2014 ATOC, Stage Six: Rest of the Story

That last couple miles or kilometers up to the finish from the Highway 2 junction was surprisingly steep. Twelve and thirteen percent stuff, maybe more, I only had the heart to check once and I don't think it was on the steepest pitch. Quite frankly I am surprised Mark Cavendish and the rest of the boys in the bus, got up there as soon after the leaders as they did. And those long minutes were nothing like soon. People had started heading back down to the cars and I had to tell them it was not all over yet - "wait for the broom wagon, only then is the party over".

But that was near the end of the day. At the beginning there was arrival. The plan was to get there early and we, the wife and I, did just that. We parked down at the lower Mountain High and rode up to the finish where the festival was taking place. We checked that out until there was nothing left to check out - took a photo with the California Bear, showed off the wife's steel Bianchi at the Bianchi booth, got some freebies, got a free limited edition cap (more on that Monday), sold a copy of 2013 Seasons in the Sun, and then headed back down a bit to stake out a good spot on the climb.

get back up on that flag, you

my salesperson earned a raise by selling a copy to the guy at the Bianchi booth

chatted with this New Yorker for a while after spotting his cap - very similar to my own from back in the day

Beside being a Triple Crown Winner, this guy moonlights on the side, and I would run into him in his other guise later. Those scythes are your clue.

keeping a wary eye on the grim reapers while walking the center line

After finding a nice shady patch of verge we were soon joined by a couple gents and their friend. Carrying scythes I suspected there might be more to them than their outward appearance. Soon enough they were transformed into a pair of grim reapers. Little kids ran behind their fathers, women shied away with nervous looks, riders slowly making their way up quickened their pace and hid their faces. No matter how many times they repeated the words "don't fear the reaper" folks kept their distance. The reapers will get their own post another day, but now things were definitely getting interesting, all part of the pre-race. Next up came a cousin of Tom Zirbel. Not that he announced that, but he did say he had a cousin racing, but had to pull out on stage three. When he began to describe him - races for Optum, big guy, 6'-3" or so, I knew right away - "oh, your cousin must be Tom Zirbel." Sure enough. Eventually he left to continue hoofing it up to the top.

While the reapers were busy chasing little kids, and scaring passers by, a quartet joined us in our shade. They declared they were bound and determined to keep the Belgian tradition alive - bringing beer and whatever was in that flask (I never did find out), to the party on this mountainside. The Tour de France has both a Dutch Corner and an Irish Corner, seems the Tour de Cali is overdue for something similar.

It really wasn't much longer before the helicopter came into view, and several minutes later the stage winner, Esteban Chaves smooth pedaling his way up slope. The remainder of the racers came up singly, as pairs or small groups. Race leader Bradley Wiggins was in one of those small groups not far behind. A couple larger groups made their way past before the groupetto which counted Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan among its members. 

The crowd had been thinning out up above and slowly making its way down the road past me for a little while. Once the broom wagon inched by the flood gates opened and the masses came down enmass, mostly keeping to the sides of the road so that the pros could fly down to their waiting buses. Time to pack up and join the throng.

In addition to the photos here, there are a select group of ninety-eight in this Flickr album.

David de la Cruz from Mexico (NetApp-Endura) was chasing Esteban Chaves hard from thirteen seconds back, too far, and would settle for second

here comes race leader, Bradley Wiggins, dogged by a rogue Smurf

Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, their lieutenants, and some hanger's on make their way up to the finish

these dudes caught and skinned themselves a bear during the wait