Today I visited the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California, which started in Rancho Bernardo and finished in Escondido, passing over mighty Mount Palomar in the process. In all my time watching professional cycling races this might have been the best, even including the Vuelta stages in Spain.
My day began early as I drove all the way around the back way to Lake Henshaw, parked, rode up the South Grade of Mount Palomar (took me an hour), stationed myself at the top, watched the riders come up the hill (took them 30 minutes), cheered as Jens Voigt and Levi crested the climb in first with a break of eight, then watched the peloton come through (over the course of about ten minutes), then rode down the East Grade of Palomar following the peloton back to Lake Henshaw, then got in my car and drove around the back way to Escondido, then parked just in time to run to the finish area and watch the race finish as Franck Schleck won. And then hung around for the podium ceremony etc (watched on a jumbotron) and oogled the cool bikes and pretty girls.
I took a bunch of pictures, please find them here:
And following are some selected ones, for your viewing pleasure... (click each to enbiggen)
And so Franck Schleck wins the stage, and Levi wins the GC overall for the third consecutive year. This was by all accounts the most difficult, strongest, best attended Amgen Tour of the four, with strong momentum carrying it into next year. What will we see? Who knows. I've even heard talk of making it two weeks - now that would be cool.
One thing I really want to go back and mention is Floyd Landis. Yeah, it was cool to see him back in the peloton, and yeah, he hasn't ridden competitively for two+ years and was a bit off form, and yeah, he definitely didn't have the strongest team. But don't forget for one minute he is riding on an artificial hip! I mean, how cool is that? For a professional athlete to be in competition at the top of his sport with an artificial hip is amazing.
All in all it was an amazing experience. I've spent the last three days in full-on "cycling mode", I need to go back to normal now :)