Today was the *big* day; 2010 Amgen Tour of California stage 8, a four-lap circuit race right in my hometown, including the fabulous Rockstore climb I'm always telling you about, and the terrifying descent down Decker Canyon. I was there (!), and managed to wangle an invitation into the Amgen VIP compound. It was great.
Setting the stage, going in to this final day Michael Rogers of HTC/Columbia was leading overall, followed by Dave Zabriske of Garmin-Transitions 9s back, and Levi Leipheimer of Team Radio Shack 25s behind in third. BTW those three finished 1-2-3 last year, and they figured to do it again; but in which order? With such a tough finishing stage, anything was possible.
Naturally I took pictures, and naturally I'm going to share them with you. Here we go:
I began at the finish :) in Westlake Village; all calm right now... but later will be a madhouse
riding up Rockstore, there it is, the Rockstore itself,with a zillion motorcycles parked in front as usual
there was a huge crowd here to drink beer, hang out, and oh yeah watch those cyclist guys
the climb was packed with cars and people and bikes and tents
lots of people chalking the road, too
here it is, the Amgen VIP compound, located on that last big turn before the top
yippee I'm in
the Amgen area included the peak overlooking the turn - and the whole valley
the red arrow shows where I stationed myself, an awesome spot
note the DJ in the foreground, rocking the Rockstore...
the view of the valley from the peak was unbelievable
the entire climb was visible, it was possible to watch the riders all the way up
the red arrow shows the location of the Rockstore at the base
overview of Amgen compound and the final straight of Rockstore up to the KOM point
note the crowds - it was really packed
and so the race is on!
on lap two a breakaway of seven riders formed, including George Hincapie
here they have about 2:30 on the peloton
the peloton fragmented behind the break
with the GC men and their domestiques in the chase group
tucked in note Rogers (yellow jersey), Zabriske (orange helmet), and Levi (red and black kit)
check out the size of the "peloton" after 35 miles of racing
the leaders on lap three
R-to-L: Chris Horner leads Rogers, Rory Sutherland, and Levi, with Zabriske at the far left
on the final lap the break itself broke; here are leaders Baredo, Pujols, and Hincapie
George was the crowd favorite (of course) and looked great for the win
after a series of attacks the GC men pulled out from what was left of the peloton
Levi, Rogers, and Zabriske mark each other, followed by Horner, Ryder Hesjedal, and Thomas Rabou
with no gaps by this point it was evident that Rogers was on his way to the overall win
the leaders crest Rockstore on the final lap
what a marvelous sight!
After the peloton passed I rode down Rockstore and cut through Triunfo Canyon to Westlake Village, but instead of heading for the finish line I headed home, so I could watch the whole thing on Versus. Which I did, amazed that only a few minutes ago I had actually been there.
Oh, you want to know what happened? Well, on the Mulholland rollers between Rockstore and Decker Hesjedal attacked, and Horner went with him. They ended up catching the three leaders on the descent, and that group of five sprinted it out to the finish, with Hesjedal edging out George for the win. Congratulations to him but boo; I was really rooting for George to get it. Horner was third.
Must make a point of recognizing Thomas Rabou who won King of the Mountains going away. A promising young rider on Rabobank, he had a horrible accident which took him over a year to recover from, and is now coming back as a member of Team Type 1. He's been living a dream this week.
And in the GC it ended up being a parade; after all that work Rogers, Zabriske, and Levi finished together, and so they ended up on the podium in that order. A great win for Rogers, and poor Dave finishes second in the ATOC for the third time. Maybe next year!
Another fantastic day watching pro cycling... and this time right in my own town, on a climb I ride myself just about every week. I'll never do it again without thinking of today. How did I get here? :)