Tour of California, Stage Three: Sagan to the Fore...
You have to like these routes that weave around through the local countryside, as they give more than just a single opportunity to experience the race. That is what today's race did - up and down the canyon roads - then finished with a bunch sprint in the middle of the city of Santa Clarita. Parking near the team buses at the finish line, I had a nice leisurely ride over to the feed zone near the bottom of Lake Hughes Road, where I staked out a spot to watch (and photo) the riders as they took on nourishment before the long climb. Once the teams had mussettes and fresh water bottles ready and sorted out, there was a lot of waiting around before the four man break - Andy Schleck, Lieuwe Westra, Chad Beyer, Gavin Mannion - followed along shortly afterward by the mass of the peloton in hot pursuit. It is an interesting little dance that takes place as riders maneuver to take the hand ups of water and food, jettison old bottles and get back to the race. And like that it was over, everyone gone, bottles picked up as souvenirs, and time to ride back to the finish, check out the lifestyle festival and hang out in the shade until the race returned to town.
It was good to see the riders looking more human-like today, and less like withered zombies. As the final results show, the sprinters were clearly refreshed, and liking the somewhat cooler temps. Sagan, Matthews, Farrar - 1, 2, 3 across the line, followed closely by Meersman, Van Poppel, and Hushovd. I especially liked seeing Thor in there for 6th; my son's favorite rider, he just did not look like he was enjoying the Southern California heat those first two days (not that anyone really did). Tomorrow should see a fantastic finish in Santa Barbara, and I would not be surprised to see the same group of riders contesting at the line again. And who knows, this time maybe mighty Thor will strike down hard with his hammer, to win at the line.
I have photos to sort through, and will have them up shortly for your viewing pleasure. When the photos do show up here, just a little context, I was at about 350 meters to the line. Besides the photos below, another 66 are here.
Lieuwe Westra and Andy Schleck through the feed zone
the front of the peloton take their musettes
meanwhile back at the festival everyone was having fun with Peter Sagan
winding it up at 400m out
Baden Cooke leads out teammate Michael Matthews, with Thor Hushovd at third in line. at this point (350m out) Sagan was another five riders back with one teammate right ahead of him
Marc de Maar