L'Etape du California

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by umd1, May 10, 2011.

  1. umd1

    umd1 New Member

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    I decided to do L'Etape du California on a whim, on Friday afternoon. For those that don't know, it's the 74 mile route for stage 7 of the tour of California, with 11k feet of climbing. With 1450 registered riders and probably a lot of bandits, someone here must have ridden it.

    A bunch of teammates mentioned they were doing it, so my teammate Chester and I decided to drive down together. I woke up at 3am, drove across town to pick him up, and then embarked on the 120 mile drive to Claremont at 4am. We weren't pre-registered, so we wanted to leave plenty of time to get there and sign up for the 7am start. My other teammates had all signed up ahead of time, drove down Friday evening, and stayed in a hotel nearby.

    Like many races, the day of line was non-existent and the pre-reg line was huge. win.

    We each parted with $115, got our goodie bags with a "free" shirt, and then waited for the mandatory course talk. I don't remember much about it, except for the announcement of the cutoff times. We had to be at the base of the final climb to the ski lifts by 4pm. I turned to one of my teammates, and said "I'll be home by then".

    We went back to my car to drop off the goodie bags, where the car next to us had an interesting dilemma: one of their 3 bikes had apparently fallen off the rack while they were driving. Oops. It was apparently a very nice bike, but the woman was more upset that she wouldn't be able to do the ride, then the loss of the bike itself. Fortunately, it seemed that they were able to score a Specialized loaner/test bike.

    Back at the start, they were staging us into 4 pens depending on what we thought our average speed would be. The last one was 10mph, the fastest one was 18mph, and the next one was 16mph. I don't remember what the third one was. I didn't think I would be able to do 18mph average for this ride, but I looked around at everyone else in there and I figured I would be faster, so that's where I went. Plus I figured that's where my teammates would be, but I couldn't find any of them. I waited at the back, near the entrance so that I could see them, but I never found them.

    They did the national anthem, started the VIPs, and then we immediately followed. The pace was super easy... way too easy in fact because I noticed that the pack had already split way up the road from me and there were a few hundred people in front of me. I felt a little stupid for putting myself in that position, and worked on getting through the group I was in, then bridging up to the next group, etc. until I was back in the lead group. I found a few of my teammates (including the one I drove with) and several other locals, but 3 of my teammates were still conspicuously absent.

    We got to Baldy road and started climbing. Around there, I thought one of the bikes in front of me looked familiar, then I realized it was one of my teammates. He had changed into a different kit! Then the other two were right next to him, all in Road Bike Action kits instead of our team kits. No wonder I couldn't find them!

    Despite the horsepower from all the pros and elite racers contained in the group, , the pace was very casual for a while. There was a brief moment, when we hit the first steep kicker just past the neighborhoods at the bottom, the conversations ceased and some joker said "It's like this is a race or something". The conversations picked back up and the pace was nice and comfortable until around the tunnels. After the tunnels I was starting to feel the pressure, I watched my power numbers spike and I started to slip back in the field. I couldn't hold on anymore and had to watch as they rode away, but I looked back and the group was shattered behind me, so I didn't feel too bad. Later, recounting this to a teammate, he said, "oh yeah, that's when Tinker went to the front". FML.

    I rode by myself, and even passed a few people, the rest of the way to Baldy Village, around the corner, and up the steep pitch to the first KOM. Riding along Glendora Ridge was uneventful, except that I am not the strongest descender, so a few of the riders that I had passed that last bit to the KOM caught me and we ended up with a nice group of 5 or 6 when we hit the East Fork descent. Some of the corners were a little dirty, and I had trouble keeping up at times, so the group got away from me a bit near the end. When it leveled out, it was easy enough to power back on. The guy in the Highroad kit is Brian Holm.



    The rollers on the 39 around the lake into Azuza were brutal, mostly because of the wind. I don't mind climbing, so that was easily the hardest part of the ride for me. There were only a few of us, so everyone was working the rotation and we still made good time. We all took a little breather along Sierra Madre from Azusa to Glendora, because we knew we should save energy for what was coming up...

    And that was Glendora Mountain Road. GMR. I've usually ridden this climb as the time trial from the San Dimas Stage Race. 4 miles all-out. Painful. I also did it last November when I rode to Baldy for the first time. This time, I was doing it 50 miles into the ride with 6000 feet of climbing already in my legs and I just wanted to get through it. I didn't really care about my time and I didn't care when two of our group rode away; I just plugged along at a nice tempo pace. Still, our group broke apart and it ended up being one guy each from SC Velo, Helen's and Highroad. About halfway up, Ally, one of the HTC women came up on us, and a wheel to follow motivated me to pick up the pace a bit.



    I followed her for about 30 seconds, and then pulled in front and picked the pace up a bit more. Together, we quickly bridged the gap to the other 2 from the group. Then we picked up a few more and charged to the KOM. They lied though, there was a little more climbing from that point to the top of the climb, where we finally got a short descent break to the rest stop. I just did a quick stop, filling a bottle and took off, so I ended up riding by myself on Glendora Ridge for a while until I caught one of my teammates, Bill.

    Bill and I rode together at a pretty easy pace for a while along with an HTC guy that we picked up as he was finishing what looked like a phone call. Bill had stayed with the main group all the way up the Baldy climb to the first KOM, down the East Fork, around the lake to Azusa, and to the base of GMR, but the pace up the climb was too much and he was now paying for it. I wasn't in a hurry and I appreciated the company so I stuck with him. Eventually we came across the Cynergy van that was setting up the support stations, so Bill and I got our bottles refilled, but the HTC guy continued.

    As we were finishing up, two riders went by, one of whom was Dave Zabriskie. I hurried to finish up and then took chase after them, getting a nice free ride for a few minutes, until the road picked up and I eased off to wait for Bill. I wonder if Dave heard me when I said to Bill, "I know a free ride when I see it." He turned his head at me (at 4:10 in the video) and picked up the pace a bit, so I'm guessing yes. At least I got my picture taken behind him (at 6:15) before he dropped us [​IMG]



    Shortly after, I decided to just go my own pace. We were approaching Baldy Village, and the final climb to the ski lifts, and I didn't want to go any slower than I had to. After a certain point, slower hurts more than faster on steep grades. So I plotted along, sweating profusely, and caught several riders as I went. As I came around one switchback corner, Zabriskie and the HTC guy were stopped on the side for some unknown (to me) reason. They started going right before I got there, and Dave shouted, "got a little rest and now I'm flyyyyyying" as they zipped away.

    A little higher up I saw a pop-up canopy, under which people were selling cold liquids and other kinds of sports vittles. Cold sounded really good, but stopping did not, and I didn't have any cash with me anyway. I pressed on. Higher still and I was gaining on two riders. I saw a sign in the distance, and based on my recollection of being nearly done, thought it might be 1K to go. Sadly, it was 2K. Damn, this thing is longer than I thought. Kept pedaling a steady rhythm and all I could think of was the liquid pouring out of my skin. Almost there. Caught one of the riders, then the next. It was Dave, on his 13lb Guru with the trick MadFiber wheels. Now in the parking area, I passed a woman sitting in a chair, watching as I rolled past. "Shoot me now," I wanted to say, but instead I smiled and nodded. Going up the final steep ramp, a rider in a Garmin-Cervelo kit (but on a Canondale, so not Dave) was tacking back and forth across the road. I took the straight line and powered up past him. I could see the 500K sign at the top of the ramp, and I knew the last bit was flat. ish. I rested for a moment, kicked up a few gears and pushed through the last few corners to end.

    I didn't really have a time goal when I started, but as I came into the finish the clock read 5:00:20. Damn, I hate just missing nice round numbers. I was disappointed to say the least. Then my mind started playing what-if. What-if I just stuck it out with the group over the first KOM, what-if I didn't ride will Bill along Glendora Ride, what-if I stayed on Dave's wheel the rest of the way to the village. Oh well, it was what it was. If any of those were different I may have just lost time somewhere else, and it wasn't worth worrying about.

    Bill came up a few minutes later, followed by Dave. Of course the others where already there. More locals started to trickle in. We hung out at the top for a while, talked about the ride, got some food and started to get ready to go down. It was like herding sheep, and it took some time but we finally made our way to the descent. The riders were still fairly sparse near the finish, but you could see the agony as one rider after another tacked their way up that final ramp.



    As we made our way down through the switchbacks, they got thicker and thicker, with the greatest concentration just above the village, it seemed. These people were still looking at another hour or so of hot and steep climbing ahead of them. I felt a little bit for them, but it was fleeting as I concentrated on the descent at hand. Another Santa Barbara rider and I caught an HTC group, and we rode together through the village until we were stopped by the cops to let a stream of riders turn off from Glendora Ridge.



    The rest of the descent was uneventful. The HTC group hung back and I continued descending with just a few others. Relatively straight and fast, a small group of us zipped back down to Claremont and tried to decipher the signs leading us back to the start (along a different route than we came out on). At a light, a big group including the HTC riders and my teammates coalesced and we all cruised back together. Chester and I turned off to go to my car and change before rolling into the expo area to get our finishing medal and a bite to eat. The real post-ride meal was at Chipotle later.

    Here are the results. They messed up my KOM times somehow.

    Also Garmin Connect and Strava data

    Some footnotes:

    In the end, the "winning" rider's time of 4:24 and change, works out to an average of 16mph, so I don't know where they got the crazy notion of an 18mph group from. That guy was in the break with me at San Ardo last year--before I crashed myself out anyway. Great job John. The slowest time was 10:24, some 7.1mph. At least she finished. She was 955th out of 1450 riders, which means that nearly 500 didn't. On the Facebook page, they said they were surprised even that many finished, twice as many as they had expected. That would mean that they expected just about 1000 riders, or nearly 2/3, to quit or get cut.

    At the rest stop at the top of GMR, I ran across one of the guys from the parking lot. They were just coming out and had not yet ridden down the East Fork. I was a little astonished that they still had so much of the ride left to do, so long into the day, but even more astonished to see a steady stream of riders even still coming out along Glendora Ridge as I was heading back to Baldy. I have to imagine that many of these people would not make the 4:00pm time cut.
     
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  2. Glen Hastings

    Glen Hastings New Member

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    Nice ride and great write up. I was in that maddening horde coming up above the village as you were coming down. Finished in 6:13.
     
  3. Bill Canalez

    Bill Canalez New Member

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    Great stuff. The write up and the videos helped me relive the pain and the pleasure once I made it to the top. Thanks for getting this out there for everyone to enjoy. PJones
     
  4. limerickman

    limerickman Moderator

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    Nice summary of what sounds like a good event!

    11,000 feet of climbing, Ouch!
     
  5. SCall

    SCall New Member

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    I think this is you... http://www.scdesigns.org/cycling/content/IMG_2722_large.html Great write up! There might be some pics of your friends over there too. Did you see Chris Horner training up there too?
     
  6. umd1

    umd1 New Member

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    Thanks. I just wish I had planned on doing it sooner, I wouldn't have done intervals on Weds and Thurs...
     
  7. SCall

    SCall New Member

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    I think this is you: http://www.scdesigns.org/cycling/content/IMG_2722_large.html. Nice write up! Saw Chris Horner up there training as well.
     
  8. umd1

    umd1 New Member

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    Yeah, that's me. Thanks. You can see the camera under the number.
     
  9. umd1

    umd1 New Member

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    Yeah, that was me. You can see the video camera just peeking out under the number.

    I just made the connection that those were your pictures. I looked through the whole thing. Well, I skimmed through some of them... As a photographer myself, I appreciate the time and effort you put into taking these. Having done some all day events, I'd say it was probably more work than actually doing the ride!

    Looks like you just missed me on GMR. I'm right out of the frame to the left in http://www.scdesigns.org/cycling/content/IMG_3195_large.html. Do you have any pics with me between 84 and 85?
     
  10. SCall

    SCall New Member

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    Ill check... but most likely not. Was wondering what system you are using for your video/data acquisition?
     
  11. umd1

    umd1 New Member

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    Oh that was a typo I meant between 84 and 95.

    My video camera is a Contour HD (the older 720p model), I have a Garmin 705 w/Quarq PM for the data, and I use Dashware for the overlay. I can't claim credit for the idea to do the data overlay with Dashware (that goes to StealerHoo on Bikeforums), but I worked with Rolf at Dashware to make it easier to use with bike data, and developed the gauges that are included. It's a pretty cool system and I am seeing more and more videos using it.
     
  12. SCall

    SCall New Member

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    That is awesome! im gonna have to do some research on that for sure. Very cool. Thanks for the info!
     
  13. mase310

    mase310 New Member

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    Very nice writeup and footage. It's nice to relive that ride. It was the first organized event that I rode after starting cycling in Jan this year. The video is great quality. I just got a contour and am wondering about the best way to mount it. I like how yours is right beneath the stem and the video was not jerky. Can you let me know what you used to mount the contour to what looks like the underside of your stem? Thank you!
     
  14. umd1

    umd1 New Member

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    zip ties!

    [​IMG]
     
  15. mase310

    mase310 New Member

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    So awesome, thank you!
     
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