Pasadena looping around the Rose Bowl eight times. I’m hoping to beat them there.

As for the GC Contenders, it should be quite an unpredictable battle. Andrew Talansky, one of our country’s rising stars, might be using the ToC to vault himself to the elite level, similar to Tejay van Garderen’s victory two years ago. The race also returns 2012 winner Robert Gesink, who took victory up this very same Mt. Baldy climb.


Also look for a number of other upcoming Americans vie for strong GC finishes, including Ian Boswell(Team Sky), Lawson Craddock(Team Giant-Alpecin) and Matthew Busche(Trek).

This may or may not be Phil Gaimon's bike while he may or may not be getting a cookie
This may or may not be Phil Gaimon’s bike while he may or may not be getting a cookie

Mr. CiclaValley will personally be cheering for my fellow property tax payer from the 818, Phil Gaimon(Optum), to reach the podium. He’s been targeting this race all year and if you noticed his dominance at the Redlands Classic, then it’ll be no surprise to see him a lot of him on NBCSN.

In addition, the combatants from the smaller Continental teams may be the strongest the race has seen. I’ll be keeping an eye on Lachlan Morton(Jelly Belly), Gavin Mannion(Jelly Belly), Rob Britton(SmartStop), Robin Carpenter(Hincapie) and current US Road Race Champ, Eric Marcotte(SmartStop).

The women’s race continues to add stages with this year’s event containing four. If there’s a cue I wish the men’s tour could take out of the women’s program, would be to see more racing around the Lake Tahoe area.

*****  *****  *****  *****  *****

If you get the chance to watch the race in person, you’ll be amazed by the momentum and organization of the peloton. Almost as impressive is the parade of support cars that endlessly stretches on and has the air of a presidential motorcade.

I can do Baldy. So should those wimpy sprinters!
I can do Baldy. So should those wimpy sprinters!

Still, the riders go by really fast, so you have to plan carefully. While I’ll probably only make it out to Stage 8, it’s best to see them climbing because a)there’s separation b)they move slower. I would suggest heading out to stage 7 and catch them doing the start of Glendora Ridge Road climb and then riding up Mt. Baldy as far as possible to see them exchange blows as they hit the finish line(if you can make it). If you’ve ever watched a mountain stage on TV, you know it’s a party up on those climbs, so be prepared to have some fun while you wait.

Pro cyclists are really some of the most personable athletes you’ll ever meet. The chance to see the world’s elite up close is a treat most of North America never gets to see.

Come out and see what the excitement is all about. It’s in your backyard after all.